Concord, North Carolina (May 17, 2017) – Two drivers gaining national recognition this season in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards are seventeen-year old Zane Smith and sixteen-year old Christian Eckes. With twenty-seven combined series starts scheduled in 17’, the teenage duo are serving as this year’s main cornerstones for Venturini Motorsports potent Toyota driver development program.
Zane Smith, who made his series debut last season with Venturini Motorsports will carry the bulk of the load in terms of team starts this year with an ARCA schedule comprising of eighteen series starts. Missing out on Daytona and Talladega due to not meeting the series’ minimum age requirements, Smith will run the remainder of the season driving his No.55 VMS Toyota.
Smith returns to the track this weekend for the Menards 200 presented by Federated Auto Care at Toledo Speedway.
“I’m learning and getting more and more comfortable every weekend,” says Smith. “Early on this season we’ve led some laps and had some decent finishes – but I realize there’s still a lot of work to do and plenty of room for improvement.”
Already with two top-10 finishes this season at Nashville and Salem under his belt, Smith is eager to continue to learn under the direction of crew chief Billy Venturini and improve on his early season success.
“We tested Toledo last week. It was my first time ever on that track. The biggest difference I noticed about Toledo compared to my two previous starts is the track itself – our General Tires didn’t seem to drop off nearly as much as Nashville and Salem – we had a ton of speed – we’ve made some big gains since our last race. Billy (Venturini) and I have worked a lot on and off the track and it’s going to show this weekend at Toledo.”
Christian Eckes, who was thrusted into the national spotlight after winning the prestigious Snowball Derby late model race back in December, is back for his sophomore ARCA season driving for Venturini Motorsports.
Making an early season impact, Eckes has led 119-laps in just two ARCA season starts and is credited with a third and eighth place finish at Nashville and Salem respectively.
Although only competing in two of the first four series events in ’17 the driver out of New York State is among the leaders in several series award categories including Valvoline Lap Leader, Scott Rookie Challenge, Bill France Four Crown and the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge.
Scheduled to compete in nine overall races this season Eckes looks ahead to this weekend at Toledo for his breakout race in the ARCA Series.
“Coming off last season with mixed results this year has been near flawless,” said Eckes. “I’m back working with Jeff McClure and the fifteen-team and I feel we’re a threat every time out. We’ve been super close both races so far – our Toyota is really dialed in this year – showing lots of speed. I’m really feeling good about our chances this weekend.”
Prior to Sunday’s Toledo race drivers Zane Smith and Christian Eckes will join teammate Natalie Decker and VMS’s Musselman’ Apple Sauce Show Car on Friday evening signing autographs at the Menards store located across the street from Toledo Speedway from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
Weekend Schedule of Events
The Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care will spread out over two days, Saturday and Sunday, May 20 and 21. Practice for the Menards 200 is from 12:30 – 2 p.m. Saturday with General Tire Pole Qualifying following at 4. Menards 200 race day festivities get underway Sunday with an on-track ARCA driver autograph session from 12 to 1 p.m. Pre-race ceremonies and driver introductions follow at 1:30, with the green flag coming just after 2:00 p.m.
The Menards 200 will air same-day-delay at 5 p.m. Eastern on FS1. ARCAracing.com will feature live timing and scoring, and live chat of all ARCA Racing Series on-track activity.
ABOUT VENTURINI MOTORSPORTS:
Venturini Motorsports (VMS), fielding cars for over 30-years in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, is one of the premier NASCAR driver development programs in the country. Multiple team championships and consistent on-track success, VMS has evolved into one of the most recognizable names in motorsports. Since 2007, VMS has assisted in the career development of notable NASCAR drivers such as Joey Logano, Erik Jones, William Byron, Justin Allgaier, Alex Bowman, Brian Scott, Ryan Blaney, Brennan Poole, Daniel Suarez, and Brandon Jones. Over the years the Venturini name has become synonymous with modern-day racing in America. In 2012, the Venturini family was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame and now find themselves enshrined with such sports icons as Joe DiMaggio, Mario Andretti, Vince Lombardi, Tommy Lasorda and Rocky Marciano.