Ty Gibbs enters the 2021 ARCA Menards Series season as one of the favorites to win the championship. Driving the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, he raced competitively against the speedy Venturini Motorsports armada at Daytona International Speedway.
He just couldn’t get his car to the front.
After Gracie Trotter pitted after suffering damage to her No. 25, Drew Dollar and Corey Heim teamed together for Venturini. In ARCA overtime, those two worked together and Heim won the Lucas Oil 200 fairly easily.
As for Gibbs, he was relegated to fourth. In a post-race interview, he appeared frustrated with the officiating as well as the Venturini commitment to win the season opener.
“We [Bret Holmes and Gibbs] were just kinda talking about the stuff that’s been happening over the past week,” Gibbs told FOX Sports 1 post-race. “It’s just frustrating when you come out here, run fourth, and you don’t have a shot to win — especially if you let your buddy in. I feel if I did that, I wouldn’t want to be out here letting people in to win the race.
“He completely gave it away there; it’s just frustrating. The way this package is, you can’t push and you can’t really get to the bumper. You’re not allowed to lock bumpers; they did and it’s just frustrating. I don’t know what to do to get ARCA to like me at this point.”
Holmes, the reigning series champion driving for a family-owned team, finished third and was in the same predicament. But Gibbs posted the fastest practice time in the lone ARCA session, appeared to have the fastest car on track with his No. 18 Toyota and was in position to move up. Instead, on the one-lap overtime, Heim and Dollar finished first and second, respectively, without any other challengers.
How it happened: pic.twitter.com/ewZHQK3bvt
— ARCA Menards Series (@ARCA_Racing) February 13, 2021
Dollar agreed he wanted a Venturini driver to win the race, keeping Holmes and Gibbs behind him. The Venturini team has now won four straight ARCA races at Daytona.
Drew Dollar says it wasn't clear to them that the final restart would be a green-white until right before taking the green and at that point, he was committed to making sure Venturini Motorsports won. pic.twitter.com/zi54EnHVZN
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) February 13, 2021
Heim, meanwhile, was unaware of any team orders to ensure a Venturini car won the race.
“We had the race pretty much won without the caution,” Heim told media members in a post-race Zoom call. “All I was told to do was restart on the outside lane and give it all I got. I don’t know I was told any team orders other than start on the outside lane, hammer down and win the race, which is exactly what I did.”
Gibbs disagreed. Nonetheless, he leaves the 2.5-mile track in Daytona Beach, Fla., with a fourth-place finish, his 20th top five in ARCA.
“I’m having a fun time; I’m learning a lot which is good,” he told FS1. “I’m gonna keep grinding at it so we can go race at a real race track at Phoenix [Raceway]. I’m excited for that.”
In the inaugural ARCA race at Phoenix last year, Gibbs won the pole and led a race-high 122 laps before finishing third due to a two-lap dash to the checkered flag.
“My team is good at making sure I’m good at my switches, things set right, the seatbelt is tight,” he said. “That’s all I can really say. They did a good job, I had a fast Toyota. I guess I need some teammates and people who don’t want to win should try to win.”
While ARCA has about a month before it races at Phoenix, Gibbs will gain more seat time as he will debut in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the Daytona International Speedway road course next weekend. In the first ARCA race there last year, Gibbs led a race-high 19 laps en route to a runner-up finish.