The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will make its return to Gateway Motorsports Park for the first time since 2007 with Friday’s Papa Nicholas Coffee 150. The event will mark the halfway point of the series’ 2018 season.
There have been six previous ARCA Racing Series events at the 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval dating back to Mark Gibson’s victory in the track’s first year of operation in 1997. Other winners include ten-time series champion Frank Kimmel (2001), Ryan Hemphill (2004), Joey Miller (2005), Cale Gale (2006), and Bryan Clauson (2007).
Clauson’s win was his first and only ARCA victory. At just 18 years of age, he had already spent a year in Chip Ganassi’s driver development program and looked to have a direct line into a NASCAR XFINITY Series ride in 2008. When Dario Franchitti decided to pursue stock cars, Clauson’s opportunity was put on hold and he returned to the Midwestern dirt tracks where his success continued. He scored dozens of feature wins and built a huge fan following. He was tragically killed in a racing crash in Belleville, Kansas in 2016.
Lorin Rainier serves as race day spotter to Sheldon Creed, who has led the series standings for much of the season but now sits second by just five points. Rainier also worked with Clauson throughout his tenure with Ganassi and while he wasn’t on the spotter’s stand for Clauson’s Gateway win, he was instrumental in bringing Clauson into the Ganassi development program and has fond memories of how much that win meant to everyone involved.
“That was such a big day for Bryan,” Rainier said. “It showed us all he was more than just potential. He could get it done and the sky was the limit. We were all set to carry that on to the next year and get him in the XFINITY Series, but then plans changed. Bryan went back dirt track and short track racing, and he had a lot of success there. He was one of the absolute best ever. He loved racing anything he could. He was a fun guy to be around. We had a great time working together and I stayed in touch with him through the rest of his career.
“We went and raced outlaw karts at Millbridge one night just a couple years ago, and even though we didn’t run very good he had a huge smile on his face afterwards. It was like we picked up right where we left off. I just wish we could have found a way to keep him in that program because I know he would have had a lot of success.”
The Papa Nicholas 150 is the tenth race of the 2018 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season, and the sixth race of the General Tire Super Speedway Challenge championship-within-a-championship. The race will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 2 at 9 pm Eastern/8 pm local on Friday, June 22. ARCARacing.com will have live timing and scoring of practice, qualifying and the race for registered members.