Although he didn’t lead until 10 to go, Chandler Smith was able to steal the ARCA Series win at Phoenix Raceway on Friday Night. The race was the second of the season, and the first in the debut of the Sioux Chief Showdown.
Chandler Smith Steals ARCA Win at Phoenix
It was a wild race, which saw eight cautions during the 150-lap event. Last years K&N West winner, Ty Gibbs, sat on the pole and absolutely dominated the race. Despite all of the restarts, Gibbs continued to get the jump on the field and pull away each time. The only challenger appeared to be Michael Self, who won the series opener at Daytona International Speedway last month.
Self had his own issues part of the way through the race, when a piece of debris got into the firewall and caused a short. The short caused the vehicle to continue to shut off numerous times and sending the Venturini Motorsports crew to work. They eventually got the issue fixed, and Self worked his way back to finish 2nd and retain the points lead in the series.
The turning point came with seven to go when Jesse Love Jr. and Drew Dollar made contact, bringing out the final caution of the night. This brought the leaders, including Gibbs, to pit road for fresh tires. As the clean up ensued, laps counted down and kept getting lower as confusion about who should restart in which position took more time. At one point, the cars were four-wide at the front of the field while it was sorted out.
When they finally went back to green, it was a one lap shootout to the finish. Smith held off Self in the final lap to take the checkered, while Gibbs could only charge back up to third place. The delay of the restart left Gibbs frustrated at the end of the night.
“I have no words to summarize (the night), or I’ll get in trouble,” Gibbs told Fox Sports 1. “I’m very frustrated right now with how it was run. It was really embarrassing to the sport.”
For Smith, the win turned many heads in the stat category. This was his eighth win in the ARCA Menards Series in just 21 starts, yielding win percentage of 31%. Only one of those starts was a finish outside of the top-10. Smith chalked it all up to crew chief Billy Venturini.
“Well, give it to this man right here,” Smith told Fox Sports 1 gesturing to Venturini. “Mine and his combination is one-of-a-kind.”
Although just running a partial schedule for Venturini Motorsports in the ARCA Series and Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, Smith is always in contention.
It wasn’t the best weekend for Sam Mayer, who won both the ARCA West and ARCA East season openers. Mayer struggled with speed all weekend long until he had mechanical issues 87 laps in, which forced the team to look under the hood before he retired. Mayer finished 20th of the 24 cars that started the race.
The next ARCA Menards Series race is at Salem Speedway on April 19th. This will also be the second race of the Sioux Chief Showdown championship battle.