For the seventh time in series history, the ARCA Menards Series travels to Elko Speedway this weekend. The 0.375-mile track is the shortest on the circuit; therefore, the drivers will complete the most laps in any race this season (250) in the Menards 250.
Despite its relative newness to the ARCA schedule, which included being realigned to Toledo Speedway last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, seven drivers have competed at this short track in Elko New Market, Minnesota: Eric Caudell, Alex Clubb, Dick Doheny, Ty Gibbs, Corey Heim, Willie Mullins, and Brad Smith.
Of the 18 drivers entered though, there are no former winners at Elko. So, who will be upfront in the ninth race of this main ARCA season?
In his lone start there, Gibbs led 31 laps en route to a runner-up finish. If Gibbs wins, he’ll tie his career-high for main ARCA wins with six.
With his victory in the most recent ARCA race though, Heim reminded folks that he is still up to the challenge of battling Gibbs for the series title.
Heim leads the points by three over Gibbs. In his first Elko start, Heim started third and finished fifth. Although it’s the shortest track on the circuit, Heim knows he must perform well.
“From what I remember, it’s a pretty small yet fast racetrack for its size,” Heim told Frontstretch. “It’s a little bullring where you can race side by side for its small radius. You can run the bottom, run the middle, run side by side with people for as long as you can possibly stand it. It’s going to be an exciting race with exciting restarts. I just have to do my job to execute on those.”
Heim and Gibbs have combined to win all the main ARCA races thus far. Heim has won at Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Pocono Raceway. In the last short-track race, he and Gibbs led all the laps, albeit with Gibbs beating him.
“I cannot go out there and expect us [Gibbs and himself] to be the dominant cars,” Heim said about the other competitors. “Just focusing on our own car right now, it’s a good car ‘cause we’ve done a couple of different things from Toledo. My team is bringing me a fast car this weekend.”
Heim will be teammates with Jesse Love and Gracie Trotter. Love has won an ARCA Menards Series West race at another 0.375-mile short track, Colorado National Speedway. Trotter also won an ARCA West race on a 0.375-mile short track, The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Their prowess at those small tracks is beneficial for Heim.
“They definitely have the experience to succeed at a track like Elko,” Heim said. “Most of the tracks out west other than the road courses are small little bullrings. I expect them to be good this weekend; they were decent at Toledo. We all communicate pretty well, share information, and I’ve had my share of short tracks in ARCA, so we’ll all prepared.”
Love made his first main ARCA series start this year at Toledo and finished third. He also won the most recent ARCA West race this season too. Trotter earned her main ARCA series career-best finish of seventh in that Toledo race, also her most recent ARCA race as well.
David Gilliland Racing driver Thad Moffitt is third in the point standings, and he welcomes back teammate Taylor Gray, who returns to ARCA competition after being sidelined due to an off-track injury.
For these two drivers, it’s the first start at Elko for them as well as their respective crew chiefs.
Rookie Nick Sanchez is fourth in the points, 79 points behind Heim and 26 behind Moffitt. Entering his first Elko start, he carries four straight top fives and six straight top-10 finishes.
“Elko is also a track we are going into blind, because we have never been there before,” Sanchez said in a team release. “But having some more time in between Pocono and Elko, we have time to really fine-tune our car specifically for this track and develop a strategy on how we can put Max Siegel and this team in victory lane!”
Decent run tonight in the 21 car. I got too excited there at the end and burnt the tires off of it and we were already loose. Learned a lot with these @GMSRacingLLC guys and I’m looking forward to our next one at Elko— Daniel Dye (@danieldye43) June 13, 2021
The last time there was a main ARCA series race at a 0.375-mile short track was last year at Lebanon I-44 Speedway. Sam Mayer won that race driving for GMS Racing. Can Dye duplicate the team’s success?
Qualifying will be paramount for the Menards 250. Both this main ARCA series season winners and all the Elko race winners have started inside the top 10. There will be an hour-long practice session before qualifying. As for the Menards 250, there are scheduled breaks at laps 100 and 175.
The Menards 250 will take place on Saturday, July 10 at 10 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by MAVTV and will also be available on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.