After a month off, the ARCA Menard Series returned to action this weekend at the historic Salem Speedway located in Salem, Indiana.
Michael Self was coming off a win at Pensacola before going in to a month break and returning to Salem in hopes of continuing his winning dominance.
The weather was the talk of the day as it rained just hours before the start of the race. But the rained cleared and the race was able to get started on time. Unfortunately, mother nature returned again on lap 97 and thus the cars were brought down on pit road on lap 102.
After a 30 minute red flag, the ARCA officials called it official and Michael Self was declared the winner.
“The first 15 laps, we were a little on balance and the car was a little rough through (Turns) 3&4, and I was afraid that was something we was going to have to deal with,” Self told MAVTV. “It just never fell off, that’s so bizzare here. Usually here (Salem Speedway), you’re going to get a car one way or another with how abrasive this place is.”
“You’re either going to loose drive or front turn,” he continued to MAVTV. “We just didn’t all day and the car stayed so neutral when we got back out to the lead, and I would back off 40 percent in the lead was able to still turn good lap times. I just think it speaks volumes to what Shannon (Rursch, Crew Chief) is doing. The chemistry he and I have right now as far as him building the cars, understanding what I want, feedback and what we want from a setup standpoint and we just nailed it. We continue to get better every single week. To come have a car like that and be able to run a 40 to 50 percent pace, and still be two to three tenths faster than the next guy back there, it’s just a feeling to stride for. I haven’t had many of those in my racing career.”
16-year old Carson Hocevar won the pole during Saturday afternoon with Christian Eckes alongside him. However, Eckes fell ill last night and wasn’t able to race, thus seeing Harrison Burton subbed in instead and having to drop back to the rear.
It didn’t take long for Self to get to the front, as he passed Ty Gibbs for second on lap 18 and eventually took the lead on lap 27.
It was a relatively clean race, which is unusual for the ARCA Menards Series. There were some notable close incidents however.
On lap 10, Tanner Gray bounced off the wall and got damage on his right side. There was a four way battle for position between Sam Mayer, Gray, Burton and Bret Holmes. Lap 34 saw Gray and Mayer have a close call between each other in Turn 2 while trying to pass the lapped machine of Morgan Baird.
The first sights of mother nature was seen on lap 52, where sprinkles were being seen and felt in the grandstands. The race stayed green and Self continued to put on a dominating performance by having just ten cars on the lead lap on lap 58.
He was able to lap up to sixth place, leaving just five cars on the lead lap on lap 68. Lap 85 saw Travis Braden go to pit road after hitting the wall and receiving right front damage to his No. 27 machine.
The first caution of the day fell on lap 88 for Gibbs and Mayer, who both wrecked in Turn 2 after battling for third. Both would escape clean without damage to either vehicle. Carson Hocever would receive the free pass.
With rain in the area, it put race leader, Michael Self in a difficult position whether to pit or not to pit. He decided to pit, while a few others would stay out in hopes of the rain to start downpouring.
That was not the case, as the race went back green on lap 95 but two laps later the skies opened up, and the yellow flag was brought out once more. Chandler Smith stayed out in hopes of it raining earlier, but Self got around him for the lead and eventually the race win.
ARCA officials called it for the rest of the day and Michael Self was declared the victor on lap 102 of the 200 lap race.
For Self, however, he has had experience in that car before and some success as well.
“I’ve had some big wrecks in that car,” Self said to MAVTV in his post race interview. “That car has kind of been pieced together a few times. We ran that car last year at Michigan, Chicago, Kansas and ran it here, IRP, Iowa.”
“That was my car,” Self continued in his post race interview with MAVTV. “It was comfortable and a good car, and we could switch it around. We always have really good speed in that car, it was a little hard to get a handle sometimes since the car was a little more aggressive so to speak. Like a little more stiffer and rigid feeling cars that we had there, but we had speed a lot of speed. This year, we will bring it back to the fall, some more tracks and take our Pensacola car/this one to swap them back and forth. We got a new intermediate car that we are really excited about, everyone at Venturini (Motorsports) does. So hopefully at Charlotte and Pocono, those cars run like we did here today. Everyone at Venturini Motorsports does a great job putting these cars together, I think the resources we have at Toyota right now, they give us so much to Billy (Venturini), Kevin (Reed), Shannon (Rursch). It just makes it huge to our Sinclair team to have confidence every single week, no matter what car we run or what track we are at.”
It was Venturini Motorsports third consecutive win of the season and Self’s second consecutive win of the season, and his first victory at Salem Speedway.