By Tadd Haislop/ARCA Menards Series
WEST ALLIS, Wis. — The last time the ARCA Menards Series was on track, a week ago on the Springfield dirt at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, Ty Gibbs failed to lead a lap for the first time all season.
The 18-year-old driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota did the opposite Sunday in the Sprecher 150 at the Milwaukee Mile.
Gibbs, who qualified on the General Tire Pole, led every lap on the one-mile paved oval to pick up his series-high ninth win of 2021. He has now led every lap of a race three times (Kansas Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway) this season. That doesn’t count his leading all but one lap in ARCA Menards Series races at Iowa Speedway and Michigan International Speedway.
“All these guys right here,” Gibbs said, pointing to the crew members standing behind him in Victory Lane. They do so much for me and for my team. These guys work their butts off, and they want to win more than I do.”
Having entered the 16th of 20 ARCA Menards Series races this season tied with Corey Heim atop the championship standings, Gibbs’ victory at Milwaukee gives him a 17-point lead in points with four events remaining.
Dealing with engine issues late in the race, Heim limped to a sixth-place finish at Milwaukee, his second-worst result of the season behind his seventh-place run at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
Heim was involved in the only incident of Sunday’s Sprecher 150. He got into the back of Stephanie Moyer’s lapped car on Lap 118, sending her spinning off Turn 2.
Sam Mayer, a Wisconsin native and the two-time reigning ARCA Menards Series East champion who was making his fourth ARCA Menards Series start of the season for Bret Holmes Racing, finished second.
“This place is really fun,” Mayer said of the Milwaukee Mile, the oldest continuously operating speedway in the world and a venue the ARCA Menards Series had not visited since 2007. “I’ve never got to run here before today, and man, I wish I would have a long time ago because this place is pretty awesome.”
Added third-place finisher Daniel Dye: “It was really cool, trying to figure out the air. It was really fun racing Sam, and him trying to reel in Ty. (Crew chief) Chad (Bryant) brought a great piece. Third’s two spots behind what we wanted to do, but none of us had been here. It’s a flat race track; the first time I’ve ever been on a flat race track, so I had a lot of fun.”
The Sprecher 150 was a combination race with the ARCA Menards Series East, where Gibbs’ Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sammy Smith entered Milwaukee with a 19-point edge over second-place Mason Diaz in championship points.
After qualifying second, Smith ran well all day at Milwaukee and finished fifth. The result extends his points lead to 24 over Dye, who jumped Diaz for second in East Series points.
Taylor Gray was the fourth-place finisher at Milwaukee. He has a top-10 finish in all nine of his ARCA Menards Series starts in 2021.
Sunday’s race also marked Round 8 of the 2021 Sioux Chief Showdown, a 10-race series within the series that allows East and West Series drivers to compete against ARCA Menards Series regulars for a title. Gibbs extended his lead over Heim in this series, as well, to 13 points.
The next chapter in the seasonlong title race between Gibbs and Heim will come next week in the Southern Illinois 100 at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, the second of two dirt races on the 2021 ARCA Menards Series schedule. Having just dominated on the dirt and winning at Springfield, Heim will be looking to get the better of Gibbs once again to make up the points he lost at the Milwaukee Mile.
The Southern Illinois 100 is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. CT / 9 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 5. It will broadcast live on MAVTV with a live stream available on NBC Sports Gold’s TrackPass.
The East Series will return to action Thursday, Sept. 16 for its season-finale at Bristol Motor Speedway, another combination event with the ARCA Menards Series. The Bush’s Beans 200 will start at 6:30 p.m. ET with live TV coverage on FS1.
The Bristol race also marks the ninth round of the Sioux Chief Showdown.
Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography