ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards rookie driver Zane Smith (No. 41 LaPaz Margarita Mix/ICON Vehicle Dynamics Toyota) still has his eyes on the big prize, the 2018 ARCA National Championship. But while he’s chasing one teammate for a series title, another teammate is chasing him for the Scott Rookie Challenge Rookie of the Year title.
Smith, the California driver who narrowly missed his fifth victory of the season Saturday night at Berlin Raceway, trails MDM Motorsports teammate Sheldon Creed (No. 28 United Rentals Toyota) by 220 points with just four races remaining. While Creed’s point lead is substantial, Smith has the proven race-winning ability to close the gap and catch Creed if he can continue to run up front to close out the season.
“I have seen some of the names who have won the ARCA rookie of the year award,” Smith said, referring to drivers such as Charlie Glotzbach, Benny Parsons, Davey Allison, Alex Bowman, and Chris Buescher, all former ARCA rookie of the year award winners.. “Any time you can add your name to a list like that it’s important. And it would be nice to add to my resume as I look towards the future. We haven’t given up on chasing down Sheldon for the championship, but if we can’t do that we really want to win the rookie of the year award.”
In addition to occupying the runner-up spot in the championship standings, Smith is leading the Scott Rookie Challenge points over another MDM teammate, Chase Purdy (No. 8 Bama Buggies Toyota).
“Chase has had a really good season,” Smith said. “I don’t really look at it like we’re racing a teammate. We’re out there doing what we need to do, and so is he. We know we’re going to race each other hard but not do anything to take each other out or force the other to have a bad day.”
Purdy has had a solid rookie season, but has yet to find his way to victory lane. He has posted seven top-five finishes, including runner-up finishes to Smith at Toledo, and to Creed at Gateway. More troubling for Purdy have been bad outings at Daytona (21st), Talladega (25th), Charlotte (24th), and Springfield (18th).
However, the Scott Rookie Challenge program only counts a drivers best 15 finishes, which will give Purdy a shot at the Scott Rookie Title. He’ll need a strong finish over the final four races, beginning this weekend at DuQuoin.
“It’s really important for a driver any time we can win an award like the Scott Rookie of the Year,” Purdy said. “Zane has been excellent on the short tracks this season, but we’ve been right there with him a few times. We’ve been second, we’ve been third, we just needed a little more luck on our side to get that first win.”
Purdy isn’t just a rookie in the ARCA Racing Series, he’s a dirt rookie as well. He will be making just his second ever start on dirt at DuQuoin; the first was two weeks ago at Springfield.
“I had a lot more fun on dirt than I thought I would have,” Purdy said. “It’s fun slinging these big cars around on dirt. You’re always sliding, always hustling, and never going straight. It was a ton of fun and I can’t wait to get to go for it again at DuQuoin.”
The General Tire Grabber 100 at DuQuoin is scheduled for Labor Day, Monday September 3. Practice is scheduled for 10:45 am ET/9:45 am CT, General Tire Pole Qualifying is scheduled for 12:30 pm ET/11:30 am CT, and the green flag will wave at 3 pm ET/2 pm CT. The race will be televised live on MAVTV and ARCARacing.com will have live timing, scoring, track updates, and scanner audio throughout all on track sessions all day for registered users.