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Ty Gibbs, grandson of Joe Gibbs, wins first career ARCA race with last-lap pass

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Ty Gibbs, the 16-year-old grandson of NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs, won his first career ARCA Menards Series race Saturday with a last-lap pass at Sam Mayer at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Gibbs made contact with Mayer as he passed him for the lead and went on to beat Christian Eckes. Mayer finished third.

On the cool-down lap, Mayer showed his displeasure with Gibbs by bumping his car, but Gibbs was able to keep control of it.

The race ended in a six-lap shootout. During the final caution, Gibbs was among the drivers who pitted. Mayer and six others stayed out.

Gibbs restarted eighth and was in second within one lap.

The win comes in Gibbs’ sixth career ARCA start. He has finished in the top two in four of those races.

Gibbs told MAV TV his contact with Mayer was fair game after Mayer made contact with him in a race earlier this year at Salem Speedway.

 

Hailie Deegan to make ARCA debut Sunday in Toledo

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Rising NASCAR K&N Pro Series star Hailie Deegan will take the next step on her fast track up the racing ladder this weekend, making her ARCA Menards Series debut in Sunday’s Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 at Toledo Speedway in Ohio.

It will be the 17-year-old Deegan’s first of six scheduled ARCA race starts this season for Venturini Motorsports, and extends her current racing relationship with Toyota Racing Development. She will also continue her full-time campaign in the K&N Pro Series. She’s currently ranked fourth in the K&N Pro Series West class, 23 points out of first place.

I’m super excited for this opportunity especially coming to a short track for my first ARCA race,” Deegan said in a media release. “I think this first race is all about finding out where I stack up against the field and find out where I’m at compared to everyone else. Once we get a baseline, I think we’ll definitely start to work up from there and get better finishes.

But first things first, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I’m coming here to learn a lot and do as much as I can and get some good results. For now, my goal is to learn as much as I can and shoot for top-five finishes.”

The Temecula, California resident became the first female to win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series race in over 30 years. Earlier this season, she earned her second K&N win at the Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Deegan’s other ARCA starts this year will be Pocono Raceway (May 31), Madison International Speedway (June 14), Elko Speedway (July 13), Lucas Oil Raceway (October 5) and Kansas Speedway (October 18).

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Former NHRA champ Tanner Gray full speed ahead on NASCAR career

DGR-Crosley
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Adrenaline is adrenaline.

But how Tanner Gray experiences it has changed dramatically since he won the 2018 NHRA Pro Stock championship.

The 20-year-old traded in the adrenaline shots that came with seven-second runs at over 200 MPH for the more drawn out adrenaline rushes of NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series.

“You get different kinds of adrenaline rushes throughout the race, like the initial start you’re pretty amped up and ready to go,” Gray told NBC Sports. “The feeling on a restart is the same feeling you’re going to get lining up for a drag race.”

That’s what Gray experienced last Saturday when he claimed his first K&N Pro Series East win in an overtime finish at South Boston Speedway, a track he’d never visited before.

After earning his first career pole, the DGR-Crosley driver led 79 laps before a late caution set up a battle with Sam Mayer, the only other driver to lead more than one lap in the race.

The two drivers banged doors as they took the white flag with Gray grabbing the lead and then the win in just his fourth NASCAR start.

The win was a “relief” for Gray after his decision to change course in his career and return to racing on ovals after having previously competed in super late models.

“I think it definitely is a little bit of a relief to know when everything lines up we have the ability and have the talent and everything to do it,” Gray said. “It’s just a matter of doing it.”

A third generation drag racer, Gray’s last two years had been spent racing Pro Stocks, culminating in becoming the youngest NHRA champion in history. But the New Mexico native always had his sights set on NASCAR, believing it provided a better future for him.

“I was pretty dead set on doing this,” Gray said. “I told my dad (former Pro Stock driver Shane Gray) whether I won the championship or even won a race, I said ‘I think this will be it.'”

As a member of David Gilliland‘s DGR-Crosley team, Gray is now “100 percent” more busy than he ever was in the NHRA, splitting time between the K&N East and West and the ARCA Menards Series.

