By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
It was all Corey Heim and Venturini Motorsports on Saturday at Daytona.
It was all-out domination by Heim starting from the pole and leading 74 of the 80 laps to secure his eighth career ARCA Menards Series victory.
Heim’s teammate Parker Chase played team player throughout the day and secured his career-best finish of second while Sean Corr and Daniel Dye rounded out the top-five.
Heim earned the General Tire Pole Award on Friday, his fourth career pole. His Venturini Motorsports teammates Gus Dean and Parker Chase qualified second and third and set the pace early for what we would see and give us an idea of what kind of race we were going to have, pending nothing major happened.
Early in the race, the Venturini trio led a single-file train on the bottom with a total of seven cars including the three Venturini cars. The pack of seven slowly built a bubble over the second back by two seconds. The lead car would change on occasion from Bryan Dauzat to Michael Lira.
The first caution of the afternoon came at lap 22 when Eric Caudell spun in turn four and into the grass. His spin came just before the first planned caution of the afternoon. Heim brought some others down pit road for some attention during the caution. With ARCA’s different pit rules from NASCAR’s, Heim pulled out of the pit box as the jack dropped which was before the team could get fuel in the car. They stopped him before he pulled all the way out and added fuel but the situation could’ve put Heim behind the eight ball.
Following the pit stops, there was much confusion as to where some drivers would need to be for the restart. ARCA officials added a lap to the caution but Nick Sanchez and others still couldn’t get in the spot before the green flag was displayed again. ARCA threw the black flag on Sanchez but the Rev Racing organization fought the penalty stating they were forced up by Daniel Dye and they successfully appealed.
Sean Corr was able to lead the field but not for long as Heim made the pass for the lead with Chase in tow. The racing began to get racy as some drivers got squirrelly in front of Christian Rose. Rose lifted to miss the impending accident, that didn’t happen, and Amber Balcaen rammed into the rear of Rose. There was no damage to either cars and both continued.
Heim and Chase continued to lead when the mid-race break caution was displayed. Both drivers would keep up front with ARCA’s pit road policy.
The wildest moment of the afternoon came at lap 50 when the No. 97 of Jason Kitzmiller spun. The accident would also involve Will Kimmel and Sanchez. The first incident was what put the caution out but the second incident was interesting. Dave Mader III was pushing Gus Dean coming into turn four when he got pushed into a three-wide deal with cars slowing for the caution and Dean ended up spinning Greg Van Alst and turning Andy Jankowiak. It seemed as if Mader III had not been alerted that the caution had come out and didn’t lift.
With 25 laps remaining, Heim and Chase’s Venturini teammate Toni Breidinger had joined the party along with Tim Richmond. Breidinger wasn’t able to get into line and fell back but the caution was then displayed again when Michael Lira had a flat tire but was able to make it out of harm’s way but the tire carcass was all over the backstretch.
Heim and Chase led the way with Richmond in tow with 19 laps to go and just began clocking laps. The pack of four-to-five drivers was being caught by the second pack being led by Mader III. As that second group caught up with the lead pack, Dye began making a game plan. Meanwhile, there were reports that Chase was beginning to notice issues with the fuel pressure and that Heim might lose his drafting partner. As they were reporting that, the caution was displayed with less than five laps remaining for a few stopped vehicles on the track.
Richmond was in place to earn his career-best finish or even a victory but it all came to a stretching halt as the car stalled and wouldn’t refire. He’d come to pit road and lose his third-place running position.
The final restart would feature what we had seen most of the afternoon, Heim would come down in front of Chase for the lead. Some runs were made but the big one would happen on the backstretch as Drew Dollar would get shoved out of like by Toni Breidinger. Dollar would nail the outside wall and come to a stop in the backstretch. His incident wouldn’t be enough for ARCA to throw the caution and they would race to the checkered flag.
Chase didn’t have any help and would just stay behind Heim securing the victory for the No. 20. It would be the fifth straight season-opening victory by Venturini Motorsports.
The ARCA Menards Series heads to Phoenix for the second race of the 2022 season on March 11th. The General Tire 150 at Phoenix Raceway will also mark as the first race in both the ARCA Menards Series West and Sioux Chief Showdown. The General Tire 150 will be broadcasted live on MAVTV and streamed on FloRacing starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Photo: Adam Glanzman/NASCAR