After making the simple 3 hour drive and braving the 30 degree weather, I’ve never been more happy to have been to see a race. The ARCA Music City 200 at Nashville was the best race not called the Indy 500 that I have ever seen. It really doesn’t take much to get a race fan pumped up during their first weekend of the season at the race track, but ARCA certainly had my full attention this past weekend.
For the last year, I’ve been the leader of the Zane Smith and Christian Eckes bandwagons (respectively) and finally my prediction was right. Zane Smith dominated leading 120 of 200 laps after a pass on Sheldon Creed sealed the win with 20 to go. Not to get ahead of myself or anything but I have to get this off of my chest: I think the ARCA Racing Series is the best racing in North America right now.
I mentioned it on our Racing Rundown Podcast last night; ARCA has everything that American race fans beg for. Young Drivers? Plenty, Chandler Smith qualified on pole and he’s 15. History? Grassroots racing? Old School tracks? Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway hosted cup series races for years in the early days of the sport. It’s like a happy mix of Bristol and Martinsville. Talent? 2018 is the second full season for most of the development-level drivers like Zane Smith, Christian Eckes, Michael Self, Chase Purdy, Harriston Burton, and company. Not too aero/tire dependent? Winner Zane Smith changed tires once the whole race. Fan access? Anyone can sit 5 feet from the driver intro stage/victory lane and onto the track as soon as the cars get parked after the checkered. Weird things that are entertaining? The endurance and budget challengingly ‘back of the field battle’ that has essentially turned into a game of endurance.
Seriously though, the show that the ARCA Series put on Saturday night was a thing of beauty. Side by side gritty racing from the drop of the green until the very last lap. I don’t have the real number of lead changes handy but I don’t even need it to describe how many battles for the lead there were, most of which were strung out over multiple laps. I hope this doesn’t come off to sound too gimmicky but drivers literally had to race for every single position on the track. The best part of this all? I’ll get to see at least as high quality of a show at Salem next weekend.
Admittedly I’m biased that at a kid that I’ve believed in from the start could get his first ARCA win, but if his performance leading 120 of the 200 laps in the weird conditions on a limited tire strategy didn’t turn some heads, it definitely should have. After nothing but bad luck in his first full ARCA season in 2017, it finally clicked for him. I’m guessing most people are and should be impressed by the 15 year old Chandler Smith’s ARCA debut (started on pole, brought it home fifth) but they should also be impressed with Sheldon Creed’s run. He was up front for literally the whole race and led 12 laps as well.
I seriously can’t give enough praise to the ARCA Series and Fairgrounds Speedway for putting on the show that they did in the weather that they were dealt with. There isn’t another sport that I’d sit through foot-numbingly cold weather for but it was 100% worth it.
See ya at Salem next Sunday.