“This year I think I have close to 30-something races,” Gray said. “(Compared to) the NHRA schedule I raced in 24 races. When you go to the NHRA race you’re at the same place from Thursday to Monday … You fly in Thursday and you usually fly out Monday. But you’re at the same place.

“This week I go to Tuscon (for the K&N West race) and then fly straight from Tuscon to Toledo to test … I’m constantly moving around to different places, testing a lot more and everything else.”

Three days after his win, Gray experienced another first: he drove on a speedway for the first time in a Tuesday ARCA test at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“Before that the biggest thing I had been on was a half-mile,” Gray said. “It definitely took a couple of runs just to get used to getting down in the corner and stuff. It didn’t feel really fast to me. … But I didn’t feel like it really took long to get used to everything. It’s going to take me a little bit to get to where I’m competitive.”

Despite the win in South Boston, Gray still feels very much like the rookie he is.

“I feel like I make new mistakes every race,” Gray said. “You’re just constantly learning. Last week at South Boston I had a really good race, ended up getting the brakes hot there towards the end and when you get brake heat, it creates tire heat and tire heat (causes) the tire to grow and it just gets tight. Even though I won, I still did some things wrong. Everything kind of lined up there for us to have that final restart and edge out Sam (Mayer). If it wasn’t for that final caution there, Sam probably would have won.”

Gray has blinders on now that he’s on his NASCAR path. Don’t expect to see him make any return visits to a drag strip. He considers that chapter of his life over.

Why ruin a good thing?

“It ended so well for me it’s almost not worth it to go back and go again,” Gray said. “My last race there I won the championship and won my last race the same weekend and ended with the best reaction time average. A bunch of different cool stuff. … If I’m not going to do it all the time then I really don’t feel the need to go back out there.”

 

Christian Eckes hospitalized for small tear in trachea, misses ARCA race

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ARCA Menards Series driver Christian Eckes remains in the hospital two days after he was admitted for a small esophageal tear in his trachea, a result of complications due to food poisoning, Venturini Motorsports announced Monday.

Eckes, 18, was forced to withdraw from Sunday’s ARCA race at Salem Speedway in Salem, Indiana, and he continues to receive treatments for a bacterial infection.

Eckes entered the Salem weekend as the series points leader, but he is now eighth, 105 points behind Travis Braden

Eckes was taken to the hospital after he became ill following Saturday’s track activity. He will return to his racing duties once he’s released from doctor’s care.

A native of Middletown, New York, Eckes has five Gander Outdoors Racing Series starts since last year with Kyle Busch Motorsports. He has a best finish of eighth at Iowa.

His only start this year was at Daytona where he won the pole and finished 22nd after a crash.

He’s scheduled to make six more starts in the No. 51 Toyota this season: Gateway (June 22), Pocono (July 27), Michigan (Aug. 10), Las Vegas (Sept. 13), Martinsville (Oct. 26) and Miami (Nov. 15).

iK9 will back Hailie Deegan in six ARCA starts

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Hailie Deegan has landed iK9 as a supporter for her six scheduled starts in the ARCA Menards Series this season.

Deegan will make her series debut at Toledo Speedway on May 19.

The canine security services and training company will be a primary sponsor of Deegan in the May 31 race at Pocono Raceway and an associate sponsor in the remaining five races.

After Toledo and Pocono, Deegan will compete at Madison International Speedway (June 14), Elko Speedway in New Market, Minnesota (July 13), Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana (Oct. 5) and Kansas Speedway (Oct. 18).

iK9 will make its debut with Deegan ahead of the ARCA races as her primary sponsor in the April 6 K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“I’m grateful for this opportunity to build my NASCAR career and I’m extremely proud to represent iK9 along with Toyota, TRD, Monster Energy and Craftsman,” Deegan said in a press release. “Partnerships are key to earning these kinds of opportunities, and iK9’s mission appeals to who I want to be as a racer and also as a person.”

Deegan competes full-time in the K&N Pro Series West. She won the season-opener in Las Vegas on a last-lap pass to earn her second career victory.

The next K&N West race is March 30 at Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, California.

iK9 has been aggressive in its sponsorship in NASCAR so far this season. It serves as a primary sponsor of Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota in the Xfinity Series and sponsored last weekend’s Xfinity race at ISM Raceway.