The ARCA Menards Series and the ARCA Menards Series East drivers headed to Bristol Motor Speedway on Thursday, Sept. 16, for the first race of an action-packed weekend. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs started on the pole and led every lap while his teammate added another trophy to his collection. Sammy Smith finished second and locked up the ARCA Menards Series East championship.
The 17-year-old started all eight races of the East season, posting wins in nearly half of them. He took the checkered flag three times — Pensacola, Nashville, and Southern National Motorsports Park. He added another seven top-five finishes.
Smith had a quiet night in the No. 81, but he drove very efficiently. He avoided the wide array of cautions that disrupted several drivers and sent them to the infield care center. He did not lead any laps, but he simply kept pace with Gibbs and secured his championship trophy.
Once the race came to an end, Gibbs and Smith headed back out onto the track. They put their two stock cars nose-to-nose and proceeded to do a massive burnout near the start-finish line, much to the delight of the fans in attendance.
Ty Gibbs Increased His Championship Lead
The grandson of Joe Gibbs entered the Bristol night race with nine wins to his name, as well as 1,238 laps led. He then proceed to add to both of these totals, reaching double-digit wins and 1,438 laps led during the 2021 season. He also increased his lead in the championship race over six-race winner Corey Heim.
Gibbs now has a 26-point advantage in the championship race with two dates remaining on the schedule. He and Heim will continue their battle on Oct. 2 at Salem Speedway (Indiana). They will then take to the track for the final time in the 2021 season on Oct. 23 at Kansas Speedway. The driver with the best finish will walk away as the champion of the ARCA Menards Series.
The last time the two drivers headed to Kansas Speedway, they did not exactly for the checkered flag. Gibbs had an early advantage by starting on the pole, and he went on to lead all 100 laps. Heim, on the other hand, started third and finished third behind Drew Dollar.
A JR Motorsports Driver Experienced a Rough Night
Sam Mayer, the rookie driver for JR Motorsports, suited up for his fifth ARCA Menards Series race of 2021 and climbed into the No. 23 Chevrolet. He had the goal of securing a win, his first of the ARCA Menards Series season, but he headed to the garage early after a stunning incident.
The issues began when Jason Kitzmiller spun and hit the outside wall. Mayer had nowhere to go in the No. 23, and he slammed into Kitzmiller’s No. 97. He headed to the hauler where the pit crew attempted to make repairs. However, he could not continue in the race.
“It’s always something,” Mayer told Fox Sports after the crash. “I go off into the corner and all of a sudden there is a car there because they decided to go three-wide on the apron or something. I don’t even know what happened. It’s just people not being smart, and I’m back there because we had to go to a backup car because we blew a backup tire earlier. It’s just always something.”
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