Race Weekend Central

LJM Talks Its ARCA West Season, Xfinity Driver Kyle Sieg in the Car

Lowden-Jackson Motorsports fields two full-time entries in the ARCA Menards Series West, and it has been opposite results for the two.

Tyler Reif rallied from two laps down to make a last-lap race-winning pass in the season opener at Phoenix Raceway. In his three West races, Reif sits second in the standings with one win, two top fives and three top 10s. It’s been a good season thus far for the No. 41 team.

“We should’ve won Kern [County Raceway Park] but we busted something where one of the rocker arms got wedged somewhere [out of place],” team co-owner Chris Lowden told Frontstretch. “But we still ended up sixth. We blew Irwindale [Speedway] but we still ended up third. We have to learn from our mistakes.”

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The No. 46 has been beset with bad luck though. RJ Smotherman has three DNFs, including two mechanical ones. While he has found more speed in his racecar, steadily improving in each qualifying session, the results have been dismal. He’s 14th in the points, the lowest of all full-time drivers.

“It’s been frustrating to not get a good finish here lately, but it’s all been mechanical failures that are no faults of our own,” Smotherman added. “It sucks but it is a part of racing. We have been gaining speed here recently and getting good notes for the car. Kern was our best result so far on speed; in qualifying, P10, we were a little farther down the order but only two-tenths of a second would have put me up five positions. It was a big confidence booster. To have a good qualifying time like that and be competitive in the race, racing behind Bradley Erickson and all those guys there fighting for fifth place.

“Hopefully we take all our good notes over to Irwindale here on July 1 and go show them what we can do and that we mean business.”

Yes, Smotherman’s next race in the No. 46 will be at Irwindale. Two road course races are on tap for the West series and Smotherman will not drive the No. 46. Instead, NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Kyle Sieg will wheel the racecar at both Portland International Raceway and Sonoma Raceway.

“It’s sour for me of course because I’d like to obviously race the car,” Smotherman admitted. “Those were the two races I was looking forward to the most. I’m excited for Kyle to see how he runs in this car. It is a good car.”

Sieg’s Xfinity team, RSS Racing, leased the entry from LJM so Sieg could gain some road course experience. This is Sieg’s first full-time Xfinity campaign. The younger brother of Ryan Sieg, Kyle Sieg has some ARCA series experience. He has a combined 19 starts across the ARCA platform, accruing four top fives and 10 top 10s.

Now he has a chance to shine in an LJM-owned racecar. The last race for that racecar was the 2019 ARCA West race at Sonoma when Will Rodgers wheeled it to a sixth-place finish. LJM has upgraded the equipment in the racecar too, including a new engine.

This was an opportunity Lowden couldn’t pass up.

“We also would like to bolster our relationship with Ford,” he said. “So anything that we could do to partner with these Xfinity guys, that’s always helpful as well. Saying that, I have full confidence in my partner Tony Jackson and his family.”

A friend of a friend facilitated Sieg joining LJM for the two races. LJM stood out because there are few winning Ford ARCA West teams, according to Lowden.

“It is kind of cool,” Lowden said about Sieg driving for his team. “We’re new so we’d like to buy new friends. In the racing world, if they’re Ford guys, that’s even better. The Siegs have a good reputation so we’re very happy that we could make this work. They have some good expertise so it should be fun.

“It’s a good racecar. But while we think it’s a good car, we want to get the Siegs input. We want him to be as comfortable as possible once he gets into the seat and we’ll go from there. Our car chief for the No. 46 knows that racecar inside and out and that’ll be helpful. We have that basic knowledge.

LJM won’t be the only ones working on Sieg’s No. 46 at the two road course events though. The Siegs are indeed bringing a road crew for those two West races. In turn, LJM is helping spot for RSS Racing at Sonoma.

Lowden wants to equip both his drivers, especially Reif, as he chases the championship with top-notch equipment. As such, LJM bought a Ford road course racecar from TRICON Garage, formerly David Gilliland Racing. Reif also has road course experience in Legend cars, but to further his knowledge of ARCA road course racing, he did some testing under the tutelage of Boris Said.

Overall, Lowden is confident in Reif and LJM’s ability to succeed in the next two races.

“We have two great purpose-built road course cars so I think we can do well. Tyler’s a good driver and everyone communicates well. We want to run up front.”

Reif has a new sponsor onboard his No. 41 for both road course events as well as the second Irwindale event. Tour Nevada has joined the team.

“We’re a bunch of Nevada boys,” Lowden noted. “The team is from Nevada so this is a good thing for us.”

Some of Reif’s communication with come directly from Smotherman, who will likely serve as one of Reif’s spotters at Portland.

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Reif was also originally slated to run the full ARCA Menards Series East slate, but he only competed in the series season opener. He finished two laps down in sixth and Smotherman finished seven laps down in ninth.

In a nutshell, Lowden has not fielded his drivers in more East races because of the team’s inventory of racecars as well as its budget, especially in its first full-time West campaign.

“We needed time to work on our racecars,” he added. “We’re a small-budget team, unlike Venturini [Motorsports] so we’re trying to make we don’t miss anything in lieu of providing the best car for Tyler. We don’t have any full-time engineers on the team so we’re trying to get better. It just comes down to being happy with the equipment. I’d like to have more inventory too.”

RSS has ARCA cars from when Sieg drove for the team. In a continuous effort to simultaneously bolster both the team’s fleet and the quality of racecars, Lowden hopes to have a conversation with RSS about possibly acquiring some of the team’s ARCA cars.

With the way the East and West schedules align, Lowden would like to field Reif in the remaining East races, all combo races with the main series. As for Smotherman, he would like to run at Iowa Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway, dependent on funding. Lowden asserted though that no decisions have been made on who will pilot the No. 46 in the remaining West races or if the team will field two entries in the East races.

“This is really our first year and we’re trying to navigate our way, figure out how to have longevity and do the right things. Having established this relationship, it’s the feedback that we’re looking forward to. Knowledge is power.”

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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