Concord, North Carolina (June 26, 2017) – The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards featured another thrilling short track event over the weekend in Friday night’s Montgomery Ward 200 at Madison International Speedway.
Under the lights Venturini Motorsports turned in their best overall team performance of the season scoring two top-5 finishes with Zane Smith and Christian Eckes and a tenth place finish with Tanner Thorson during the ARCA Series’ ninth stop on tour.
The race featured 12 lead changes among six drivers. Of the six drivers, all three of VMS’s cars were in the mix – Zane Smith, Christian Eckes and Tanner Thorson led a combined 107 circuits of the 200-lap event.
Fielding three cars, VMS was led by driver Zane Smith’s career best second-place finish behind the wheel of his No.55 LaPaz Margarita Mix-Icon Vehicle Dynamics Toyota.
Smith, leading 33-laps throughout the night, pressured race winner Austin Theriault during the final ten laps of the race but couldn’t overcome the one car deficit as they crossed the stripe at the checkered flag.
“So close,” said Smith. “I had a lot of fun out there…Hats off to Venturini Motorsports…we were up front all day. I’m just lucky to be a part of the team. Lap traffic was a handful tonight. We caught the left-front corner in traffic coming to the checkered flag…racing for the win. We could have timed that last lap a little better, but other than that, I think we did just about everything we could do.”
“We’ve had some tough luck lately. It means a lot to reward the team with a strong finish. We’ll go back to Concord this week and start preparing for Iowa in two weeks. I’ve had success there in the past – looking forward returning to Iowa.”
“I can’t thank everyone enough, especially Musselman’s Apple Sauce, Icon Vehicle Dynamics, the guys from LaPaz Margarita Mix and Toyota for giving me the opportunity to compete each week,” added Smith.
Still bidding for his first series win, Christian Eckes remained the model of consistency leading a team high 47-laps driving his No.15 New York Bus Sales Toyota Camry to a fifth-place finish.
Competing in just five of the nine series events, Eckes impressively leads all touring drivers with 272-laps led.
Friday’s effort was Eckes’ third top-5 and fifth consecutive top-10 finish on the season.
Riding in second place inside the final 25-laps of the race and seemingly in position to overcome the top spot, Eckes’ fate was sealed after a late race caution. Unable to hold his position on the restart the sixteen year old couldn’t get going and fell back three positions settling for fifth at the conclusion.
“This team continues to fight hard and bring strong Toyota race cars to the track every week,” says Eckes. “It’s disappointing but our time will come – there’s no quit in this VMS team. We had momentum and in really good position to make the pass on Theriault just before that last caution came out. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get going on the restart. We’ll try again at Iowa in two weeks.”
In just his second career start with VMS, reigning USAC Midget champion Tanner Thorson, finished 10th driving his No.25 Musselman’s Apple Sauce Toyota.
Thorson, known for his success driving on dirt was met by a huge contingency of dirt track race fans on hand to lend their support.
Qualifying fourth for his first pavement start the 21 year-old Nevada native showed off his natural driving ability racing inside the top-10 leading 27-laps throughout the night.
Passing teammate Christian Eckes for top spot on lap-134, Thorson would open up a nearly four second lead during his stint on top. However, a caution with 41-laps remaining dashed the open wheel racers’ chances as the yellow provided lead lap cars with a chance to pit for fuel and tires.
Off tire and pit sequence with the competition, Thorson was unable to hold his top position on the restart – ultimately finishing with a respectable 10th place finish.
“What a fun night,” said Thorson. “Our Musselman’s Apple Sauce Toyota was fast. We pitted early for right side tires. The strategy put us in good position, we got out front and led a bunch of laps – If the race stays green at the end we probably end up holding everyone off for the victory.”
“It was a great feeling. But honestly I was learning on the job out here tonight. These ARCA cars are so different then anything else I’ve driven. There’s a ton of technique and hard braking needed to get these cars to turn in the corners – nothing like the super late model cars I’ve been driving.”
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards is headed to Iowa Speedway next for the Fans With Benefits 150 Saturday night, July 8.
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, 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.