Saturday afternoon, the ARCA Menards Series headed onto Talladega Superspeedway for the General Tire 200. The early-morning weather created concerns about whether the NASCAR race would take place, but the skies cleared and set the stage for 76 laps of action. Corey Heim, the winner of the ARCA race at Daytona International Speedway, ultimately jumped to the front of the pack and took the checkered flag.
The wild race came to an end after a late caution. Derrick Lancaster’s No. 29 slammed into the wall and burst into flames, bringing out the red flag while medical personnel tended to him. The race went yellow once again as the drivers prepared for one final lap where they could push for the win.
Defending ARCA Menards Series champion Bret Holmes jumped to the front of the pack when the race went green, but he could not maintain his position. He tried to block both lanes but ended up in the middle. Nick Sanchez took the lead before Heim capitalized and raced in front. He did not relinquish his lead during the final lap and captured the win.
The rains disrupted the morning schedule
When Fox Sports 1 began broadcasting the race, play-by-place analyst Jamie Little took time to address some issues for rookie drivers. There were multiple competitors that would head to the green flag without any practice time on the 2.66-mile oval. They would have to learn all of Talladega’s intricacies on the fly.
The reason for the lack of practice is that the heavy rain in the morning forced NASCAR to make schedule changes. The sanctioning body canceled all practice sessions while the track-drying efforts continued. The weather turned favorable in time for the race, but the drivers lost out on crucial practice time.
While several drivers did not have the opportunity to test out Talladega for the first time, they avoided major crashes and incidents until very late in the race. There was one collision in the first five laps, which occurred when Richard Garvie’s No. 11 swung to the right and collided with the driver’s side of Gracie Trotter’s No. 25. The impact left a tire mark on the side of Trotter’s race car and forced her to pit road early. She returned to the race after repairs but remained a lap down.
The biggest names put on a show for the limited-capacity crowd
Heading toward the weekend’s race, there were several drivers with a legitimate chance to win. Ty Gibbs, an 18-year-old with nine ARCA wins to his name, was a top option. Gibbs regularly competes for the win in both ARCA and Xfinity while driving the No. 18 Toyota. The youngster lived up to this billing early, racing in the top five throughout the afternoon before taking the lead late in the race.
Unfortunately for Gibbs, his day came to an end with 15 laps remaining. The No. 35 of Greg Van Alst received a bump from behind that sent him spinning to the left and into the front of Gibbs’ No. 18 Toyota. The two drivers both climbed out of their vehicles unharmed but remained unable to compete for the checkered flag. John Ferrier’s No. 44 also suffered damage during the incident.
Nick Sanchez, a member of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, also put on a show for the majority of the General Tire 200. He raced in the top five several times, reaching third overall at the halfway point of the race. He fell to 13th after the second competition caution but continued to fight for position with the top ARCA drivers. However, Sanchez prompted the wreck involving Alst, Gibbs, and Ferrier, and he received stern comments from his spotter.