Chandler Smith had led every single lap of Friday night’s Fans With Benefits 150 at Iowa Speedway, when a caution flag flew on lap 100.
Smith came down pit road looking for another flawless pit stop to put him in position to lead every lap of the race, then the jack dropped.
“We lost five positions on pit road,” Smith said. “It is what it is. When we won at Elko after spinning out, I just kept my head on my shoulders. That’s what I did tonight.”
Smith ran from sixth to first in a handful of laps and almost instantly took the lead from Ty Gibbs.
The now 17-year old led the rest of the way and earned his fourth ARCA Menards Series victory of the season in just his eighth start.
Chandler Smith dominates, wins his fourth ARCA race of season at Iowa
Going into the race, Smith had some experience at Iowa, starting on the pole with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series race at the track in June.
“I think experience paid off. I started sixth and I think we got to first in like five laps or something like that. That definitely paid off from when I raced here (at Iowa Speedway) in the trucks for sure considering I had to come from the back twice as well.”
The win came flawlessly for Venturini Motorsports – whom are undoubtedly the most consistent team in the series as they earned their 13th pole in the 14 races ran this season.
However, it was their first win as a team in Newton.
“I’m really proud of these guys,” Smith said. “It’s [our] first win at Iowa. I’m glad my name was written on it.”
The race was not as fluid, however, for series points leader Michael Self.
Early in the race, Self’s Venturini Motorsports car dropped out of gear and he would be forced to pit from second place during a caution with 10 laps to go.
Self dropped down to P12 out of the first pit stop and would cause issues on restarts during the rest of the race as his car was stuck in fourth gear.
“That made it tough,” Self said. “We basically fell to somewhere around ninth or tenth every time.”
Self’s car on the long runs was phenomenal, however.
During the second to last stint, he raced up to second place before the caution flag came out for Tim Richmond spinning out.
They would have to restart with five laps to go, but Self salvaged a good result.
“I guess I’m happy with a third [place finish],” Self said. “I thought that was going to be kind of catastrophic. We dropped down to eight or ninth again going into one.”
Self had to make something happen.
Rather than approaching the restarts the same way he had previously in the race with the car being stuck in gear, the points leader went for broke.
“I held it wide open through turns one and two and thought ‘If I crash, I crash,” Self said.
It ended up working for Self, though he was still disappointed with a third-place finish.
He felt that he had the car to beat and things like this always seem to happen to him at Iowa.
“That was extremely frustrating for me,” Self said. This is one of my best tracks. I’ve got more experience than anyone else [in the field at Iowa]. It’s one of my favorite places to come. I’ve had the best car here the last three years I’ve been here in an ARCA car. Something has happened every time.”
Luck played a big factor for another racer in Friday’s event as well.
Bret Holmes came into Iowa in second-place in the point standings, just 65 points behind Self.
With his car fresh out of the hauler during the first practice, Holmes spun out and knocked the oil line off of his primary car. At the time he was running consistently in the top three and even held the top spot in timing during the lone session of hot laps.
“That was the fastest we unloaded all season, We were first or second right out of the gate. It bent all of the right front suspension, and messed up our shocks. We just did our best.”
That meant that his crew had to scramble to get a backup car ready to go.
They even missed qualifying.
“I knew it when we hit [we’d have to go to the backup],” Holmes said. “I knew it bent all of the suspension. We thought about salvaging it, but even the body was pretty messed up on it. We were kind of second guessing ourselves all day, but I think it was our best option.”
Nevertheless the No. 23 team finished with a P8 finish, salvaging what they could of the worst-possible start to the day.
Holmes and his team are now 90 points behind Self, which is around 18 spots on the track.
He’s confident they’ve got what it takes to beat the Venturini Motorsports front runners.
“I think so,” Holmes said. “We’ve just got to click on our cylinders. He’s had his bad luck all season and we’ve had ours. It seems like we’re on a bad streak right now. We just have to get back going.”
The ARCA Menards Series returns to the track on Friday, taking to the tricky triangle at Pocono. It will be televised on Fox Sports 1 and is scheduled to begin at 4:00 p.m. ET.
|5||Joe Graf Jr.||3005||-255|