By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
The ARCA Menards Series heads to “The Hawkeye State” Saturday for the Shore Lunch 150.
After being left off all NASCAR series’ and the IndyCar Series, the ARCA Menards Series will be the sole series to race at Iowa Speedway this season. Ty Gibbs is the defending race winner and will look to defend his victory from 2020 and will also look to defend his newly earned points lead.
Rookie Daniel Dye earned the victory at Berlin Raceway last weekend, his first career victory in just his second start. Gibbs managed to come home second while points leader Corey Heim finished third.
Saturday’s race will be the 15th ARCA Menards Series race at Iowa Speedway. The ARCA Menards Series debuted at Iowa Speedway as its first race in 2006. The race was won by Steve Wallace who held off Kraig Kinser, Justin Marks, and Michael McDowell for the victory. Entering Saturday’s race there have been 14 different winners, in 14 races.
It should also be noted that Saturday’s race at Iowa will be a combination race as the East Series will merge with the National Series for their final three races. Sammy Smith currently holds a 30 point lead over Mason Diaz for the championship points lead. The East Series hasn’t raced since the beginning of June with Smith earning the victory at Southern National Motorsports Park.
The East Series has raced 17 times at Iowa Speedway in the past with Sam Mayer picking up the victory in 2019. Cup Series regulars Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, and Cole Custer have tallied victories at Iowa in the past but there are no former winners featured in Saturday’s field.
BREAKING IT DOWN (NATIONAL SERIES):
Ty Gibbs didn’t win Saturday at Berlin Raceway but he did leave with the points lead. The issue is, Gibbs hasn’t won a race since Mid-Ohio at the begging of June and enters with a three-race streak without a victory. That means bad things for the field, at least according to statistics. Four times in his career, Gibbs has gone three races between victories, and Saturday at Iowa would be that fourth race. He has two starts at Iowa finishing fifth in 2019 and winning in last year’s event. He’s looking to become the first back-to-back winner at Iowa in the ARCA Menards Series.
His third-place finish at Berlin just wasn’t enough to hold Gibbs behind him in points as for the first time in 2021, Corey Heim is not the points leader entering a race. Now that we are in the second half of the ARCA Menards Series season, business is about to pick up. Heim enters a track that he has one career start at back in 2019. Heim finished sixth in his last start at Iowa and will look to use that past experience to propel him back into the points lead as we head to Winchester.
Dye was on fire Saturday Night winning from the pole for his first career ARCA Menards Series victory. It was also GMS Racing’s first victory since Sam Mayer tallied the victory at Bristol last season. Dye has no starts to his credit at Iowa Speedway but his crew chief Chad Bryant has a wide range of starts at Iowa. Bryant has four races under his belt as an owner with the best finishing driver being Joe Graf Jr. in 2018 when he finished 5th. He also has three starts as a crew chief at Iowa, one in ARCA and two in the East Series.
Thad Moffitt has a 74-point gap between him and points leader Ty Gibbs heading into Iowa. Iowa is a place where Moffitt has little-to-no experience which is surprising considering his experience in the ARCA Menards Series. Moffitt made his Iowa Speedway debut last season finishing 10th. He had power steering issues at Berlin relegating him to a 12th place finish but Moffitt will look to get back on a roll.
With Moffitt facing power steering issues at Berlin, Nick Sanchez inched closer to third in the points standings. He now is just 17-points out of third and 91-points out of the points lead. Sanchez earned his eighth straight top-10 finish Saturday at Berlin finishing sixth for the second straight race. Since nearly winning at Talladega in May, Sanchez has been a solid contender and will look to finish the season out on a high note.
Jesse Love has matched the amount of starts he had in 2020 and so far this year, he’s came close to a victory at Elko and has doubled his top-10 total from last season. He now sits 13th in ARCA Menards Series points, the highest positioned driver with the least amount of starts (4). Compared to 2020, Love has an average finish of 4th while at this point last season his average finish was 9th. Love has made one start at Iowa Speedway last year finishing 12th but his improvement could put him as a contender for his first victory on Saturday.
