Photo: Walter G. Arce/ ASP, Inc.

What to Watch for at Talladega

By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer

The ARCA Racing Series goes from one of the shortest tracks on the schedule to the largest as the series hits Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for race No. 4 of the 2018 season. After an extremely chaotic race in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, this event is sure to be another thriller, but hopefully with a bit less mangled sheet metal when all is said and done on Friday.

The Track

Talladega Superspeedway is a 2.66-mile tri-oval with 33 degrees of banking in the turns, 16.5 degrees in the tri-oval and three degrees on the backstretch. The track hosted its first ARCA race in 1969 and Friday’s General Tire 200 will mark the 56th running at Talladega. The last time ARCA ran two races in one season at Talladega was in 1991. The race distance is 76 laps or 202 miles.

Three Drivers to Watch

Brandon Lynn

Last season, the ARCA Racing Series took the white flag in the General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway with Brandon Lynn leading the way in the No. 88 Mason Mitchell Motorsports Chevrolet. Lynn appeared poised to earn his first series victory, or at the very least, a solid top-five finish in his eighth start in the series. As the leaders barreled into turn three for the final time, a wreck happened on the backstretch to bring out the yellow flag. Lynn’s fuel tank ran dry under the caution and despite leading 19 laps; the driver out of Penn Yann, New York would finish the race in the 18th position.

Lynn will return to the ARCA Racing Series for the first time since that disappointment in 2017, this time behind the wheel of the No. 55 Venturini Motorsports Toyota.

“This is an awesome opportunity,” said the 23-year-old Lynn. “It’s great to be back in the series and an honor to race with a team with so much prestige in ARCA. It’s a great feeling knowing I’m getting in equipment capable of winning. As long as the driver is in the game we should be good off the hauler.”

Blaine Perkins

Perkins will make his first of five scheduled starts with Mason Mitchell Motorsports at Talladega. Turning 18 shortly after Daytona, the young driver wasn’t eligible to compete in the season-opener, but he was able to test at both Daytona and Talladega.

“Participating in the Talladega open test in November provided me with a lot of seat time and helped me get familiar with the bigger restrictor plate tracks,” Perkins said. “I was also able to test at Daytona in January as well. The Daytona test gave me much more drafting practice and should help me come race time. Talladega will be a long race, so having a regular workout regimen should help me physically and mentally. I know my MMM guys will provide me with a great car and it will be left to me to put ourselves in good situations on track, to try to end up in victory lane by the end of the day.”

Perkin’s No. 98 Chevrolet will be the same car that that the team went to victory lane with at Talladega in April 2016. Perkins will also have the added benefit of a drafting partner, as teammate Max Tullman will drive the No. 78 Chevrolet for MMM.

Josh Williams

A well-known name around the ARCA garage, Josh Williams returns to the series at Talladega. Williams will compete as a second entry under the Our Motorsports banner and team with Our’s primary driver, NASCAR Modified standout Andy Seuss.

Williams’ breakout season in ARCA came in 2016, when he won two races and recorded five top-five and 11 top-10 results. Williams ran just one ARCA race last season while also competing in seven NASCAR XFINITY Series events. The 24-year-old driver has made eight starts behind the wheel of the No. 90 Chevrolet thus far this season in the XFINITY Series.

“I’m excited to compete at Talladega with ARCA and to have the opportunity to be part of the Our Motorsports family with Andy (Seuss). It’s always nice knowing you’ll have a teammate at a restrictor-plate race,” said Williams.

Williams, through his own team JW Motorsports, prepared the car that he will pilot; while Seuss and his crew fine-tuned their entry out of the Our Motorsports stable. Seuss finished second in the chaotic season-opener at Daytona so Williams will have a solid drafting partner in a race where anything can happen.

Venturini Motorsports Off to Red Hot Start

Off to one of the best starts in the organization’s storied history, a Venturini Motorsports Toyota has paced the practice sessions and won the General Tire Pole Award for all three races in 2018 and gone to victory lane in two of the three events. The organization will look to continue the hot streak with four drivers on Friday’s entry list.

The aforementioned Lynn will make his first start with the team while Natalie Decker will once again be behind the wheel of the No. 25 car. Running the full schedule and competing for the championship, Decker makes her first start at Talladega after earning the pole and finishing fifth at Daytona back in February.

