In three days, the ARCA Menards Series will race at two different short tracks. On Thursday (Sept. 17), ARCA and the ARCA Menards Series East will compete in a combination race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Bush’s Beans 200 also will be the penultimate race of the ARCA Menards Series Sioux Chief Challenge, a 10-race championship within the ARCA schedule.
Then, two days later, ARCA will travel about 400 miles to Winchester Speedway for the Toyota 200.
Twenty-seven drivers will compete in the Bush’s Beans 200, making it the second-highest ARCA field of the season, with only six fewer than the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
With 27 drivers set to compete in this 200-lap race at the 0.533-mile short track in Bristol, TN, which drivers will be ones to watch?
There will be no qualifying session for the Bush’s Beans 200, though there will be a 45-minute practice session.
Sam Mayer won both East series races at Bristol in 2019. He has won the last two ARCA races and the last two East series races. Understandably, JR Motorsports signed him to compete part-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021 and full-time in 2022.
Mayer will start second, behind fellow ARCA and ARCA East winner Ty Gibbs. Gibbs has one start at Bristol; he finished second in the 2019 Bush’s Beans 200 behind Mayer.
Smith and Mayer will both compete in double-duty at Bristol on Thursday as they will compete in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race, which will precede the ARCA race.
Holmes overtook Michael Self as the ARCA points leader after the most recent race at Toledo Speedway. Neither driver has competed at Bristol before so their respective learning curves will be hastened during the practice session. Self will start seventh in the Bush’s Beans 200.
Further back in the field are Derek Griffith and Kris Wright. Griffith will drive the No. 22 Chad Bryant Racing Ford. While Wright will drive the No. 12 Chevrolet owned by Andy Hillenburg, it will be prepared by Chad Bryant Racing.
“We expect to be fast this weekend and contending for the win,” team owner Chad Bryant said in a team release. “All season long I’ve been super impressed with Derek, but heading to Bristol, he’s in a good place, and I think he’ll find that Bristol is a place that fits his niche.”
Neither Griffith nor Wright have raced at Bristol before, but both drivers are eager to make their first start there. Wright is looking forward to having Griffith as a teammate in the Bush’s Beans 200.
“I’ve heard a lot about Derek and look forward to racing with him on Thursday night at Bristol,” Wright stated in a team release. “I know he’s never been at Bristol before – but his forte is short tracks so I know there’s going to be a number of things that I can learn from him for not only Bristol but hopefully down the road too.”
Chad Bryant Racing also announced its schedule for the rest of this ARCA season.
Hailie Deegan leads Drew Dollar in the ARCA Rookie of the Year battle. She will start eighth, and Dollar will start in 10th place. Deegan has three ARCA East starts at Bristol with one top 10, a ninth-place in the most recent race there, whereas Dollar has a fourth-place finish in his lone ARCA East start there in 2019.
“Bristol is a track which awards aggressive drivers, which is why I run well there,” Deegan said in a team release. “It favors my driving style. It’s easy to get totally lost on the corners because the laps go so fast. I always have to remind myself the wall is closer off one corner than the other end, which changes things up a little.”
After the last ARCA race in which he ended with a DNF, Dollar tweeted, “Bad results, but I think we learned some things as a team that we can build on. We’ll battle back!”
Max McLaughlin returns to the track after he did not compete in the most recent race at Toledo.
“I love racing there,” McLaughlin said in a team release about racing at Bristol. “It’s one of the most intense places that we race and is a true drivers’ track. You have a lot of input on the performance of the car, and I feel like this is one of the places where my dirt experience helps. We keep finding speed each week when we show up, and we’re certainly capable of having a strong top-five run at Bristol.”
McLaughlin has an ARCA career-best finish of fourth place at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. His No. 1 Toyota will stand out under the lights.
— Hattori Racing (@Hattori_Racing) September 15, 2020
Welcome back, Gus Dean. He will make his third ARCA start of this season, having competed in the season-opener at Daytona and later at Talladega Superspeedway. He will also drive the No. 32 Win-Tron Racing Chevrolet in the ARCA race at Memphis International Speedway.
“I’ve never been there in an ARCA car – but do have experience there last year in a Truck,” Dean said in the announcement. “Having a limited amount of practice on our hands, I’m hopeful that the extra track time will help and we can get a good finish.”
Two days later, 11 of the drivers competing in the Bush’s Beans 200 will travel to Winchester, IN, for the Toyota 200 for a total of 13 drivers. It is the smallest field size of this season, only two more entries than the smallest field in ARCA history – 11 in the first ARCA race at Flat Rock Speedway in 1981.
It will be the 25th ARCA race at Winchester but its first race there since 2017. Of the 13 drivers set to compete in the Toyota 200, only Holmes, Con Nicolopoulos, and Brad Smith have driven on the 0.5-mile track. Holmes is the only one with a top 10 finish there, too.
Love, who leads the ARCA Menards Series West point standings, will make his fourth career ARCA start but his first with Venturini Motorsports.
Deegan is currently 49 points behind leader Holmes. She has one goal for the rest of this season: win.
“Right now my goal is to win a race by the end of the season,” she said in a team release. “My DGR-Crosley team has come a long way, especially on our short-track program. I have more experience on short tracks and I know what I need out of my car. One thing I have had to adjust to is that sometimes you need to go slower to be faster. When I was racing off-road trucks, to go faster you drove harder. Now my spotter (Eric Holmes) is always reminding me to back up my corners and not drive so hard in to get better laps times.”
In addition to chasing Deegan for the top rookie honors, Dollar also trails her by 13 points in the standings.
“Winchester (Speedway) is another new track for me, and it looks really fast, so that should be a fun race,” he stated. “I feel like we’re making gains on the short track, so hopefully we’ll have two solid nights.”
Although Self lacks experience at Winchester and is currently two points out of first place in the championship standings, he remains undeterred.
“Winchester (Speedway) is a historic short track that looks like an absolute blast to make laps at,” Self said in a pre-race release. “I was actually kind of bummed when it was taken off the ARCA schedule a few years ago, but this is one I’m genuinely excited about that showed up as a replacement track this year.”
With only 13 drivers entered for this race, Brad Smith may finally earn his first career top-10 finish. The 51-year-old is currently sixth in the point standings, tying his career-best points finish in 2016.
“Brad currently sits 6th in points and is in good position for his “Drive for 5”, 5 straight years with a Top 10 points finish,” he posted on Facebook.
There will be a half-hour practice session and qualifying before the Toyota 200.
The Bush’s Beans 200 will take place Thursday (Sept. 17) at 9:30 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by Fox Sports 1. The Toyota 200 then will take place on Saturday (Sept. 24) at 3 p.m. ET. TrackPass on NBC Gold will air the race live and MAVTV will air the race beginning at 6 p.m. ET.