Race Weekend Central

Tanner Gray Rebounds to Win ARCA at Charlotte

For the first time in his ARCA Menards Series career, Tanner Gray is victorious, taking the checkered flag at Charlotte Motor Speedway after holding off a handful of drivers on fresher tires during the last green flag run of the race.

Gray stayed out with 10 laps to go, and maintained the lead over Carson Kvapil, who led most of the race, giving him a victory just three weeks after leading the most laps and finishing second at Kansas Speedway. 

“Obviously, we fought a lot of adversity there with cutting a tire early, and having to come back from a lap down,” Gray told FOX Sports. “I thought we executed the second part of the race really well, and were able to get a good restart the last 10 laps, and kind of defend.”

Kvapil would ultimately wind up in second place after leading most of the event. Andres Perez de Lara, who remained in the top 10 for most of the race after starting on the pole, finished third.

“We had a pretty good car all race long,” Kvapil told FOX Sports. “We led quite a bit of it there, and showed good speed, just didn’t have clean air, and just a little too tight at the end there,”

To round out the top five, Will Kimmel came across the line in fourth, and Lavar Scott earned his second top five of the season, finishing fifth.

Gus Dean scored his third top 10 in three races this season, finishing sixth. Two drivers who are pulling double duty this weekend, Dean Thompson and Lawless Alan, finished seventh and eighth respectively. Jason Kitzmiller stayed out on older tires with 10 laps to go, finishing ninth. Sebastian Arias, in his second ARCA national division race, wound up in 10th. 

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When the green flag waved at the start of the race, the inside line got the early jump, with Perez having an undisputed lead by turn 1, with the third place starter, Gray, lined up right behind him in second. The leaders quickly found themselves single file by lap 3, but a quick caution for a Jayson Alexander spin in turn 2 bunched the field back up.

The green flag flew once again on lap 7, and both lanes got off to an equal jump, unlike the initial start. Gray and Perez remained side by side for the first two laps of the restart, but by lap 10, Gray pulled out to the lead, with Perez falling into line behind him in second. By lap 21, Gray’s lead was well over a second over Perez, but the caution flew once again for Alexander, who again went for a spin, this time in turn 4. 

Under the second green flag period of the race, Kansas winner Connor Mosack found himself on pit road, dealing with a mechanical issue. He went multiple laps down, taking away his chances to defend his victory. Ultimately, Mosack would retire from the race on lap 56. 

The race returned to green flag conditions once again on lap 27, and unlike the previous restart, Gray didn’t have any immediate competition. Perez had a slow jump on the top lane, allowing Gray to have full control by turn 1, with Kvapil in tow. However, two laps later, Kvapil made a move for the lead on the backstretch, doing so successfully by the time the two exited turn 4. 

However, things would get worse a few laps later for Gray, as he hit pit road with a flat tire. The Joe Gibbs Racing team would get him back out on the race track only losing one lap, and was in the free pass position until Kvapil lapped a pair of cars late in the run as the field approached the halfway caution period. 

Ultimately, once Kvapil took the caution flag on lap 51, it was Toni Breidinger who was awarded the free pass, with Gray being trapped a lap down.

Under the caution break, Kris Wright, who had entered pit road in second, lost a lap after his car failed to refire on pit road, moving him to 14th place to start the second half of the race. 

When the race restarted, Kvapil pulled out to a lead, as Scott, who started his outside, didn’t get going as quickly, stacking up the field behind him. A few laps later, ARCA penalized Scott with a restart violation, forcing him to drive down pit road for a pass-through penalty. 

Just as Scott finished serving the penalty, the caution flew over the racetrack once again, due to debris. The caution saved Scott from going a lap down, and gave Gray the free pass, putting him back onto the lead lap. 

The race once again restarted with 33 laps to go, with Kvapil once again pulling out to a lead, but like the previous restart, the driver starting on his outside was penalized for a restart violation, this time being Andy Jankowiak. However, unlike Scott, the driver of the No. 73 lost a lap while serving his penalty.

Up front, Kvapil maintained a lead of nearly a second over Perez for much of the early portions of the green flag run. However, with 20 to go, neither driver was the fastest on track, as Gray, in third, had closed the gap to just two and a half seconds back from Kvapil. Just as Gray had gotten the gap under two seconds, and was battling with Perez for second, the caution again waved. Con Nicolopolous spun exiting turn 4, and Mitch Gibson made heavy contact with the No. 06 to cause the yellow. 

The caution gave many lead lap drivers an opportunity to utilize some pit strategy. Gray, who was already off strategy, stayed out. The other leaders, including Kvapil and Perez, pit for four fresh tires. 

With eight laps to go, the green flag waved once again. Gray got out to a lead, but once the cars with fresh tires got around Kitzmiller and Cody Dennison on older tires, the battle for the lead immediately heated up.

Perez and Kvapil were right on Gray’s tail with five laps to go, and once Kvapil got around Perez, it was a two-car battle for the win. Despite having fresher tires, Kvapil couldn’t make the pass on Gray, giving the Joe Gibbs Racing driver the win.

ARCA Results at Charlotte

Looking ahead, the national division of ARCA is now off until June 14, when the series tackles the Iowa Speedway for the Atlas 150. That race is slated to begin at 8:00 p.m. ET that evening, with the race broadcast on FOX Sports 1. In the meantime, the ARCA Menards Series West will take to the Portland International Raceway next Friday, May 31, at 7 p.m. ET. 

About the author

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Josh joined Frontstretch in 2023 and currently covers the ARCA Menards Series. Born and raised in Missouri, Josh has been watching motorsports since 2005. He currently is studying for a Mass Communication degree at Lindenwood University

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