By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
The ARCA Menards Series East heads to Dover Motor Speedway in Dover, Delaware this weekend for the General Tire 125. The third race of the 2022 season hits the newly purchased Dover Motor Speedway and will mark the first race on Dover as a Speedway Motorsports Inc.-owned track.
Friday’s race marks the first of two in a row for the ARCA Menards Series East and the first race for the East Series since March 19th. In that last race, Sammy Smith came away with the victory staying perfect in 2022 but not without some competition. Leland Honeyman earned his first career pole and battled with Smith before coming up short of his first career victory.
Ty Gibbs tallied the victory in last year’s race at Dover in dominating style. Gibbs led all 125 laps en route to his third career ARCA Menards Series East victory. It will be the 32nd time that the ARCA Menards Series East has raced at Dover Motor Speedway. A good amount of drivers to win in the East Series at Dover have moved on to NASCAR’s top-three series including Harrison Burton, Austin Hill, Corey LaJoie, Bubba Wallace, Brett Moffitt, Aric Almirola, Jimmy Spencer, Robert Pressley, Harry Gant, Michael Waltrip, Kenny Schrader, Mark Martin, and others. There are no defending race winners entered in Friday’s race.
Sammy Smith enters Friday’s race with a perfect record for the 2022 season. He’s earned the victory in the first two races and will look to add to that. Smith has one race at Dover under his belt coming last season behind the wheel of the No. 81 EngineIce Toyota Camry. Having issues during the race, Smith was relegated to a fourth-place finish. We say relegated because it was the second-worst finish of Smith’s 2021 championship campaign. He enters Friday’s race with a 12-point lead over Taylor Gray.
Gray will make his second career start at Dover Motor Speedway. His first came in 2020 while he missed the 2021 race due to injuries sustained in an off-track car accident. In 2020, Gray finished ninth after starting fifth. So far this season he’s had a solid year but is still seeking that first career ARCA Menards Series East victory. He earned his career-best finish of second at New Smyrna and third at Pensacola. He’s making room for the next generation of ARCA cars as he’ll be running the Ford Mustang body previously ran in the NASCAR Cup Series as the Gen-6 body style.
Leland Honeyman has come from nowhere and looks like an ARCA East championship contender early. As noted above, Honeyman earned his first career pole at Pensacola last month and has solid finishes behind the first two races of his ARCA Menards Series East career. In those two starts, Honeyman has finished top-five and earned a runner-up finish in the last East race at Pensacola. Young’s Motorsports’ presence in the ARCA Menards Series East is being felt early and could result in some big things further down the road if Honeyman keeps it up.
It was almost his first career ARCA Menards Series victory last weekend at Talladega but Rajah Caruth is back at it this weekend in the East Series. Caruth had a strong showing at Talladega and is looking to take that momentum into Dover, a place he had success at in 2021. He was running solidly inside the top five before being involved in an accident. Friday’s race will be his first in the East Series since his promotion to the ARCA Menards Series and he’ll look to gain extra track time before racing in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race with Alpha Prime Motorsports.
Conner Jones, the kid that impressed so much at Nashville last season, will make his season debut with Venturini Motorsports on Friday. His results didn’t really show his speed last season as he crashed at Iowa and earned a top-10 finish at Bristol. He did earn a fourth-place finish at Nashville in his debut but that was with GMS Racing and Bruce Cook Racing. Now, Jones gets a chance with Venturini Motorsports where he will also run at Iowa Speedway and Salem Speedway later this year.
The defending ARCA Menards Series West champion Jesse Love will make his East Series season debut. In six East Series starts Love has the best finish of sixth at Pensacola in 2020. He does have experience at Dover Motor Speedway but it wasn’t a great experience. Love and Drew Dollar were involved in an accident that put Love behind the wall just 20 laps in. He finished dead-last in 18th but has since earned three straight seventh-place finishes. He’s still chasing his first top-five finish in the East Series, could Miles the Monster be friendly to him this year?
Venturini Motorsports has brought on another young gun with a famous last name. Jake Finch, son of former NASCAR team owner James Finch, will make his second ARCA Menards Series East start on Friday. Finch, who ran for his father’s owned team at Pensacola, will run the No. 25 for Venturini Motorsports. In his debut at Pensacola, Finch finished eighth after starting third. The Finch name has seen victory lane at Dover Motor Speedway. Jimmy Spencer won with Phoenix Racing in 2001 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Randy LaJoie (1999), Mike Bliss (2008), and Ryan Newman (2010) have earned runner-up finishes for Finch at Dover. Can Jake add to his family legacy with a front-row finish on Friday?
The General Tire 125 at Dover Motor Speedway will be live-streamed via FloRacing and broadcast via tape delay on the USA Network on Friday, May 6th, 2022 at 1 p.m. ET. The race will go green at 5:30 p.m. ET. Tickets are still available and start at just $28. You can purchase your tickets by clicking here.