Drew Dollar makes his return to the ARCA Menards Series this weekend for the first time since Pocono. Dollar will make his 30th career ARCA Menards Series start on Saturday and looks to rebound from his disappointing Iowa debut from 2020. Dollar finished 17th in his first and only start at Iowa but finished third in his last start at Pocono. Dollar will move into the No. 15 that Love has raced here the last few races and will look to continue the success that the car has held lately.
While NASCAR’s top three divisions take some time off due to the Olympics, Bret Holmes will return to the ARCA Menards Series for the first time since the first lap accident at Kansas. Bret Holmes Racing just needs to catch a break at the ARCA level as Sam Mayer ran over a piece of debris at Pocono that ended their day early. Iowa will be the perfect track for that though as Holmes has some of the most experience of any drivers in the field with four starts. He finished a Iowa-best third last season en-route to the championship and will look to steal the show from the ARCA regulars.
BREAKING IT DOWN (EAST SERIES):
Johnston, Iowa, where Sammy Smith calls home, sits just under 40-miles from Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Returning home this weekend, Smith looks to continue his path to his first ARCA Menards Series East championship. Everywhere that Smith has raced this season, he has contended for the victory. He came up short at New Smyrna Speedway but has since made up for that winning in Pensacola, Nashville, and Kenly and has a solid lead in points with three races remaining in the East schedule. He has a 30-point gap coming in an will look to grow that lead as the clock ticks closer to the end.
You have to feel for Mason Diaz after Southern National. Diaz had that race won leading a career-high 130 laps but in the end, the tires just didn’t match on his car and he came up short to Smith. Now, Diaz has the opportunity to steal the hometown win away from Smith. Diaz has never raced at Iowa Speedway in his ARCA Menards Series career but has raced at Richmond Raceway in the Xfinity Series which is similar to Iowa. Diaz still has a chance to win the East Series championship and running with the very best may put him closer if he makes the right moves at the chess table.
Since jumping into an East Series car in February, Joey Iest has been absolutely impressive. Iest has been on a career-run earning his career-best second place finish at Kenly and a third place finish at Irwindale, Iest is coming to Iowa with major momentum on his side. Iest hasn’t finished outside the top-10 in the East Series at all this season and will look to continue to wow everyone Saturday in his Iowa debut.
Taylor Gray makes his first East Series start since Pensacola earlier this year. Though its his first East start since then, Gray has been a front runner in the ARCA Menards Series since his return at Elko Speedway. He’s on a run of top-five finishes and earned his season-best finish last weekend at Berlin (4th). Gray raced at Iowa in 2020 and finished fifth in just his second career start. The David Gilliland Racing crew has been making strides closer and closer to the Gibbs and Heim’s of the field and Saturday could very well be where they could land in victory lane for the first time in ARCA Menards Series since Todd won at Talladega in 2019.
Bruce Cook Racing will field an entry this weekend for Conner Jones. Jones, the standout from the ARCA Menards Series East race at Nashville, will make his second career start on Saturday. In his debut, he finished fourth after starting eighth and will run with the ARCA Menards Series for the first time in his career. Bruce Cook Racing will make their first ARCA Menards Series start of 2021 after running with Kyle Sieg and Parker Retzlaff in 2020. Retzlaff currently holds the career-best finish for BCR at Toledo last year where he finished eighth.
The Shore Lunch 150 at Iowa Speedway goes live on MAVTV at 9 p.m ET and can also be streamed via NBC Sports Gold: TrackPass. ARCA will broadcast an audio version of MAVTV’s broadcast via the ARCA website. Tickets for the Shore Lunch 150 at Iowa Speedway start at $19 and can be purchased by clicking here. Camping can be purchased also via the website along with advance parking for the event.
Photo: Barry Cantrell/ARCA Racing