Chandler Smith Reigns In The Rain

Chandler Smith won Saturday's rain-shortened Herr's Potato Chips 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway. (ARCA Photo)
Chandler Smith won Saturday's rain-shortened Herr's Potato Chips 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway. (ARCA Photo)

CLERMONT, Ind. – After setting the fastest time in practice, Chandler Smith closed the night by celebrating in victory lane after scoring his fifth ARCA Menards Series victory of the season in Saturday night’s rain-shortened Herr’s Potato Chips 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Smith took the lead from his Venturini Motorsports teammate Christian Eckes on lap 161. The next time around, a heavy sprinkle turned into a rain shower necessitating a caution flag. The field circulated behind the pace car for five laps before ARCA officials put out the red flag. The rains persisted and officials were forced to end the race 37 laps before its scheduled conclusion.

“It was meant to be,” Smith said in a makeshift victory lane celebration. “We couldn’t have timed that pass out any better than we did.”

Eckes was disappointed with second, but was able to lock up the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge championship.

“We’re obviously disappointed with second,” Eckes said, “but it’s our sixth top-two finish in a row. We really have things turned around after a tough stretch in the summer. We’d have liked to have had that caution for rain a few laps earlier though.”

Ty Gibbs started from the General Tire Pole and was the dominant driver throughout the first half of the race. Gibbs led the first 143 laps before contact with Joe Graf Jr. while battling for the lead resulted in Gibbs sliding into the wall and damaging the right rear corner of his car.

The damage led to a flat right rear tire that put Gibbs into the wall again four laps later. The damage was too severe for Gibbs to continue leaving him 15th at the finish.

“I don’t even know who that guy is or what happened out there,” Gibbs said. “We had a really great car. I am pretty bummed. Most of all I am sorry for my guys, the deserved a win here tonight.”

Graf had rejoined the lead lap after receiving the free pass under the second caution of the night. He pitted for tires under the yellow and knifed his way through the field racing against other lead lap cars that had not yet pitted. The resulting caution from Gibbs’ crash allowed the remaining lead lap cars to pit, ending Graf’s chances to win. He finished tenth.

Sam Mayer finished third a day after locking up the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship with a win at Dover Int’l Speedway. Corey Heim and Hailie Deegan rounded out the top five finishers.

Combined with a sixth-place finish by teammate Michael Self, Eckes assumes the ARCA Menards Series championship lead by 20 points with the season finale at Kansas Speedway remaining.

The finish:

Chandler Smith, Christian Eckes, Sam Mayer, Corey Heim, Hailie Deegan, Michael Self, Travis Braden, Bret Holmes, Carson Hocevar, Joe Graf Jr., Bobby Gerhart, Tommy Vigh Jr., Mike Basham, Scott Melton, Ty Gibbs, Howie DiSavino III, Tim Richmond, Dick Doheny, Brad Smith, Eric Caudell, Darrell Basham.