Salem Exceeded My Expectations

Last weekend the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards invaded the small southern Indiana town of Salem for their first of two visits this season. This particular half mile oval has became my favorite race track and I have been going to races there since Kyle Busch was just “Kurt’s Little Brother” in the ASA series. I shamelessly hyped this stop on the schedule far too much for far too long but Sunday’s Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 was better than even I had been expecting.

Salem Means A Lot To Me

It’s not really the fact that I’ve been going there since I was a little chap but more the fact that the spring ARCA race at Salem last season was a day that really stuck out to me. It was the first time that I had realized how addicted to racing I really am. It’s such a weird concept but ever since that day I literally can’t get enough. Each time I watch a race on TV or in person, I expect it to be better than the last time, and on top of that I expect myself to be more into each race that I watch or go to. And every single time I take in a race, it somehow exceeds my expectations. Take Sunday’s ARCA race at Salem: I went into it just hoping for good weather and a good time with a good group of friends. Not only did we have perfect weather, we saw a grueling 200 lap race that pitted two of the youngest and most coveted young talents against each other nose to tail for the last 40 plus laps.

The Young Driver That I’m Most Pumped About Won

It wasn’t until last spring that I started following late model racing and prior to that Christian Eckes took home huge Myrtle Beach 400 and Snowball Derby wins in December of 2016. He followed those up with an extremely strong run at Salem in the ARCA Series in April of 2017 and that’s when he caught my attention. He was on a slightly different tire strategy (only 17 laps fresher tires on a 124 lap run) and not only passed the field to take the lead, but also lapped the field. That led into more strong runs throughout a limited ARCA schedule as well as CARS Tour and multiple big name Late Model races. As simple as it was, of all things racing related that I’m pumped about in 2018, his expanded ARCA schedule and recent truck series announcement are at the top of that list. It made his hard fought win on Sunday that much more fun to watch.

The Disparity In The ARCA Series Continues to Amaze Me

Seriously, there are more surprises in each ARCA race that you can even comprehend. The way the tires fall off, the way the teams manage limited tire strategies, inexperience, raw talent, and limited budgets all rolled into one make for a wild racing product. Take the ‘experience’ portion of that point and think about it. Zane Smith and Christian Eckes, two of the last three race winners, are considered some of the more experienced drivers in the series after running partial schedules in 2017. The drivers that contend for wins are genuinely out there just trying to make a name for themselves and it’s a beautiful thing and exactly what the ARCA racing series embodies. If the stars align, a driver can show up to race in an ARCA race with the right mix of racing talent and versatility and compete on any given weekend. Take Josh Berry for example: everyone knows his talent from his success in the late models for Jr Motorsports and he showed up and not only led laps but competed for the win in his first career ARCA series start. At the end it was Eckes who’s experience helped him hold off the hard charging 15 year old Chandler Smith to hang onto the win at Salem.

Tomorrow afternoon’s race at Talladega should be more of the same and I can’t wait.

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