Fifteen-year-old rookie Chandler Smith put his name in big and bold print in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards record books, becoming the first driver to win General Tire Poles in his first three starts.
Smith, in the No. 20 Smith General Contracting/Venturini Motorsports-prepared Toyota, will lead the field to green in Sunday’s Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care at Toledo Speedway.
The Talking Rock, Ga. driver put up the best time in practice Saturday afternoon with an average speed of 113.586 mph. Then it poured rain. With qualifying rained out, ARCA officials set the field according to Saturday’s practice speeds.
Smith, who won General Tire Poles at Nashville and Salem, said there was more left in the car.
“We had a really good practice…we could have picked up more in a mock run,” said Smith.
“But that’s okay. In race trim we’re really good. This car is really sporty…we’re going to be really good tomorrow. This just doesn’t get old. I could do this every day.”
Smith’s best finish so far is fifth in his first start at Nashville. At Salem he was racing his teammate Christian Eckes for the lead on the last lap when he cut a right-front tire. Smith is optimistic about his chances Sunday at Toledo; but not overly confident.
“We’ll see…I don’t want to jinx myself. I like this track so far. You can sort of clip the grass in three and four to help turn the car. It’s going to be an interesting race tomorrow.”
Smith is not only in a fast car, he’s got some expert help in his corner. His crew chief is Billy Venturini while 10-time ARCA national champion Frank Kimmel will serve as his car chief. Frankie (II) Kimmel is spotting for Smith. Nine of Frank Kimmel’s 80 ARCA wins came at Toledo. Kimmel also won his career-first ARCA race at Toledo in 1994.
“I’m just so thankful for Venturini Motorsports, Toyota Racing and everyone who works so hard on this deal. I’m doing the best I can on my end. I’m really just giving it my all.”
Smith also said he’s more excited than nervous for Sunday’s race.
“I don’t get nervous anymore. I’ve been doing this for 12 years now,” added the 15-year-old.
Two-time ARCA winner Zane Smith was second fastest and will start alongside Smith in the front row in the MDM Motorsports-prepared No. 41 LaPaz Margarita Mix-ICON Vehicle Dynamics Toyota. Christian Eckes, Chase Purdy and Sheldon Creed completed the top-five.
An on-track autograph session will start the day off Sunday from noon to 1 p.m. Pre-race ceremonies begin at 1:30. The Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care gets underway at 2. The race is live on MAVTV. Look for live timing, scoring and chat at arcaracing.com.
ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards
Toledo Speedway, Toledo Ohio
Starting Grid, Menards 200 by Federated Car Care (May 20, 2018)
POS, NO, DRIVER/HOMETOWN, TIME, SPEED
1 20 Chandler Smith/Talking Rock GA 15.847 113.586 2 41 Zane Smith/Huntington Beach CA 15.998 112.514 3 15 Christian Eckes/Middletown NY 16.048 112.164 4 8 Chase Purdy/Meridian MS 16.056 112.108 5 28 Sheldon Creed/Alpine CA 16.090 111.871 6 12 Harrison Burton/Huntersville NC 16.120 111.663 7 18 Riley Herbst/Las Vegas NV 16.120 111.663 8 32 Gus Dean/Bluffton SC 16.284 110.538 9 77 Joe Graf Jr./Mahwah NJ 16.333 110.206 10 52 Brandon Grosso/Belle Mead NJ 16.336 110.186 11 35 Carson Hocevar/Portage MI 16.363 110.004 12 78 Grant Enfinger/Fairhope AL 16.376 109.917 13 23 Bret Holmes/Munford AL 16.378 109.904 14 46 Thad Moffitt/Trinity NC 16.685 107.881 15 55 Eddie Fatscher/E. Northport NY 16.710 107.720 16 27 Travis Braden/Wheeling WV 16.711 107.713 17 25 Natalie Decker/Eagle River WI 16.778 107.283 18 10 Tony Mrakovich/Elizabethtown PA 16.888 106.585 19 69 Will Kimmel/Sellersburg IN 17.340 103.806 20 34 Mike Basham/Sellersburg IN 18.026 99.856 21 48 Brad Smith/Shelby Township MI 18.466 97.476 22 06 Con Nicolopoulos/Columbus MI 19.264 93.439 23 11 Rick Clifton/Circleville OH 19.828 90.781