Friday, July 31, 2020

ARCA: Owen Smith’s series debut cut short in first race of Toledo doubleheader

PHOTO: @owen_smith36 on Instagram

by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Owen Smith finished last for the 1st time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Friday’s 200 presented by SPxE at Toledo Speedway when his #11 Double H Ranch Chevrolet retired with electrical problems after 5 of 200 laps.

The finish came in Smith’s series debut.

While the Toledo entry list was a little lean and mostly expected, one name popped out – Owen Smith. Smith was the only driver on the entry list set to make his series debut in Friday’s race, the first of two this weekend at Toledo Speedway. Smith’s entry blank was filed by Fast Track Racing, a team known for giving drivers their first opportunities in the series. Smith comes to the ARCA Menards Series from Virginia, where he was a 2018 graduate of Louisa County High School, and was a shophand for Virginia team Brandonbilt Motorsports in between his junior and senior years in high school. In 2016, Smith started competing in what was then the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, moving up from local divisions at Shenandoah Speedway in Shenandoah, Virginia. He earned a Top 500 national ranking during his rookie season, and carried that into the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons, linking up with CTD Racing and making an attempt at last year’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway. 

At the beginning of 2019, Smith went down to Daytona as a crew member for Fast Track Racing for the preseason test, and later pitted Tommy Vigh Jr.’s car at Five Flags Speedway. With NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series action on hold at Dominion Raceway in 2020, Smith continued his involvement with Fast Track, pitting for Ryan Huff at Pocono. When the preliminary entry list for Friday and Saturday were released, Smith was on both of them, entered in the #11.

Fifteen other cars populated the entry list, with not too many surprise entrants. Fifteen-year-old Taylor Gray returned to the #17 DGR-Crosley car, and Tim Richmond resumed driving duties of the Wayne Peterson #06 entry. Derek Griffith added this weekend to his schedule with Chad Bryant Racing, and Giovanni Bromante made his national ARCA series debut after running both East races so far this year. Rick Clifton and Mike Basham filled out Fast Track’s three-car lineup for the weekend.

As it was not a companion weekend with NASCAR or IndyCar, there was a full slate of practice and qualifying. Eventual race winner Sam Mayer paced practice, and Basham was at the bottom of the charts. As an interesting note, Con Nicolopoulos practiced the 06 car, as Tim Richmond was finishing out his work week in Illinois before driving to Toledo for the races. The #10 car’s fastest lap of 18.904 seconds was about 2.7 seconds off of Mayer’s pace. In qualifying, Chandler Smith broke the 16-second barrier with a lap of 15.999 seconds. Anchoring the field was Smith, who ran a lap of 19.062 seconds. Basham picked up nine-tenths of a second to secure the thirteenth spot on the starting grid. 

As the field took pace laps, one car did not join the field – Thad Moffitt. The eleventh car on the grid had a starter wire catch on fire; the car was sidelined in the pits with that and potentially other issues, as there were reports of a battery switch issue as well for the #46 car. When taking the green, Rick Clifton was the last car on track, but attrition was quick to take a sizeable portion of the field out. Smith pulled off track after five laps, citing electrical issues. Bromante went to the infield after seven laps, victim of an oil leak. Basham retired after fifteen laps with a vibration. Brad Smith’s race ended after 52 laps with brake problems, seemingly capping the Bottom Five for the night only about a quarter of the way through the race.

Prior to the race resuming from the first race break, Moffitt was able to get the car fired and joined the field. He went on to complete 55 laps and rose to the top of the Bottom Five before retiring for the night. It is unclear whether further issues forced Moffitt out or whether he parked, unable to gain any more positions before the race’s end.

Clifton, an Ohio native, completed the race and finished tenth, the first of his career in his 40th career start. Tim Richmond finished ninth, the first of his career in his 23rd career start.

16) #11-Owen Smith / 5 laps / electrical
15) #74-Giovanni Bromante / 7 laps / oil leak
14) #10-Mike Basham / 15 laps / overheating
13) #48-Brad Smith / 52 laps / brakes
12) #46-Thad Moffitt / 55 laps / electrical

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

1st) Fast Track Racing (3)
2nd) Wayne Peterson Racing (2)
3rd) DGR-Crosley, Kimmel Racing, Reeves Racing, Russ Lane Racing (1)


No comments: