(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

ARCA Preview: 2020 General Tire 150 at Kentucky Speedway

For the first time since 2017, the ARCA Menards Series heads to Kentucky Speedway Saturday (July 11) for the General Tire 150.

Originally, this event was slated to be at Charlotte Motor Speedway accompanying the NASCAR All-Star Race; however, NASCAR was forced to move the All-Star Race to Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn. The ARCA Menards Series event was ultimately replaced by the upcoming event at Kentucky Speedway.

Within the top-20 in points, five drivers have at least one start at Kentucky. Brad Smith has the most at 21 starts followed by Bret Holmes and Ed Pompa, with two starts apiece. Sean Corr and Riley Herbst have only one career start. Lack of experience will add an extra level of excitement to Saturday’s event as the points battle begins to heat up.

Michael Self remains the points leader following Indianapolis, but a tire failure late in the race resulted in a loss of ground to now-second-place driver Hailie Deegan. Deegan placed her name in the championship discussion Friday night by earning a third-place finish. She is now just 12 points out of the lead. Drew Dollar fell to third while Holmes and Thad Moffitt rounded out the top-five.

At Lucas Oil Raceway, Chandler Smith picked up the victory over Sam Mayer. With Smith’s victory, Toyota earned its 13th consecutive race victory, domination that dates back almost a whole year and has set the bar as  an ARCA Menards Series record. As an organization, Venturini Motorsports has not visited victory lane at Kentucky since 2014 with Brennan Poole. All three drivers will look to continue the Toyota domination while Self and Dollar will focus on the points battle.

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Ty Gibbs will be the other driver who will look to extend that streak as he hits Kentucky Speedway for the first time in his ARCA career. Much like other tracks, Joe Gibbs Racing has dominated at Kentucky with five victories in the Cup Series and six victories in the Xfinity Series. Joe Gibbs Racing has one career start at Kentucky in ARCA with Riley Herbst in 2017. As he does in most tracks, Gibbs will lean on his Joe Gibbs Racing mentors for help in Saturday’s race.

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The last time the ARCA Menards Series raced at Kentucky, Ken Schrader Racing driver Austin Theriault earned the victory. In fact, Ford has earned the last three victories at Kentucky. Ryan Reed won with Lira Motorsports in 2015, Austin Cindric with Cunningham Motorsports in 2016, and Theriault in 2017. DGR-Crosley, Andy Hillenburg, and Chad Bryant Racing will look to take down the Toyota domination.

DGR-Crosley won the last event they competed at Kentucky with Tyler Ankrum in the Truck Series. With the lack of experience in the DGR camp, the team will lean on team owner David Gilliland. Gilliland earned his only career victory in the Xfinity Series at Kentucky in 2006. After her strong third-place run Friday Night at LOR, Deegan will look to continue her momentum as she inches closer to the points lead. Moffitt is another driver who has snuck his way into the points battle, now fifth in the overall standings. Moffitt will make history for the Petty Family as he’ll be the first family member to race at Kentucky.

“I think every mile-and-a-half is pretty unique,” said Moffitt. “They all race kind of different, but I’ve been told it’s comparable to Chicago. I ran pretty well there last year. I think coming off of our top five at Lucas Oil, we made positive changes all day, so I think if we just keep going in the right direction we’ll end up with another positive run here at Kentucky.”

Tanner Gray will run Saturday’s ARCA event in an effort to add some notes for the NGOTS event later in the evening. Gray’s last start in the Series came at Pocono where he blew a tire and was relegated to a 15th-place finish. Gray will run a total of 375 miles Saturday as he looks to gain on the cut-off line in the Truck Series playoffs.

“I’m excited to run the ARCA race at Kentucky before the Truck Series race on Saturday,” said Gray. “With no practice or qualifying on the truck side, having the extra seat time in the ARCA car is a huge help to me. Obviously, the truck races differently than the car, so not everything carries over, but getting to learn the track and the lines is a big help. There is only so much you can learn from watching film. You have to be able to feel it in the seat, and the ARCA race will give me that experience. Plus if we can win, that would be pretty awesome too.”

Derek Griffith will make his third straight start with Chad Bryant Racing Saturday, and after two starts in the series, improvement has been evident. Griffith joins the organization that earned the victory in 2016 with Cindric and will look to earn his first career victory. In two starts, Griffith has a best finish of eighth at Pocono. Cindric earned the victory with Chad Bryant Racing when it was known as Cunningham Motorsports.

Mayer earned a second-place finish at Lucas Oil Raceway, the second runner-up finish of his career. In 13 career starts, Mayer has never competed on a mile-and-a-half. This season, Mayer has finished inside the top five in two of his three starts. In the GMS organization, Brett Moffitt has the most starts at Kentucky with five combined starts in the Cup and Truck Series. GMS Racing has never won at Kentucky and Mayer has a chance to make it two firsts Saturday afternoon.

“I’m really excited to make my first start on a mile-and-a-half so hopefully everything goes well, but I know I have a great team behind me with GMS Racing,” said Mayer. “I’m also really excited to have California Strong on the car this weekend. Hopefully, we can get them in victory lane.”

Holmes has had a solid 2020 campaign so far, earning top-10’s in four of the five races. He’s placed himself right back into the championship picture once again. Holmes finished third at Talladega and is on the verge of one of the best seasons in his ARCA Menards Series career. Could the experience he has at Kentucky compared to the other drivers in the field propel him to his first career victory?

Entry List for the General Tire 150 at Kentucky Speedway

The General Tire 150 is scheduled for Saturday, July 11th at 2:30 p.m. ET and will air live on FOX Sports 1. The race will be available following the race On-Demand via the NBC Sports Gold Racing Roots.

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Christian Koelle returns to Frontstretch in 2020 as the photo editor at Frontstretch. He will continue to contribute content in the ARCA Menards Series, Sioux Chief Challenge, and ARCA East & West Series. He is also engaged and will be getting married during the 2020 NASCAR off-season.

His favorite tracks on the circuit include Barber Motorsports Park, Iowa Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, and Bristol Motor Speedway.

During the season, Christian also spends time as a photographer with multiple other outlets shooting Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Minor League & Major League Baseball, and NCAA Football.

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