From Tadd Haislop / arcaracing.com
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Sammy Smith dominated Friday evening’s General Tire Delivers 100 at Watkins Glen International. The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver led almost every lap. Only Taylor Gray was able to challenge Smith for the lead throughout the 41-lap event on the 11-turn, 2.45-mile road course.
And neither won the race.
A chaotic restart on the last lap of the race allowed Joe Gibbs Racing driver Brandon Jones to steal the victory, giving the 25-year-old NASCAR Xfinity Series regular three wins in his four ARCA Menards Series starts in 2022.
“First road-course win ever,” Jones said. “This is really big for us. [Smith and Gray] were really tough to beat all day. At the end, we were all on top of each other, really, so it was about timing that last restart and trying to force the issue a little bit.”
A stopped car on the track with a few laps to go brought out the final caution flag of the race and set up a last-lap restart with Smith in the lead and Gray lined up beside his rival in second.
Gray, on Smith’s inside, appeared to overdrive Turn 1 after receiving a push from Jones. Gray made contact with Smith, and both drivers veered off the track, allowing Jones and eventual second-place finisher Nick Sanchez to assume the top two spots.
Jones beat Sanchez to the finish line to pick up the victory. He ran Friday evening’s ARCA Menards Series race in preparation for Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at The Glen.
“I had seen it a few times,” Jones said of a series of restarts lining up behind Smith and Gray. “[Gray] was really aggressive, so I was kind of waiting for something to happen.”
Sanchez, who took the ARCA Menards Series championship points lead from his Rev Racing teammate Rajah Caruth with a win in the most recent event at Michigan International Speedway, felt fortunate to log a second-place run at Watkins Glen.
“Days like today, we were probably a fourth- or fifth-place car and we finished second,” Sanchez said. “You want to win them, but you also have to look at points.”
Jesse Love finished third ahead of Daniel Dye in fourth. Dye, another ARCA Menards Series title contender in 2022, also felt fortunate to earn a top-five result.
“It was kind of a tough day,” Dye said. “I was learning really the whole day. But we learned and had to keep fighting.”
Smith salvaged a top-five finish with his dominant car and came home fifth.
Parker Chase, Austin Wayne Self, Gray, Dale Quarterley and Conner Jones rounded out the top 10.
Not including the scheduled race break at the midway point of the General Tire Delivers 100, the event saw four cautions; three for incidents and one for debris. The second to last yellow flag of the race, with eight laps to go, was the result of a violent crash involving Amber Balcaen and Chris Werth.
Both drivers were able to climb from their cars under their own power.
Friday evening’s race, the 13th of the ARCA Menards Series season, also served as Round 7 of the 2022 Sioux Chief Showdown. Smith entered the Watkins Glen race with a 19-point edge on Gray in that series’ standings.
Friday’s General Tire Delivers 100 was the first leg of a weekend doubleheader for the ARCA Menards Series. Drivers and teams face a quick turnaround, as the series is scheduled to race at the Springfield Mile at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Sunday, Aug. 21.
The Atlas 100 is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. ET and can be viewed live on MAVTV Motorsports Network or FloRacing.
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Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig/ARCA Racing