By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
The ARCA Menards Series East heads to Nashville, Tennessee and Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway for the Crosley Record Pressing 200 presented by Action 24/7 and T-Mobile.
The last time the East Series raced in Pensacola, two months ago, Sammy Smith dominated en-route to his first career victory. Smith held off Mason Diaz for the victory as Taylor Gray came home in third. Smith enters with an eight-point lead over Gray. There is a 27 point gap between the first and ninth place drivers.
Saturday’s race will be the ninth ARCA Menards Series event at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway (third ARCA Menards Series East event). Before 2020, the main ARCA Menards Series raced at the track six times. In those eight previous races, there have been eight different winners. We are guaranteed to have our ninth different winner.
Nashville was slated to make its return to the East Series last year but the pandemic ultimately led to the race being canceled. The last time the ARCA Menards Series raced at Nashville was in 2019. Christian Eckes won the last ARCA Menards Series event at Nashville while Matt Kobyluck won the last ARCA East race at Nashville in 2008.
BREAKING IT DOWN:
Joe Gibbs Racing has been dominant this season as the organization currently has a car leading the points standings in four of the six touring series. The No. 18 Toyota Camry in the ARCA East Series piloted by Smith is just one of those joining Ty Gibbs and Denny Hamlin. Smith has experience racing at Nashville Fairgrounds running the CARS Super Late Model Tour race in 2020 with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Smith finished the race in 20th after facing overheating issues. Smith will be racing in the North/South Super Late Model Challenge 100 before the ARCA race on Saturday which will for sure help giving him extra track time.
David Gilliland Racing will not enter the No. 17 Ford Fusion in Saturday’s race at Nashville. Driver Taylor Gray was involved in a non-racing-related car accident on April 7th. Gray suffered a fractured L4 vertebra, fractured left foot, and a fractured ankle. The timetable for Gray’s return to racing is unknown at this time. He was second in ARCA Menards Series East points.
Max Gutierrez sits third in East Series standings, nine points out of the lead with one victory this season coming at New Smyrna. Another track that he’s never raced but that hasn’t stopped him yet so far this season. He’ll look to earn his third straight top-10 finish on Saturday along with looking to become the second Mexican-born driver to win at Nashville Fairgrounds in ARCA. NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series driver Rogelio Lopez earned his only career ARCA East victory at the track in 2007.
Mason Diaz has been the name of the improvement game this season sitting fourth in ARCA East Series standings. Diaz has a third-place average finish so far this season and is still chasing his first career victory. He’s another one of the drivers that have never raced at Nashville Fairgrounds in his career. He’s another driver who will use the vital practice session planned for Saturday to get acquainted with the historical track.
Joey Iest is tied for the third-best average start in 2021 with a 4.5. He has a fifth-place average finish after two races and sits fifth in the points standings heading to Nashville. Coming from the West, Iest doesn’t have any experience on Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. He hasn’t had any starts on either of the previous two race tracks and finds himself fifth in points so that shows that he’s a pretty fast learner. He’s finished fifth in both races this season so far, can he improve this weekend at Nashville?
Much like Smith, Daniel Dye has experience racing at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. Dye raced in last year’s All American 400 finishing 25th after being involved in an accident. The experience will help the driver of the No. 43 as he looks to break into the top five for the first time this season. He finished ninth at New Smyrna after having radiator issues plague his solid day at 5 Flags. Dye has been impressive this season and he’s definitely a threat to win the Saturday night race at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
Parker Retzlaff is one of those six drivers who don’t have starts at Nashville but this season has been very solid for him if he could just knock off the bad luck. He led 55 laps at New Smyrna before having an issue that knocked him out of contention and finished sixth in the last race at 5 Flags. Retzlaff has shown some strong speed this season and there’s no reason that he shouldn’t be listed as a contender for this weekend’s race.
Richard Garvie hasn’t gotten a lot of attention this season and had an interesting statistic before the recent ARCA race at Kansas. Garvie had competed in every ARCA Menards Series (main, east, and west) running at Daytona, New Smyrna, 5 Flags, Phoenix, and Talladega. That streak came to an end Saturday as he sat out the ARCA race at Kansas due to illness. Garvie returns this weekend at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway as one of six drivers without experience. Garvie told Kickin’ the Tires that he’s just getting up to speed this season and looks to be stronger in 2022. He was running strong at Talladega before contact with Gracie Trotter put him behind the eight ball quick. He tallied his career-best finish of 10th in the last race at 5 Flags Speedway and sits ninth in ARCA East points standings.
Carson Kvapil joins Smith and Dye with experience at Nashville. He too ran the 2020 All American 400 finishing 27th after being involved in an accident but moved up from the 30th starting spot. He will also be running a late model before the ARCA race on Saturday. Kvapil hasn’t had great luck this season finishing 14th and 11th and both times having mechanical issues. He rounds out the top-10 in points standings for the ARCA East Series.
Conner Jones will make his ARCA Menards Series East debut this weekend with GMS Racing. Jones is currently competing full-time in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour. In three starts, Jones has the best finish of 11th coming at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, North Carolina. Jones will run the Race at Ace 125 in Elon, North Carolina the night before heading to Nashville.
The Crosley Record Pressing 200 presented by Action 247 and T-Mobile will go live on the NBC Sports Gold – Track Pass at 9 p.m. ET. There will be a tape-delayed version of the race shown on NBCSN at 3 p.m. ET on Friday, May 14th, 2021. Tickets for the Crosley Record Pressing 200 presented by Action 247 and T-Mobile are available by clicking the link here. Advanced tickets start at $25 for adults. There are options for kids (6-12), military, and seniors. Kids 5 and under are admitted for free!
Photo: NASCAR Media