Ty Gibbs, grandson of NASCAR team owner and former Super Bowl winning head coach Joe Gibbs, won his second race of the season in Saturday’s ARCA Menards Series General Tire 150 at Kentucky Speedway.
The 17-year-old Gibbs beat runner-up Bret Holmes to the checkered flag by 1.247 seconds. It was Holmes’ best career finish in 67 starts in ARCA competition. Points leader Michael Self finished third, followed by Sam Mayer and Drew Dollar.
Gibbs has now won two of the four starts he’s made in the series this season. He also won at Pocono, finished third in his season opener at Phoenix and was 15th last week at Indianapolis.
Gibbs has now won seven races across the ARCA Menards, East and West series over the previous two seasons.
With Satuday’s victory, Gibbs became Kentucky Speedway’s youngest race winner at 17 years, nine months and seven days, breaking the previous mark held by two-time NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Busch, who had just turned 18 when he won at the 1.5-mile track back in 2003.
Hailie Deegan wrecked on Lap 77 and finished 14th, dropping her from second to fourth in the point standings, 24 points now behind series leader Michael Self.
The ARCA Menards Series’ next race is next Saturday, July 18, at Iowa Speedway, the seventh race of the season. It will be televised live on MAVTV and streamed on TrackPass on NBC Gold.
Teams also are mindful that the regular season finale will be at Daytona International Speedway, which could lead to a surprise winner. Three of the last five Cup points races at Daytona saw a driver score either their first or second career Cup win: Dillon, Erik Jones and Justin Haley.
Teams already are trying different strategies to get away from 16th in the standings or climb into a potential playoff spot.
Matt DiBenedetto entered the Pocono doubleheader weekend 15th in the standings. Focusing on stage results, he scored 17 stage points in the two races that weekend and added 11 stage points last weekend at Indy.
“Stage points can just make such a huge difference, especially this point in the year when the point stuff is really starting to settle out a little bit,” DiBenedetto said after the Pocono weekend. “People are settling in place, so you’ve got to take everything you can get because that makes a big difference as far as securing a solid spot in the playoffs.”
Those 28 stage points he’s earned the past three races helped DiBenedetto climb to 12th in the standings heading to Kentucky. He’s scored 26 more stage points than Clint Bowyer the past three races. That 26-point advantage helped put DiBenedetto three points ahead of Bowyer in standings.
William Byron won the first stage last weekend at Indy and collected 10 stage points (and one playoff point) after crew chief Chad Knaus had Byron stay on track under caution when most of the leaders did pit with eight laps left in the stage. Byron restarted in the lead and held that position for the final four laps of the stage under green.
Another driver who has benefitted from a strategy focused on stage points is Dillon. He’s scored 18 stage points the past three races to nine stage points by Jones. Dillon holds what would be the final playoff spot by six points on Jones.
The reigning series champion has one win in the last 38 races but heads to a Kentucky Speedway that has been good to him, even though Kurt Busch nipped his younger brother for the win in last year’s race.
Kyle Busch has two wins in nine starts at Kentucky and leads all drivers in top-five finishes (seven), top-10 finishes (eight) and laps led (621) at the track.
Busch’s lone victory in the last 38 races came in last year’s championship race in Miami. In that same span, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates have combined to win 14 races.
Also during that 38-race stretch, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have combined to win 16 races (42.1%). Each has eight wins in that time.
3. Speeding on pit road
Here’s a look at the number of pit road speeding penalties drivers have had in the first 16 races of the Cup season:
With Jimmie Johnson missing last weekend’s race at Indianapolis after testing positive for COVID-19, his consecutive starts streak ended at 663, ranking fifth on the all-time list. Johnson has since been cleared to race this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.
Kevin Harvick ranks sixth on the list of longest consecutive starts streak with 656 consecutive starts heading into Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway.
Chevrolet teams are winless in their last eight Cup races and the manufacturer has one win in nine races at Kentucky. That victory came last year with Kurt Busch beating Kyle Busch at the finish.
Since Chase Elliott won the second Charlotte race in late May, Chevy drivers have not won. Elliott finished second in Miami, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second at Talladega and Matt Kenseth was second at Indianapolis.
You might say Chandler Smith is growing up a little bit more this weekend.
Having turned 18 years old less than two weeks ago, the Talking Rock, Georgia native will compete in his first career 1.5-mile NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series race Saturday at Kentucky Speedway (6 p.m. ET on FS1). It will also be his first Truck start of 2020.
Smith, who made four Truck Series starts last season, with three top five finishes and one other top 10 showing, will be back behind the wheel of the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra once again.
“Overall I’m really excited,” Smith said in a Wednesday video conference call. “I’ve gotten a bit of (simulator) time in and my new crew chief, Danny Stockman, we’ve done a lot of studying together and the whole team feels like we’re gonna go there and we’re gonna be really hard to beat even though it’s my first time on an intermediate (track).”
Smith — who already has two wins this season in the ARCA Menards Series — is going to Kentucky to win.
“My No. 51 JBL crew has already won three races this season (including two wins by Busch),” Smith said. “So I don’t see any problem on making it a fourth win for these guys.
“They’re a very good team. Danny’s a very good crew chief, the chemistry and everything between me and the team is just as good as it was last year when I was with the 51. So I think we’re going to be really tough to beat. But I think the ultimate goal is I’m a rookie and let’s get all 150 laps in and gain experience.”
That may be easier said than done. Not only is this Smith’s first career Truck Series start on an intermediate length track, he also will take the green flag with no actual on-track practice or qualifying time.
“I’m not as nervous about it as I was before yesterday,” Smith said. “I had a meeting yesterday with Danny, my engineer and I told them I think I’m gonna be fine, the only thing to worry about is air. I mean, I’ve been struggling a lot on these bigger tracks (via the simulator) and we’ve been racing around people and getting in dirty air and getting too tight and so forth.
“They kind of helped me there and described a little more and kind of helped me with situations and finding out stuff and I think we’ll be really good now.”
Now that he’s of legal age at least in NASCAR terms to race on all sizes of tracks, Smith is ready for his career to move ahead even further.
“This opens up running for championships potentially now and actually be able to run every single racetrack,” he said. “That’s big for me because anything I’ve ever done before was short tracks, a mile tops like I ran Iowa last year, for instance. So this is gonna be big for me. I’m really excited for it.
“I have expectations for myself and I set my expectations a lot higher than other people do for myself, honestly. And I feel like that’s kind of why I am where I am today because I set those expectations and I’m going to work twice as hard to meet those expectations.
“I’m with the 51 JBL team with Kyle Busch Motorsports and that’s definitely one of the best teams out there right now in the trucks. So yes, there’s a little pressure because how much success the 51 team runs with, but I think with my getting in there and Dany working together, I think the chemistry between me and Danny … is going to be really hard to beat.”
The big boss, Kyle Busch, has also been a key influence upon Smith.
“Kyle treats me great,” Smith said. “I loaded him up with a bunch of questions about Kentucky and he was free handed and we talked for about 30 minutes. He’s a very good dude for me, always been right for me, always put a lot of trust in me and he thinks I’m worthy enough to get into the truck that he’s in. That puts a lot of relief and also pressure on me, somebody else believes in me like that.”