Brad Smith finished last for the 16th time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Saturday’s General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway when his #48 Henshaw Automation Chevrolet fell out with mechanical issues after completing 51 of the race’s 76 laps.
The finish came in Smith’s 368th series start and was his first since Nashville in 2019, 38 races ago.
After soldiering through a 2019 season that included two last-place finishes and 14 bottom-five finishes, 2020 was smoother and a tad more successful for the crew of the #48 car. There were no last-place finishes this time, and while the pandemic hampered the efforts of some teams, the 48 remained a nearly full-time team. In fact, the only race they missed was Phoenix, the race before the pandemic began. Smith even scored his first career top-ten at Winchester, a beacon of hope for underdogs across motorsports. The finish also brought renewed interest from sponsors, including Parker Kligerman, although it is unclear if Kligerman’s backing (or funding from any other new sponsors) made it to the team. Lingering retina problems sidelined Brad for the Daytona race at the start of 2021, but he was back behind the wheel at Phoenix to begin his season.
A total of 29 cars took the track on Saturday, an increase from the 21 that graced the high banks of Talladega last year. Among those who did not return from Daytona included last-place finisher Brittney Zamora, longtime plate racer Willie Mullins, Florida native Scott Reeves, and Derek Griffith, who last time was behind the wheel of a fourth Venturini Motorsports entry. Empire Racing also skipped the second plate race entirely, citing a lack of sponsorship. Of the remaining teams on the entry list, Benny Chastain returned for a second go-around with the Dawson Cram team, and New York racer Andy Jankowiak found sponsorship to give superspeedway racing another go. There was one driver debut and one team debut: Ryan Huff, who ran a number of races for Fast Track Racing last year, entered for the first time in his family’s #36 entry. Motorsports veteran Michael Harper also made his ARCA competition debut in Fast Track’s #01 car after testing at Daytona in January.
In a weird twist of scheduling, there was no qualifying on the docket for Friday, and practice on Saturday was washed out. This left no on-track activity before the race, and while all drivers in the field have been approved by ARCA to run, things had the potential to get a little messy at the start of the race. With no owner points to speak of, Ryan Huff was the last car listed on the starting lineup.
The first Last Change occurred relatively early on, as Richard Garvie slipped to 29th dealing with repairs from contact made with Gracie Trotter and Dave Mader III within the first ten laps of the race. Garvie held the position until about 13 laps to go, when Garvie, continuing on track, passed the retired effort of Smith, who had gone to the garage due to mechanical problems.
Smith did not elaborate on his problems besides that it was in the left-front area of the car. The next three spots were filled by John Ferrier, Ty Gibbs and Greg Van Alst, all eliminated when Nick Sanchez bump-drafted Van Alst into a spin in the tri-oval. Richard Garvie rounded out the Bottom Five, twelve laps down but running after he made early contact with the Gracie Trotter machine.
Mader made a late charge for the lead coming down the final front straightaway and wound up second, the first ARCA top-five for the underdog since July 27, 1991 - a race also held at Talladega.
LASTCAR would like to remember James Harvey Hylton and his son "Tweet" Hylton on the third anniversary of their passing, April 28. We also send our best wishes to ARCA competitor Derrick Lancaster, hospitalized as of press time after a fiery crash in the closing stages of Saturday’s race.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
29) #48-Brad Smith / 51 laps / mechanical
28) #44-John Ferrier / 61 laps / crash
27) #18-Ty Gibbs / 61 laps / crash
26) #35-Greg Van Alst / 61 laps / crash
25) #11-Richard Garvie / 64 laps / running
2021 LASTCAR ARCA MENARDS SERIES OWNERS CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Brad Smith Motorsports, Rette Jones Racing, Young’s Motorsports
2021 LASTCAR ARCA MENARDS SERIES MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (2)
2nd) Ford (1)
2021 LASTCAR ARCA MENARDS SERIES DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP