Monday, June 29, 2020

ARCA: Expired engine thwarts Thad Moffitt’s efforts at Pocono

PHOTO: @dgr_crosley on Instagram
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Thad Moffitt finished last for the first time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Friday’s General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 at Pocono Raceway when his #46 Richard Petty’s Performance Plus / DGR-Crosley Ford retired with engine problems after completing two of the race’s 80 laps.

The finish came in Moffitt’s 19th career start.

For those who do not know, Moffitt is a grandson of Richard Petty - he is the son of Brian Moffitt, the CEO of Richard Petty Motorsports, and Rebecca Petty-Moffitt. Thad’s developmental path took him through go-karts and quarter midgets before moving up to late models and running at storied North Carolina racetracks. In 2017, he joined RPM-affiliated Empire Racing Group for a limited ARCA slate. He stayed with Empire through the end of the 2019 season, switching from Ford to Chevrolet and back again. For 2020, Moffitt announced a one-race deal at Daytona with DGR-Crosley, finishing fifth. He has run every race since then on the ARCA national tour; however, there has been no confirmation from the team or driver on a full-time or expanded part-time schedule.

The entry list started at 20 drivers for the Friday race. The only ARCA debut in the field was Russ Lane, a road racer who is now a part of the Empire Racing Group driver development program. His #8 car brought funding from the National Autosport Association (NASA) Central Region, a series in which he had previously raced. Empire’s main driver, Sean Corr, also was on the entry list in the original Empire number, the 82. Clay Greenfield was on an ARCA entry list for the first time since 2015, driving the #11 in a planned 20-lap adventure for Fast Track Racing to get track time before the Truck Series race. Don Thompson took over the #0 car from Con Nicolopoulos as the second Wayne Peterson Racing entry. Scott Melton returned in his #69 car, as Pocono is one of the bigger tracks that Melton is running. Derek Griffith, after initially announcing a full-time East slate with Chad Bryant Racing, switched to a part-time East and part-time national series schedule and showed up at Pocono with a bright #22 car. Also entered were a group of 17-year-olds, eligible to compete after participating in practice: Ty Gibbs, Sam Mayer, and Chandler Smith.

There was a little bit of movement in the middle of the week, as Tim Richmond was forced to abandon his full-season schedule when engine problems that were terminal at Talladega could not be repaired before Pocono. Thompson shifted over from the #0 to the #06, and Jason Kitzmiller was added in his #97 entry. There was also another rumored entry:

Of course, ARCA did have a practice session, but no further comment was offered. It could, however, be something to keep an eye on for 2021.

There was one practice session on Friday - but unlike the ARCA Menards Series West this weekend, it did not double as a qualifying session. Chandler Smith led the session with a lap of 54.062 seconds. At the tail of the field was Thompson, with a best lap of 1 minute, 8.618 seconds. A total of 14 of the 20 drivers ran a fast lap under a minute, meaning that there would likely be a large performance gap come race time.

The starting lineup was set “by the entry blank”, a procedure that is not defined in ARCA’s 2019 rulebook. The author’s best guess is that the field was set by the time that a driver’s entry was received by the sanctioning body, resulting in a four-car Venturini / Joe Gibbs Racing group at the front, led by Michael Self and a couple of DGR-Crosley entries starting together. Sean Corr was the 20th starter per the sanctioning body.

Per the Fox Sports 1 broadcast, Kitzmiller, Mayer and Corr incurred tail-end penalties before the start of the race. Coming to the green however, Tommy Vigh Jr. in the #01 and Don Thompson in the #06 were the last cars on track, choosing to voluntarily drop to the back of the field.

Moffitt had moved up to fifth by the middle of lap two, when voluminous clouds of smoke started coming out of the back of his #46 machine. Moffitt was able to get back to pit road, but was done for the day. “Wow, that was really disappointing," said Moffitt in a team release. "I thought we had a really good Performance Plus Oil Ford for the race, but we never got the chance to find out how well we could run before the engine let go on lap three. I hate it for my DGR-Crosley guys. They worked so hard getting this car ready and they give me great Fords at every track. All we can do is move on and get ready for Lucas Oil Raceway next week."

The rest of the Bottom Five filled up in the first half of the race’s 80 laps. Tommy Vigh Jr. exited after nine laps; Don Thompson came to the garage two laps later. Russ Lane’s debut ended after 28 laps and Greenfield wound up running 29 laps before exiting - nine laps on top of the originally-stated 20.

20) #46-Thad Moffitt / 2 laps / engine
19) #01-Tommy Vigh Jr. / 9 laps / unknown
18) #06-Don Thompson / 11 laps / unknown
17) #8-Russ Lane / 28 laps / unknown
16) #11-Clay Greenfield / 29 laps / unknown

1st) DGR-Crosley, Fast Track Racing, Reeves Racing, Wayne Peterson Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (2)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)


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