NASCAR Race Weekend Central

ARCA Preview: 2021 Bush Bean’s 200 at Bristol

The ARCA Menards Series begins the four-race weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway with the Bush’s Beans 200 on Thursday (Sept. 16), and this race ought to be an exciting one.

As the final combination race for ARCA and the ARCA Menards Series East, the East series champion will be decided. Also, there are only three races left in this ARCA season, and with at least 30 drivers entered — the third time that has happened this season.

The ARCA East title battle will be between Sammy Smith and Daniel Dye. Smith has won three East races while Dye scored his first main ARCA victory at Berlin Raceway this year.

“All I’m going to do is go for wins and that’s all I care about,” Smith told Frontstretch after his fifth-place finish at the Milwaukee Mile, the most recent combination date for ARCA and the East.

“It’s definitely tougher. Just got waxed today by Ty [Gibbs]; just need to be better next time,” Smith said about the combined fields.

Smith has a 24-point advantage over Dye in the East standings. If Smith finishes 19th or better, he will clinch the title.

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“Bristol is just one of those places that everybody knows about,” Dye said in a team release. “I had the chance to race a late model there last fall [he finished fourth], and we were able to have a pretty good run and had a lot of fun on the high banks. Both me and the entire GMS team have pretty high hopes and expectations for how we’ll run Thursday, and we plan to put the Chevrolet up front and in contention for our second win of the year.”

For the first time this season, Dye will have a teammate: Jack Wood.

GMS Racing already announced Wood will compete full-time in the Trucks next year. He is eager to give GMS an ARCA repeat victory at Bristol.

“Bristol is such a famous track in the world of NASCAR and I couldn’t be more excited to make my first start there this Thursday with my No. 22 GMS Racing ARCA team,” Wood said in a team release. “Sam Mayer ran really strong there last season with this group and I hope to build off that success.”

Mayer won both the ARCA and Camping World Truck Series races at Bristol last year and will compete in three of the four races at Bristol this weekend. He will pilot the No. 23 and No. 32 for Bret Holmes Racing in ARCA and the Camping World Truck Series, respectively, then drive his full-time No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

“Bristol’s definitely up my alley,” Mayer told Great Lakes Post reporter Casey Campbell. “To go back there and defend my Truck and ARCA win from last year… it’s a big weekend for me, I’m really excited for it.”

Mayer is one of five drivers who will run at least double-duty at Bristol this race weekend, though Mayer is racing three times. The other four are Jade Buford, Drew Dollar, Ty Gibbs  and Taylor Gray. Buford, Gibbs and Mayer will compete in the Xfinity race while Dollar, Gray and Mayer will compete in the Truck race.

Gibbs finished second in both the 2019 East race and last year’s ARCA race at Bristol. He led 53 laps in last year’s race, and he is ready to tackle the 0.533-mile short track again.

In addition to leading the ARCA points, Gibbs also is tied with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Smith for the most wins in the East series this season. Plus, Gibbs has led the most laps in both the main and East series, so he has been the one to beat in the combination races, winning both as well.

Gibbs will have to fend off championship contender Corey Heim, who has three Venturini teammates with him at Bristol. Heim will be making his first career start at Bristol.

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Dollar has finished fourth and 18th in his two ARCA events at Bristol, respectively. Both Jesse Love and Parker Chase will make their first respective starts at Bristol.

Nick Sanchez is third in the points. After watching Landen Lewis drive his No. 2 to victory lane at DuQuoin, Sanchez will return to the No. 2 to make his second start at Bristol. He finished 11th in his lone ARCA start there last year.

Although Gray is still searching for his main ARCA series win, he parked his No. 17 Ford in victory lane in the most recent ARCA Menards Series West race this season, at Portland International Raceway.

“I think we’re going to be pretty good,” Gray told Racing News Now. “Last year, we were running top three all day and on that last, we had a left rear go down.”

Gray finished seventh, one spot behind his teammate Hailie Deegan. This year, he has Thad Moffitt and Joey Iest as his teammates. Like three of the four Venturini drivers, Moffitt and Iest will also be competing at Bristol for the first time.

“More so just using it as an experience for the Truck race right after,” Gray continued. “My more main focus is on the Truck race and being more aggressive.”

Gray will start the Truck race in 35th  but has his heart on winning both races.

“I hope so,” Gray said on his chances. “He [Mayer] had a pretty dominant team that year.”

Before the Bush’s Beans 200 gets underway, there will be a 45-minute practice session followed by qualifying. The Bush’s Beans 200 will then begin at 6:30 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FS1.

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