Michael Self, running a partial schedule, will pilot the No. 15 Toyota and pair with crew chief Kevin Reed. Self won the season-opener at Daytona and has seven top-five finishes in 11 ARCA starts. Rounding out the VMS lineup will be Leilani Münter, who will be paired with 10-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel as crew chief. Münter is set to run eight races in 2018 and finished eighth at Daytona.

New Points Leader

Sheldon Creed took over the lead in the championship standings after Salem and leads MDM Motorsports teammate Zane Smith by 90 points. Creed still seeks his first ARCA victory, but has recorded finishes of third, second and third this season and will look to survive the wild-card that is racing at Talladega.

“Superspeedway racing is so different from what we do week-to-week that you can’t really plan for what’s going to happen,” Creed explained. “Our strategy will likely be the same as it was at Daytona. We’ll save as much fuel as possible at the beginning and do our best to be there at the end.”

The Weather

After the brutally cold race at Nashville, the series enjoyed beautiful weather for racing last Sunday at Salem with bright, sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s.

The Weather Channel predicts a high of 73 degrees with partly cloudy skies and a 10 percent chance of rain on Friday in Talladega, Alabama.

The Race Within The Race

The General Tire Superspeedway Challenge is a series within the overall series that recognizes achievement exclusively on superspeedways, defined by ARCA officials as any track over one mile in length. Talladega is the second of nine events in 2018 that comprise the superspeedway championship. Since 2016, double points are awarded at those superspeedway events where General Tire is the race entitlement and/or the presenting sponsor, with Daytona being the first and Talladega being the second races of four in 2018 (Charlotte and Pocono in June are the other two).

Talkin’ ‘Bout Tires

General Tire will have approximately 500 tires on-hand at Talladega this weekend. The left sides will be Tire Code 7331 and the right sides will be Tire Code 8492.

There will be no limit on sets for practice and the set with which teams qualify will be used to start the race. Two additional complete sets are allowed on pit road for the race.

Tire wear at Daytona and Talladega is minimal, and teams can, in theory, run this 200-mile race on one set of General Tires.

ARCA Fantasy Picks

Last Sunday at Salem was my first time participating in ARCA Fantasy this season and my picks all had solid finishes. Christian Eckes won the race in a Toyota, Sheldon Creed was third, Josh Berry fourth and Colby Howard earned a top-10 with his eighth-place result. Chandler Smith dominated before a cut tire on the white flag lap relegated him to a 10th-place finish. My selections gave me a total of 189 points and a 77th-place finish out of 300 entries for a finish inside the top 25 percent of entrants. Several contestants tied for P1 with 195 points.

Talladega is obviously a wild-card and selections become a bit more difficult. Below are my picks for Friday’s General Tire 200 (in alphabetical order):

  • Sheldon Creed – Third at Daytona and has two MDM Toyotas for drafting help
  • Bobby Gerhart – All nine ARCA wins have come at Daytona or Talladega, finished seventh last season
  • Brandon Lynn – Set to win last year’s race before running out of fuel
  • Michael Self – Winner of season-opener at Daytona
  • Josh Williams – Finished second last time he competed at Talladega (2016)
  • Toyota – Seems like a gimme pick given Venturini Motorsports hot start and the MDM trio of drivers

If you are interested in participating, select your drivers by clicking here.

Where to Watch and Follow

The action will all take place on Friday starting with an hour and fifty-minute practice session at 9:30 a.m. ET. General Tire Pole Qualifying will follow at 3:30 p.m. with race coverage scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m ET. Live television coverage of the General Tire 200 will be available on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) with ARCARacing.com providing live timing and scoring for all of Friday’s on-track activities.

Official Entry List

0  Con Nicolopoulos

02  Andy Seuss

5  Bobby Gerhart

6  Josh Williams

Codie Rohrbaugh

Chase Purdy

Thomas Praytor

10  D.L. Wilson

11  Ed Pompa

15  Michael Self

18  Riley Herbst

20  Leilani Munter

23  Bret Holmes

25  Natalie Decker

27  Travis Braden

28  Sheldon Creed

32  Gus Dean

34  Jesse Iwuji

38  Rob Powers

41  Zane Smith

43  Sean Corr

48  Brad Smith

52  Brandon Grosso

54  Bo LeMastus

55  Brandon Lynn

57  Bryan Dauzat

63  Dave Mader

69  Kevin Hinckle

77  Joe Graf, Jr.

78  Max Tullman

98  Blaine Perkins

22  TBA – Chad Bryant Racing

06  TBA – Peterson Motorsports

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