Rajan Khanna/News Editor
Speedweeks has officially begun at Daytona International Speedway with The Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire. The ARCA race was full of action, from three-wide pack racing to spectacular crashes.
The series was started in 1953 as the Midwest Association for Race Cars (MARC) by John Marcum, who was a friend of Bill France, Sr, the founder of NASCAR. They were mainly a Midwest touring car group, but at the request of Bill France, they created a race during Speedweeks at Daytona in 1964. The name changed from MARC to ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America). They race on a wide variety of tracks such as superspeedways, intermediate tracks, short tracks, and even dirt ovals. Most of the drivers racing in the ARCA series are developmental drivers looking to gain experience before moving up in the stock car racing ladder. Some notable drivers who started in ARCA include Ken Schrader, Kyle Busch, Justin Allgaier, etc. They recently began racing with fully composite bodies on the vehicles, altogether eliminating the use of sheet metal and making the cars much cheaper for teams to build. ARCA also mandates a spec engine which all groups can use. It is called the Ilmor 396 engine based off of the Chevrolet LS engine family and produces 700 horsepower with 500 foot-pounds of torque. The engine costs only $35,000 to purchase new and $15,000 to rebuild. Teams may use the same engine throughout the entire season for much cheaper than before this engine. The Ilmor 386 debuted in 2014 and was met with controversy. Some teams believed the conversion from their old motors would be costly and lose the brand identity they had. Since all the Ilmor engines are based on Chevrolet LS engines, Ford and Toyota teams would not have the association of their car to their engine. ARCA mandates that all non-spec engines would be subject to restrictions to keep an even field. The tires are supplied by General Tire, who replaced Hoosier Racing Tire after 30 years. The advantage of beginning a national stock car racing career in ARCA is the minimum age. Drivers can be as young as fifteen, a one year difference from the Camping World Truck Series minimum age of 16.
The drama of the 2018 Lucas Oil 200 began as soon as lap one on the first turn. Natalie Decker, the pole winner, was challenged by Zane Smith for the lead, keeping a two-wide battle for the opening laps. Eventually, the drivers relegated to a single file until lap 24 where a four-car incident occurred in the exit of turn four. Drivers included were the No. 02 of Andy Seuss, the No. 7 of Codie Rohrbaugh, the No. 52 of Will Rodgers and the No. 99 of Ronnie Osmer. This crash began a series of accidents that continued all the way to the end of the race. After the first accident, the drivers became much more aggressive. Two wide racing was normal with many instances of three or even four wide moments. The bump drafting was very aggressive on the restarts, especially amongst the Toyota drivers. Lap 46 saw rookie Chase Purdy squeezed under the double-yellow line and forced himself back into the line of cars. It was a skillful move for a rookie on a restrictor plate track, but Purdy can attribute his quick decision making to his skill and the film he has watched of past races to prepare for his first Lucas Oil 200. On lap 47, the No. 33 car of Daniel Sasnett violently hit the tri-oval wall head-on and came to rest right off the apron. The No. 22 of Ed Pompa and the No. 2 of Andrew Belmont were involved by traveling through the grass in an attempt to avoid the sideways No. 33. On lap 64, another three-car crash transpired in turn one. It required the No. 57 of Bryan Dauzat, the No. 77 of Bo LeMastus, and the No. 98 of Quin Houff. It was triggered by the No. 32 of Gus Dean pushing the inside rear quarter panel of the No. 98 and spinning the car around, collecting the other two. The final five laps took almost the length of the entire race to complete. With just three laps to go, The No. 20 of Leilani Munter made an excursion into the grass on the backstretch. Her drive off track did not warrant a caution, as she exited the track promptly. The first time the white flag was displayed, the field made it to the backstretch before the infamous “Big One” struck. Many cars were involved, most notably, the No. 23 of Bret Holmes. He took a wild ride as he almost went upside down, sliding on the side of his car down the backstretch. ARCA officials deemed a lengthy red flag period necessary for cleanup. Once the red flag was lifted, the race went back to green. ARCA rules mandate the race to end under green flag conditions, so the officials restart the race at the white flag. The first overtime attempt got to turn four, where the leaders got together and caused the second “Big One.” Race winner, Michael Self, was able to avoid the cars and debris to gain the lead before the yellow came out. This crash brought out another lengthy red flag period and some confusion on whether the race had to restart once again. With the No. 15 of Michael Self as the leader, the green and white flags came out for the final time. Self got a massive jump in the restart and only let his lead grow throughout the final lap. He won the race with a half-second gap over second place to capture his first win at Daytona International Speedway. Self-commented that the best way to win a race at Daytona is to simply survive, “Just survived, got lucky, made it through a couple of wrecks. Just overcame a lot. This thing has been beat up.” The Venturini Motorsports team had three cars in the top five, including the winner. They also had Tom Hessert and pole winner, Natalie Decker, rounding out the top five. The three-hour race was an exciting start to the season and shows promise for the rest of the 2018 ARCA season. The next ARCA race will be held at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville for the Music City 200 in April.