DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Corey Heim took over the lead during the competition caution. Leader Tanner Gray hit pit road as the race leader, which gave way to the top spot towards Heim as a result. The Venturini driver led all 38 laps in the final stage of the 2021 ARCA Menards Series season opener at Daytona en route to his second career victory.
Heim, was well on his way to a victory but was challenged harder when the fourth caution of the race fell for Scott Reeves’ No. 88 Chevrolet. Reeves, blew a right front tire and got into the Turn 4 SAFER barrier as a result of that. It bunched things back up again as for the final 15 or so laps, we saw a five car breakaway from the pack.
The caution was just what we needed to give us a close finish.
Prior to the yellow, those five cars rode single file and never did build enough energy among the group for an outside lane to come in. So, they just rode bumper-to-bumper in what was shaping up to be an anticlimactic finish. The caution flew but didn’t alter the finishing order any.
Heim, chose the outside lane to restart in and once he crossed the green/white flag in overtime, he dropped down low in front of his teammate Drew Dollar. He was just too strong for Dollar to do anything with as he bested him by .113-seconds and took his No. 20 Toyota to victory lane.
Dollar, had to settle for second in his No. 15 Toyota. It was Dollar’s fifth top five finish in 21 career ARCA starts, three of those coming on superspeedway’s. He finished third and first in the two races a year ago and second on Saturday.
He had damage on his right front fender as well as no power steering for the final 25 laps. It made it hard for him to get out of line and get enough drafting help to get by his teammate for the win.
Dollar, raced in last night’s Truck Series race and said he learned enough to use for Saturday’s ARCA opener to help. He led 15 of the 82 laps run.
Last year’s ARCA champion Bret Holmes finished third in his No. 23 Chevrolet for his 63rd career top 10 while Ty Gibbs and Kyle Sieg rounded out the top five.
Cautions Were Too Lengthy In A Less Than Desired Race
First off, I’m just happy we got this race in as scheduled. After one lap turned in Daytona 500 practice this morning, the skies unleashed a fury of rain. It would downpour for a long time but once the rain stopped, the skies turned clear, the winds got higher and the temps raised further. It helped track drying efforts to get us back on schedule and we ran the entire race to completion.
That was big.
But, the race itself wasn’t Daytona like. We only saw four cautions, but the first couple were way too long in length. It set the wrong tone.
The first caution was early for Brett Moffitt and Rich Bickle in Turn 1 on Lap 11. It would last an astounding six laps. The second caution flew on Lap 28 when Gracie Trotter punted her teammate Derek Griffith once Griffith took over the lead. She was pushing too much in Turn 3 and got into him a couple of times which sparked a big crash. The caution though, lasted over 20 minutes and 11 laps. It was far too long.
Then, once we did get back green, we did so for just a handful of laps before the Lap 43 competition caution.
Out of the first 48 laps, we had 25 of them run under green and 23 under yellow. It’s way too close of a balance.
Luckily, over the final 31 laps, we saw just one yellow, the final one. But, instead of 31 action packed laps to make us forget the first 50, it was largely run single file without anyone being able to make a second lane up top to come in. That’s part to due to the package of these cars that they race with and the other part due to the lack of cars up front.
The first half was less than desired with the second half being single file action with Heim dominating.
Good Storylines For Cars
One of the better storylines of the day was the cars behind them. Tim Richmond drove a No. 27 Toyota. That car was stolen as it was in his hauler at a hotel following a race in Kansas last fall. They later found the car and here that very car was here at Daytona racing on Saturday.
Another good story was Brittney Zamora raced the very same car that Sterling Marlin raced here in the Cup Series between 2000 and 2005. Yes, it was a Cup car then, but the body was able to remain the same with the other configurations changed to ARCA’s rules.
The most underrated story was for Andrew Jankowiak’s car. See, he’s a pizza delivery driver by nature. When he gets extra tips, he puts them away to help his racing career. That has led to an ARCA car to race at Daytona. That’s right, if you ordered a pizza in Tonawanda, New York and Jankowiak delivered it to you, the tip money you gave him was put into an ARCA ride.
How cool is that?
- This was Venturini’s 4th straight win in this ARCA race. They’ve done so with 3 different drivers at that – Michael Self (2018, 2020), Harrison Burton (2019), Heim (2021).