Following the checkered flag at last year’s ARCA Menards Series season finale at Kansas Speedway, the 2021 season kicks off at Daytona International Speedway. After a 120-day offseason since Bret Holmes‘ championship celebration at Corey Heim‘s maiden victory in ARCA at Kansas, these drivers look forward to racing on the high banks of Daytona for Saturday afternoon’s Lucas Oil 200, the prelude to the NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener.
Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200 will be the 43rd ARCA race at the 2.5-mile superspeedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Last year, Michael Self scored a dominant win in this race as he led 61 laps in the 80-lap season opener. However, Self is not entered in Saturday’s race. More importantly, there are no previous winners entered in Saturday’s race, making this a wide-open event for the 34-car field.
Self took a slim victory over Hailie Deegan by 0.125 seconds in last year’s opener while Drew Dollar, last year’s Talladega winner, placed third with Sean Corr and Thad Moffitt rounding out the top five.
Dollar, Corr, and Moffitt return for this year’s 80-lap race along with Holmes, Jason White, Tanner Gray, Scott Melton, Chuck Hiers, Dave Mader, John Ferrier, Willie Mullins, Eric Caudell, Tim Richmond, Charles Buchanan, Scott Reeves and Jason Kitzmiller.
While 47% of the field competed in last year’s ARCA season opener at Daytona, Heim, one of the preseason championship favorites, has yet to start a superspeedway race. Despite the lack of experience, Heim understands the challenges of racing at Daytona, including the limited passing opportunities.
“I think Daytona and Talladega are probably the two toughest tracks to pass at,” Heim said during a recent ARCA press conference held on Zoom. “I’m at least predicting that. I haven’t really been on either of them. I did have that experience in the draft [during winter testing] when I drafted with my Venturini teammates.”
Certainly, Heim showcased some speed during ARCA’s pre-season test at Daytona with the third-fastest overall time of 49.134 seconds or 183.173 mph. All told, Heim knows his work is cut out for him for Saturday’s race.
“It was definitely very hard to pass [on the track],” Heim observed. “If you’ve got the right people behind you that kind of know what they’re doing and have the experience, we should be just fine. I have to do my part and stay up front and stay out of trouble. I’d like to be in the top two rows or top four throughout the race. If I position myself at the end of the race, I don’t think there’ll be any issues about passing.”
Meanwhile, 19-year-old Howie DiSavino III will make his sixth ARCA start and his first on a superspeedway. In his five previous starts, DiSavino’s highest finish to date is ninth at last year’s race at Lucas Oil Raceway. Posting the 16th-fastest overall effort in winter testing, DiSavino and his No. 32 AM Racing Chevrolet team appear to be a solid dark horse pick for Saturday’s ARCA opener.
Humbled to have an opportunity to pilot this @AMRacingNASCAR hot rod around @DAYTONA in this Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200. Thank you Bud’s Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric, Front Runner Boats, @AustinTheriault @DriveRefine @jj_topofthebox @ARCA_Racing pic.twitter.com/9v5S47nfrI
— Howie DiSavino (@HDisavino) February 9, 2021
While Dollar prepares for his eight-race stint with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series, the 20-year-old Atlanta native looks forward to clambering into his No. 15 Venturini Motorsports Toyota, notwithstanding the fact that he posted the fourth-quickest time in ARCA’s winter test at Daytona.
— Drew Dollar (@DrewDollar00) February 4, 2021
Placing fourth in last year’s ARCA championship standings, Dollar flexed his muscles at Daytona and Talladega with finishes of third and first to net a sparkling average finish of second. Posting the second-quickest time in pre-season testing at Daytona, Dollar hopes his quick Camry nets him a second career ARCA victory.
After a three-year hiatus, Toni Breidinger returns to ARCA as she makes her superspeedway debut as the driver of the No. 02 Chevrolet fielded by Young’s Motorsport. The 21-year-old racer from Hillsborough, Calif. expressed excitement for her return to ARCA and her part-time schedule in the Camping World Truck Series.
Excited to be joining @youngsmtrsports for 2021 race season! I’ll be driving the #02 car in @ARCA_Racing and the #82 trucks in @NASCAR’s Camping World Truck series. Kicking off the season next week at @DAYTONA pic.twitter.com/H5Uc5eip8j
— Toni Breidinger (@ToniBreidinger) February 4, 2021
Breidinger competed in three ARCA events in 2018, scoring her best finish at Madison with a 10th place for Venturini Motorsports.
Another young racer who will make her Daytona debut this Saturday is 21-year-old Brittney Zamora of Kennewick, Washington, for team owner Mark Rette. Zamora, who raced for Bill McAnally’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series West efforts in 2019, relishes her opportunity with Rette.
— Brittney Zamora (@Brittneyz52) February 9, 2021
While Gracie Trotter has not started a race at Daytona, the 19-year-old Denver, North Carolina native expressed confidence with her 10-race opportunity with Venturini Motorsports.
“I tell myself I can win every time I strap myself into a race car,” Trotter told Luis Torres of The Podium Finish. “This year will be no different but with a learning curve. My time in the car now is about the future. It’s about learning as much as I can about the car, communication with my team, and all the new tracks. Coming to a place like Venturini Motorsports to race and learn from some of the best makes me feel like there’s no better place to be right now.”
Although Venturini Motorsports’ quick quartet appear to be the pre-race favorites, 18-year-old Ty Gibbs appears set for his Daytona debut. Gibbs logged the second-fastest overall time in preseason testing with a time of 48.895 seconds or 183.730 mph in his No. 18 Toyota Camry. Hot off his six-win season in a 16-race schedule last year, could Gibbs translate his success in a partial ARCA schedule with a victory on Saturday?
Beyond these young racing talents, Daytona could shake things up as an equalizer for the favorites and underdogs of ARCA. Drivers like Coor and Melton cannot be dismissed as they placed in the top 10 in last year’s season opener at Daytona while placing inside the top 11 at Talladega.
Another storyline to watch is youth versus experience. Rev Racing’s Nick Sanchez, a 19-year-old racer from Miami, Florida, will make his fifth ARCA start on Saturday. Sanchez will make his superspeedway debut at his home state track with a car that posted the 12th fastest time in pre-season testing.
GMS Racing will field their No. 21 Chevy entry with ARCA Menards West Series standout Jack Wood of Loomis, California. Notably, Wood, who will make his ARCA superspeedway debut this Saturday, was consistent in preseason testing with the sixth-fastest effort, posting a time of 49.205 seconds or 182.910 mph.
Ultimately, 47-year-old Derrick Lancaster may be one of the drivers to watch on Saturday as he posted the fastest overall effort in ARCA’s winter test at Daytona with a time of 48.939 seconds or 183.902 mph. The Christiansburg, Va. native is a bit of a superspeedway ringer, with five previous ARCA starts with an average finish of 16.6. If Lancaster can duplicate his preseason testing efforts in qualifying, he could be a factor, particularly if he stays in the draft with the main pack.
Drivers and teams will only have one practice session on Friday before they qualify on Saturday morning prior to ARCA’s kick-off for 2021.
The Lucas Oil 200 will take place on Saturday, Feb. 13 at 1:30 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FS1, while being live streamed on the Fox Sports Live app.