For the second time this season, the ARCA Menards Series visits a short track. This time, ARCA drivers will race 150 laps at the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway in the Calypso Lemonade 150.
Ty Gibbs won back-to-back ARCA races at Iowa. Gibbs now competes full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but his successor Sammy Smith takes the reins of the No. 18 Toyota for the rest of this main ARCA season.
Smith enters as the ARCA Menards Series East reigning champion and current East points leader. The Calypso Lemonade 150 is a combination race for the main and East drivers. As such, the main ARCA drivers will battle on track with the East competitors, especially the top three in the East: Smith, Taylor Gray, and Leland Honeyman.
Smith qualified fourth for the ARCA race at Iowa last year, but a DNF relegated him to an 18th-place finish.
While Smith’s teammate Gibbs won last year, Gibbs’ Xfinity teammate Brandon Jones will seek his second victory at Iowa. Jones won a combination NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West race at Iowa in 2014.
In 23 career starts at this short track, Jones has one win, seven top fives and 10 top 10s. In addition, Jones won the most recent ARCA race this season at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jones is a favorite to win the Calypso Lemonade 150.
Although Smith leads the East standings by nine points over Gray, Gray is confident he can capture his second main and East victories this season.
“Obviously, we have to go out there and run well,” Gray told Frontstretch. “Keep up with Sammy [Smith] in the points. We are only nine out right now. I think we will have a good day out there. Our car is good on the intermediate type [short tracks]. We still have to figure out our really short, short track program. We are getting really close though.”
Other than road courses, Gray cannot at normal intermediate-length tracks. He described intermediate short tracks as short tracks that race like intermediate-length tracks aero-wise. Iowa fits his definition, and he expects to have a fast No. 17 Ford.
“I feel like we have a good car when it comes to there,” Gray added. “We are still tinkering on our short track program stuff. We have gotten a lot better. We missed it a little bit at Nashville, but we have ourselves in a good position right now.”
Including Iowa, there are only three races left for the East season. Gray knows every position matters as he looks to usurp the points lead from Smith.
“It would be nice to go out there and win Iowa and grow our points lead in the Showdown series and either get closer or hopefully take the lead in the East series with two races after to go,” he continued. “Put a strong race together and hopefully get our Ford Mustang in victory lane.”
Regardless of definition, the last time Gray entered a main ARCA race, he won in an emotional victory at Phoenix Raceway.
Couldn’t have done it without him. pic.twitter.com/zlG2pO8Vde
— David Gilliland Racing (@dgr_racing) March 12, 2022
Nevertheless, Gray is not cocky going into Iowa.
“It is always crunch time, it is always pull the belts tight and go for wins,” he said. “Right now, the only thing we can do is go win races and not worry about the points position we have put ourselves in at Nashville. Just go out there and win races.”
While Gray and Smith are the top two East drivers, the top three in the main series have separated themselves from the pack as they fight for the championship. Rajah Caruth leads his teammate Nick Sanchez by five points and Daniel Dye by seven points.
Caruth is not promising a victory, but he is confident he can win at Iowa. He finished ninth there last year after starting 12th. He has immensely developed as a driver since then, including finishing 11th in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at World Wide Technology Raceway.
“It’s a place I’ve been to before,” Caruth told Frontstretch. “I’m a lot more prepared, a lot more experienced going back to it so I’m ready to go win that one. I’ve learned that you cannot say, ‘I’m going to go out and win.’ There are so many things out of your control. As long as I execute, there is no reason why I cannot win any ARCA race.”
Dye finished second to Gibbs at Iowa last year, and despite Gibbs’ dominance, Dye closed the winning margin to only 1.2 seconds.
Sanchez, meanwhile, finished fifth, but he tied for the most positions gained from start to finish. He is eager to return to Iowa, too.
“I like the multi-groove racetrack,” Sanchez told We Are Iowa Local 5 News. “You know, it’s a very fast racetrack and that’s always fun as a driver. But you can move around, you’re not committed to a certain lane, the top or bottom lane. Obviously, as the race goes on there becomes a lane more dominant than the other, but you could really slide people in the corner. It’s a short track but it also has an aerodynamic effect on the car. It’s definitely a unique track. I would say there’s not many like it on the schedule.”
The Calypso Lemonade 150 will be the first of three straight short-track races for ARCA. Both Caruth and Gray are ready to compete for victories.
“It will be five races in a row [for me],” Caruth said. “Charlotte [Motor Speedway], Gateway, then these three ARCA ones which will make me better as a driver. I cannot wait to get out in every vehicle.”
“I am quite over running a race, then take three weeks off,” Gray echoed. “I am ready to get the summer stretch going and go race every weekend. I think Chad Johnston and all the boys back at the shop are ready to go. I am for sure ready to go. Hopefully, we will put together a strong stretch there.”
There will be a 45-minute practice session, followed by qualifying for the event. The Calypso Lemonade 150 will have two preset competition cautions at laps 50 and 100. The Calypso Lemonade 150 will take place on Saturday, June 11 at 9 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by MAVTV Motorsports Network and available on FloRacing.
About the author
Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.
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