The 2021 ARCA season will soon get underway, with the ARCA Menards Series East beginning competition for ARCA in just a few days, Feb. 8 at New Smyrna Speedway. The ARCA Menards Series follows at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 13, and the ARCA Menards Series West starts its run with a combination race with the main ARCA division at Phoenix Raceway on March 12. Finally, the ARCA Menards Series Sioux Chief Showdown, a 10-race championship within the main ARCA series, will start with the race at Toledo Speedway on May 22.
To preview this season, four media members — three from Frontstretch — shared their thoughts about this upcoming ARCA season, including making their predictions for both the ARCA and Showdown champions.
What are you looking forward to this ARCA season?
Casey Campbell: I’m looking forward to this upcoming ARCA season for several reasons. The first reason is the exciting battle for the championship that we will have this year between Ty Gibbs and Corey Heim. Both drivers really impressed last year, and it will come down to the last race to battle for the championship. I’m also excited about some new venues that ARCA is going to, including multiple road course races and short track races to really spice up the schedule down the stretch.
Alex Gallacher: The variety of tracks is the best thing about ARCA. Superspeedways, local short tracks, dirt tracks, and road courses make the season incredibly diverse and create a super hard challenge for all the drivers competing.
Mark Kristl: I am looking forward to the new faces. All four full-time drivers last year are not competing full time this year. There is a new crop of full-time drivers along with new competitors for the Showdown title.
Davey Segal: To see how Venturini Motorsports rebounds after back-to-back runner-up finishes in the championship standings. No more Michael Self, but a whole lotta young talent on a full- and part-time basis puts the team in a good spot to contend for this year and attract more talent in the coming years.
This ARCA season has 20 races at 19 venues. Which race offers the most intrigue?
Campbell: There are three tracks that really are interesting in this year’s schedule. The return to the Milwaukee Mile is going to be interesting. Anytime you go to a track you haven’t been to in a while is going to be exciting. Also going to road courses like Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Watkins Glen International for the first time in a long time should be quite the show for ARCA. I think it will also attract road racers and drivers from different styles of racing like the Road to Indy/IMSA.
Gallacher: The superspeedway races always offer a lot of intrigue, as the car counts are usually higher. But the road course at Mid-Ohio will throw a bit of a wrench into the teams’ plans, as the ARCA teams haven’t raced on a road course since 2017. Mid-Ohio is tough and creates new territory for the drivers. This race will be an exciting one.
Kristl: There are four combination races with the other two ARCA series, one with the West and three with the East. The East field is stout this year, so the three races at Iowa Speedway, Milwaukee and Bristol Motor Speedway will feature different drivers challenging for the win.
Segal: The return to Milwaukee really piqued my interest when the schedule was announced. I remember when NASCAR ran there, but I was super young and don’t have any vivid recollections of the racing there. Seeing how the youngsters adapt to the track they likely have never seen a stock car race on in their lifetimes will be interesting to see.
Which driver will be the breakout star this season?
Campbell: This year’s breakout star will be Heim with Venturini. Heim has impressed me the last few years driving in the series, and the win at Kansas Speedway last year really caught a lot of people’s attention. This year is a huge opportunity for Heim to have a breakout year. He has a real shot of making some noise this year in ARCA and picking up multiple wins this year.
Gallacher: Easy. If we aren’t counting Gibbs, this is the season that Heim breaks out. Scoring his first win last season in the finale, the young gun has only nine races so far to make an impact, but I expect Heim to be extremely successful this year.
Kristl: Charles Krall hypothesized Taylor Gray could reel off multiple wins this year, and he is right. Back with David Gilliland Racing with another year of experience, Gray could follow Mayer by winning both the Showdown and East titles.
Segal: It’s hard not to say Gibbs, but I kind of already consider him a star, given his previous track record. Given the competition, I can see Drew Dollar earning one or two wins this season with Venturini. Being his second year in the series and with the team, the chemistry should already be there, giving him an upper hand from the get-go.
What is one bold prediction for this season?
Campbell: We will get more winners in the series than people expect. Most think Gibbs and Heim will dominate the circuit with wins. You may see some surprises at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway, and maybe some other races. Holmes/Mayer will be a threat when the No. 23 is on the racetrack. I also expect DGR, GMS Racing and the rest of the Venturini crew to be strong competitors up at the front of the field and maybe make some appearances in victory lane.
Gallacher: Gibbs wins it all — the championship and the Showdown. The JGR cars are too strong, and Gibbs seems to win more than he loses. Gibbs has proven his competitiveness, and this year he will lay an ass-whooping on the field.
Kristl: BHR drivers Holmes and Mayer both win at least one race this year. Holmes is my favorite to win the season opener at Daytona. As for Mayer, he is so talented, he could win any of the races in which he competes.
Segal: Not sure how bold it is so say that Gibbs wins the most races of the season, so I’ll put a number on it. Out of the 20 races on the schedule, he’ll win at least EIGHT. That’s a 40% winning percentage. Not too shabby.
Who will win the Showdown?
Campbell: Gibbs will get his revenge and win the Showdown, I’d watch out for Gray, Jack Wood, Jesse Love and Heim as some tough competitors as well. The Showdown races are always tough, and each race brings its own challenges, so we could see some very interesting racing, especially at tracks these drivers haven’t really been to. Gibbs will win it, but he won’t be as dominant as many think. It will be a very close battle.
Segal: Gibbs is gonna win anything and everything this year.
Who win the ARCA Menards Series championship?
Campbell: Almost everyone has Gibbs winning the championship in a very dominating fashion this year in ARCA, but Heim will end up winning the championship at the end of the day. Look, Venturini did not have its usual dominant type year in 2020 as it has in the past. But it will get back to having that dominant type year in 2021. This can be a special year for Heim as he puts Venturini back on top at the end of the season.
Kristl: Gibbs won at Pocono Raceway, Kentucky Speedway and short tracks last year. He finished second in his first road course start at the Daytona road course. In the lone dirt race last year, Gibbs finished 10th, 10 laps down, but he continually learned about those tracks. He’ll win the championship this year.
Segal: Gibbs will hoist the hardware at season’s end.
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