Thursday, August 10, 2023

ARCA: Jeff Smith returns to the driver’s seat in his home state

PHOTO: Big Monte Media

by Ben Schneider Staff Writer

Jeff Smith finished last for the 3rd time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Friday’s Henry Ford Health 200 at Michigan International Speedway when his No. 49 Chevrolet retired with mechanical issues after completing 0 of 105 laps.

The finish came in Smith’s third career ARCA Menards Series start.

A Michigan native, Smith made headlines earlier this season in the ARCA Menards Series East race at Flat Rock Speedway, finishing last in his first ARCA-sanctioned start since 1987 and only his second start ever. The more than 35-year gap between Smith’s debut and his return this season is believed to be the longest gap between last-place finishes in ARCA history.

Following the Flat Rock race in the East Series, Smith made his return to the national ARCA tour at Berlin Raceway in June, parking the car after completing just 2 laps and an early spin, with “mechanical” listed as the reason out. On Friday at Michigan, Smith once again retired with “mechanical” issues before he was able to complete a single lap, making him the race’s first retirement and leaving him with a 23rd-place finish. Team member Colby Evans later confirmed that Smith’s retirement from the race was a planned “start-and-park” effort.

All 23 cars that appeared on the entry list took part in the race. Tim Goulet was the only driver not to run a lap in practice, while Jeff Smith anchored the 22 cars that completed at least one lap. While neither Goulet nor Smith recorded a time in qualifying, Smith’s brother Brad Smith anchored the field in qualifying to slot in 21st on the grid. A.J. Moyer and Alex Clubb qualified 20th and 19th respectively to round out the Bottom Five starting spots.

The first driver to follow Jeff Smith up the running order in the race was Clubb, who pulled off the track with mechanical issues of his own after competing four laps. Tim Monroe, the current LASTCAR ARCA Drivers’ Championship leader, ran twice as many laps as Clubb before drive shaft issues ended his day. Moyer’s car fell out with a mechanical problem after 19 laps, while Brad Smith rounded out the Bottom Five after completing 53 laps before pulling behind the wall with transmission issues.

At the front of the field, Jesse Love picked up yet another win to extend his championship advantage. Love had to hold off plenty of competition during the closing laps, which saw a thrilling race for the lead involving Gus Dean, Connor Mosack, and even Andy Jankowiak, who briefly led the race going down the back straightaway on his way to a career-best fourth-place finish. Also picking up a career best was Frankie Muniz, who was able to recover from wall contact early in the race to finally celebrate a long-anticipated top-five finish. Muniz also regained the second spot in points as polesitter Andres Perez de Lara’s day ended after 91 laps due to an engine failure, leaving him in 17th.

23) #49-Jeff Smith / 0 laps / mechanical
22) #03-Alex Clubb / 4 laps / mechanical
21) #12-Tim Monroe / 8 laps / drive shaft
20) #06-A.J. Moyer / 19 laps / mechanical
19) #48-Brad Smith / 53 laps / transmission

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (2)

1st) Fast Track Racing, Smith Brothers Racing (3)
2nd) Coughlin Brothers Racing, KLAS Motorsports, Our Motorsports, Spraker Racing Enterprises, Tamayo-Cosentino Racing (1)


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