By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
Once again, Corey Heim was the beneficiary of misfortune late for Ty Gibbs. This time though, it was by a move Heim made himself.
Gibbs put yet another dominating performance on display Saturday at Elko, that was until the final restart when Heim pushed Gibbs out of the way at the entrance of turn one. Both he and Love made it past him and was able to hold off Love to earn his fifth career victory.
The Venturini Motorsports trio was able to pass the No. 18 on the final lap with Love finishing second and Gracie Trotter completing the 1-2-3 finish. Gibbs would be relegated to a fourth-place finish. Taylor Gray, in his return to racing, would round out the top-five.
Gibbs and Trotter started on the front row and brought the field to the green flag. Gibbs shot out with the lead while Trotter and Gray fell behind him. Around lap 16 Corey Heim, who started from fourth passed Gray for the third position but no one was going to catch Gibbs who had over a second lead before the first caution of the evening.
That caution would come when the No. 11 of Bryce Haugeberg, making his ARCA Menards Series debut, spun in the middle of turns three and four. Haugeberg couldn’t get the No. 11 refired and would need a hand getting back to the garage, he’d return to the track multiple laps down.
Gibbs and Trotter would restart the race first and second, Gibbs would rocket out with the lead once again. Trotter would give a moderate fight for the lead but Gibbs would ultimately run off with the lead. The top line wasn’t the preferred racing line but one driver made some ground using it. Heim would use the outside line at lap 40 to take second from his teammate Trotter.
At lap 47, Jesse Love spun the No. 46 of Thad Moffitt. The two had previously made contact with each other but it was unknown at the time whether or not it was intentional.
For the first time tonight, Gibbs and Heim led the field back to green. The championship contenders would battle hard and Heim would ultimately make the pass for the lead, using the top line at lap 53. Gibbs wouldn’t let him get far as the two could continue battling almost door-to-door. The two would make slight contact as the field went around the lapped car of Brad Smith but the two would stay right on each other. Gibbs would make contact with the No. 20 and send him up the track but Heim would come back down and try to send the No. 18 up the track. Gibbs would ultimately take the spot from Heim.
While the two battled for position, Gray began making moves towards the third spot from Gracie Trotter. Gray would take the position and Daniel Dye would also follow moving into fourth. Gray wouldn’t settle for third though as by lap 86, he’d pass Heim for the second position. At this point, Gibbs would have nearly a two-second lead.
As the field reached lap 100, the caution flag was displayed for the break with Gibbs in the lead. Gray was making moves towards the leader Gibbs. The field would come down pit road for the first time of the night as the field looked to make adjustments that might get them closer to the lead.
Gibbs and Gray would restart the race with 145 laps remaining. Gibbs would restart on the outside and would continue to have the No. 17 of Gray below him. The two would race side-by-side for the lead and Gibbs would successfully take the lead at lap 106. Gray would stay within .600-seconds of Gibbs but the lead would grow to a second at lap 127.
Heim had begun losing speed and would be especially frustrated with his car falling to fourth at lap 120. Dye would catch the No. 20 and the two would battle hard for position. The two would have to maneuver around the No. 11 of Haugeberg and the two would bang doors but both would continue with Dye ultimately taking the position at lap 138.
Gibbs’ lead would begin dwindling with both Gray and Love making gains. Love would make the pass for the second position at lap 162 but Gray would remain on the outside. Gray got into the rear of Love sending him up the track and would take back the second position. A two-and-a-half-second lead by Gibbs would take the race into its second race break of the night.
Gibbs would rocket away with the lead on the restart with Love and Gray battling hard for second. Love would ultimately take the position at lap 184 before the caution would come out again for Haugeberg spinning in front of the leaders in turn ones and two.
Love continuously said he wanted to start next to the No. 18, he’d get the chance to do so but would get a tap from the drivers behind him handing the lead to Gibbs on the restart. Love’s teammates Trotter and Heim would battle for third behind when the caution would again come out again for the No. 11 of Haugeberg.
Love would get another opportunity at Gibbs with a little over 50 laps to go. He’d get a better start this time but wouldn’t be alone battling the No. 18 as the No. 20 of Heim looked to go below the 18 on the restart but they would realign in single file formation with Gibbs taking the lead by .455-seconds at lap 201.
With 30-laps remaining, Gibbs held nearly a three-second lead but the battle for second wouldn’t be finished as Love would make the pass on Heim for the second position.
The caution came out at lap 242 for Ron Vandermeir Jr. who spun. The caution would set up for a shootout for the victory as a good chunk of drivers looked to keep Gibbs out of victory lane and all Gibbs needed to do was perfect the final restart and he’d earn victory number 14.
On the restart, Gibbs would get the restart he needed but so would the driver behind him, Heim. With the help from an extra-strong restart, Heim would push the No. 18 into the corner, literally. Gibbs would basically miss the corner and watch as Heim, Love, and the victory go right past him.
Heim would successfully hold off Love and earn his fourth victory of 2021 and keep the points lead.
The ARCA Menards Series continues its season at Berlin Raceway on July 17th. The race in Berlin will be shown live on MAVTV and can also be streamed via NBC Sports Gold: TrackPass starting at 8 p.m. ET. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.
Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography