TALLADEGA, Ala. – Venturini Motorsports started the ARCA Menards Series season off with a shot across the bow of every team that competes on the 20-race tour.
The team, owned by two-time series champion Bill Venturini, his wife Cathy and son Billy, swept the top four positions in the annual pre-season test at Daytona, came back a month later and won the pole with Christian Eckes, and then the race with Harrison Burton.
Another shot was fired when Michael Self won the series’ first short track race of the season at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla.
Self followed that performance up with a win in the third race of the season at Salem Speedway, giving the Venturini organization wins in the first three races of the year.
The Venturini family has been a part of the series since Big Bill was the Bounty Rookie of the Year in 1983. He followed up with championships in 1987 and 1991, while Cathy served as crew chief on his famous “all female pit crew”.
No simple promotional tool, the women who went over the wall to change tires were as competitive as any other team on pit road. Their record proves it.
“One thing for sure, is we took this seriously,” said Bill Venturini. “The girls practiced two to three nights a week. I would intentionally sabotage some of the pit stop practices to see how they would react. Sometimes I would disconnect an air hose as they ran around the car. I would also not hold the brake pedal so the wheel would spin as they tried to index the wheel. They were totally dedicated to doing it right.”
Son Billy Venturini joined the ARCA ranks as a driver in 1994, scoring his lone win at Salem Speedway in 2006. While Billy was competitive on the track, he found his stride once he stepped out of the cockpit.
Now a partner in the business, Billy was able to focus on driver development from the top of the pit box.
The team has worked with dozens of young drivers, including reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano and Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and William Byron.
Last year alone, the team won races with Self, Eckes, 16-year-old phenom Chandler Smith and defending NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series champion Logan Seavey.
“Working with young drivers is truly my passion,” the younger Venturini said. “It’s kind of crazy how that has transformed through the years. When I first quit driving, young drivers were six to ten years younger than me … and it was almost like a big brother relationship, but as I’ve gotten longer in the tooth and the drivers have gotten significantly younger than when we first started our driver development program.
“It’s now way more of a father-son relationship, where not only am I teaching them about what it takes to be a professional race car driver, but also teaching them about interactions with others, accountability, communication and just general life lessons.”
While not 15 or 16, like so many of the drivers that have come through their program in recent years, Brandon Lynn will once again saddle up and take the reins during the General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Lynn, from Polkton, N.C., is 23 years old, much older than the typical development driver the Venturinis work with. He finished seventh at Talladega driving for the team in 2018, his best career ARCA superspeedway finish.
Driving for the No. 20 team that won the series’ season opener at Daytona with Harrison Burton driving, and doing it at Daytona’s sister track, gives Lynn a lot of confidence.
I am really excited to get back on track at Talladega,” Lynn said. “It’s one of those races we’ve been chasing a win for the last couple years. We’ve been so close the last two years and something always happens. I know we can capitalize on a good finish as long as luck goes our way. I’ve always tried to race smart at Talladega and not put our car in situations that could end our day early and that’s exactly what we will do this year.
“As long as we have a good group to qualify with and land our pit stop right, we will be there at the end.”
Talladega has produced a long record of underdog winners, both in ARCA competition and in NASCAR competition. Eighteen drivers have earned their first career ARCA wins at Talladega. For eleven of those drivers, it was their only ARCA win.
Lynn would certainly like to add his name to the list of Talladega winners, but driving for the series’ powerhouse organization, he’s not so sure it would be characterized as an underdog victory.
“The Venturinis have a great record of success in the ARCA Menards Series,” Lynn said. “It gives me a lot of confidence to go to Talladega and have their commitment and experience behind me. Racing at Talladega can be a real crap shoot, so we’re going to do our best to stay out of trouble and be there at the end.
“We’d really like to give the (No.) 20 car wins at both Daytona and Talladega this season.”