Tuesday, May 7, 2019

ARCA: Brad Smith hits tough luck at Nashville after entering with high hopes

PHOTO: @DriverBradSmith
by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

Brad Smith scored the 15th last-place finish of his ARCA Menards Series career in Sunday’s General Tire Music City 200 at Nashville Fairgrounds when his #48 Hie Publishing / Brad Smith Motorsports Ford fell out with engine issues without completing any of the race’s 200 laps. The finish came in Smith’s 333rd series start and was his first since Salem, two races ago.

In the one event in between our last feature on Smith and this one, the #48 bunch went through a mixed bag of emotions. A strong showing at Talladega vaulted the team into the top five in the points standings, putting the team in position to complete the goal of a top-ten points finish at season’s end. On the flip side, both the one-year anniversary of James and Tweety Hilton’s death passed and the four-year anniversary of Smith's harrowing wreck at Talladega with Austin Wayne Self.

With recent hype surrounding Nashville as a potential track for any of NASCAR’s top three series, the ARCA action offered a potential prelude of what would come. Just 20 cars showed up to race, but the list was highlighted by some debuts. Empire Racing rolled out two teams with Thad Moffitt adding Nashville to his schedule and late model prospect Lexi Gay slated to make her debut. Kimmel Racing originally had Brian Finney listed as the driver of the #69, but by the time race day came around, Barry Layne was in the car. Layne is a short track veteran who had previously run ARCA for Norm Benning, Finney and the Kimmels. Otherwise, short trackers Chandler Smith, Carson Hocevar, Connor Okrzesik, Kaden Honeycutt and Richard Doheny joined the action. Eric Caudell also chose Nashville as part of his plan to run approximately half of the schedule.

Practice was extra valuable with the impending threat of rain. After the fact, ARCA officials made the call to make practice a qualifying session. Chandler Smith led the practice/qualifying session with a lap in the mid-19 seconds; Layne and Smith were 20th and 19th respectively, the only cars in the 22-second range.

Rain eventually pushed the race back from Saturday night to Sunday, setting up a different atmosphere than many of the short track races for ARCA. Unfortunately, before the race started, the Smith team identified an issue that would force the team to "start-and-park" the race. The issue would later be identified by ARCA’s website as an issue with the engine. Gay had a tumultuous debut to say the least, as pit road stops early resulted in an exit with suspension issues after three laps. Layne pulled in a lap after her with brake issues. Doheny completed six laps before yielding to electrical issues, and Mike Basham, running Andy Hillenburg’s #11 car, ran 38 laps before being sidelined with handling issues to round out the Bottom Five.

20) #48-Brad Smith / 0 laps / engine
19) #44-Lexi Gay / 3 laps / suspension
18) #69-Barry Layne / 4 laps / brakes
17) #1-Richard Doheny / 6 laps / electrical
16) #11-Mike Basham / 38 laps / handling

1st) Brad Smith Motorsports (2)
2nd) Kimmel Racing, Mullins Racing, Venturini Motorsports (1)

1st) Ford (4)
2nd) Toyota (1)


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