After 15 races this season, the two Toyota drivers have won every series race except for one, giving both of them at least a 201-point lead over third-place driver Thad Moffitt. This year’s ARCA championship battle seems more like a close fight between two Formula One rivals.
The duo will do battle again this weekend on Sunday (Aug. 29) at the Milwaukee Mile, marking the first time the series has been to the Wisconsin short track since 2007. Based off the results from last weekend’s doubleheader at Michigan International Speedway and Illinois State Fairgrounds, this championship is still either driver’s to lose.
Michigan went as many events on big speedway races have in 2021 for the 18-year-old Gibbs — with pure dominance. Gibbs led 99 out of 100 laps on the 2-mile and earned himself his eighth win of the season, and his fourth on a circuit longer than one mile.
That one other lap however, was led by rival Heim, who finished second.
“Finishing second sucks. We’re both pushing,” Heim said after the Michigan race. “We don’t want to finish second.”
Two days later, Heim capitalized on the dirt at Springfield as the Venturini Motorsports driver went on to lead 86 of 100 laps on his way to his sixth win of the year while Gibbs took his turn to be the runner-up.
With the points rivalry — friendly or not — getting tighter every week, the two now look toward Milwaukee. Before we can determine who truly has the edge here, one must look at the tracks’ past.
First, let’s looks at Gibbs and the stock-car titan that is Joe Gibbs Racing.
While ARCA has not competed at Milwaukee since 2007, Gibbs mentioned how the team was using its past Xfinity Series success to prepare for this weekend.
Frank Kimmel won the Milwaukee ARCA event in 2007, but it was the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing entry that won the Xfinity race at the track in the same year. That was the same race that was started by up-and-comer Aric Almirola, but won by Denny Hamlin thanks to an infamous mid-race driver change.
It’s the team’s only win at the Milwaukee Mile, but that’s still one more than Venturini Motorsports.
However, Venturini has finished second at the Milwaukee Mile in ARCA before — in 1983.
Gibbs holds three short-track victories while Heim has two, which combines for a total of five of the six short tracks raced so far by the ARCA Menards Series in 2021. Both also have an average start of no lower than 3.5, which is great for them considering no driver that has won any of the five ARCA Menards Series races held at Milwaukee started lower than eighth.
The only other driver to claim a win this year is Daniel Dye, who went to victory lane at Berlin Raceway will return this weekend after suffering a mild concussion and whiplash after a crash at Winchester Speedway on July 31.
There are 22 other drivers that will be in the field on Sunday.
Dye will be making his fifth career series start on Sunday and has been strong so far in his four starts in 2021. In fact, if it weren’t for a crash in his most recent start at Winchester, he would have nothing but top 10s.
— Daniel Dye (@danieldye43) August 24, 2021
Another notable is Rajah Caruth, who is making his second career series start this weekend for Rev Racing after finishing ninth at Iowa Speedway earlier this year.
“Milwaukee’s an old, worn-out surface,” said Caruth, the NASCAR Drive for Diversity 2021 class driver. “I love tracks like that. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
— Rajah Caruth (@rajahcaruth_) August 22, 2021
One driver that will not be in Sunday’s event is Tim Richmond, who suffered a broken tibia and fractured ankle, and is out indefinitely due to an incident at Michigan that began after contact between Moffitt and Drew Dollar. Moffitt will be racing this week despite previously assumed sponsorship issues.
“We have some sad news to announce Tim Richmond is out indefinitely he has a broken tibia and fractured ankle,” said team owner Alex Clubb on social media. “We have to wait for the swelling to go down to see what the next move is for surgery. We will release more information when we can. This is another big hit for RCM.”
Richmond was the victim of Moffitt’s payback on Dollar, who contacted Moffitt on the opening lap at Michigan. Moffitt found Dollar on lap 23, turned him, and collected Richmond in the aftermath.
Like magnets 👀
— MAVTV (@MAVTV) August 20, 2021
Clubb will wheel the No. 27 car Sunday at Milwaukee, continuing to fill in after running the dirt race at Springfield one week ago.
Really stupid way to lose a race car… Wreck people at a short track if you feel the need not a damn superspeedway… This is a big hit for our team. pic.twitter.com/EDKIGOZep4
— Alex Clubb (@Alex_Clubb_3) August 21, 2021
It should be noted that the Milwaukee Mile is in fact not a supespeedway and considered a short track.
Another interesting entry this weekend is the inclusion of longtime ARCA competitor Brad Smith simply because he’s the only driver in the field on Sunday that also raced in 2007. He finished 19th that year, which is his best finish at the track out of all three of his ARCA starts there.
The Sprecher 150 will take place on Sunday, Aug. 29 at 3 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by MAVTV and available on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
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