Yesterday, on the 10th of July, 2021, the ARCA Menards Series returned to Elko Speedway in Elko, Minnesota, after not racing at the ⅜-mile track in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Menards 250 ran a total of 94 miles for 250 laps, and had a total of 3 lead changes. Many would think that because there were so little lead changes, and the fact that the ARCA Menards series is either hit-or-miss a lot of the time, that this was quite a boring and uneventful race. The opposite, however, is true.
After starting on the pole, 18-year-old Ty Gibbs took the lead early in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and kept the lead for a considerable amount of laps. Though Gibbs was relatively unchallenged in the opening laps, the fight for 3rd place was a fierce one. Corey Heim in the Venturini Motorsports No. 20 Toyota and Taylor Gray in the David Gilliland Racing No. 17 Ford were two-wide, inches apart, for a few laps, battling for 3rd position, until eventually Heim took the position from Gray. On lap 22 of the Menards 250, the No. 11 Chevrolet driven by Bryce Haugeberg spun, bringing out the first yellow flag of the night.
Going back to green flag conditions on lap 33, Ty Gibbs once again took the lead, though this time he was pressured by the No. 25 Toyota of Gracie Trotter. Behind them, the No.17 and No. 20 of Gray and Heim were battling for third position once again after being bunched together at the restart. After a few laps, the No. 25 would eventually fall back to 3rd, giving 2nd place to Corey Heim.
After a little while, everyone seemed to be settled in their position and, for the time being, there was little action on track. That would change, however, because on lap 41 the No. 46 DGR Ford of Thad Moffit would give a huge shove to the No. 15 Venturini Toyota of Jesse Love, nearly turning Love around. With quick thinking, Love saved the car, preventing what could have been another yellow flag period. The green flag would not last, though, as just a couple of laps later they would both be involved in an incident, bringing out the yellow flag.
Going green on lap 52, the No. 18 of Ty Gibbs and the No. 20 of Corey Heim would stay side-by-side, door-to-door, for what felt like ages. Eventually, Gibbs would grow frustrated with Heim, and gave him a shot to his left rear quarter-panel, sending Heim up the track and allowing Ty to take the lead. Exiting the corner, Heim would try to pull a similar move on Ty, though it would prove to be ineffective as the No. 18 developed a healthy lead over Heim, who would lose 2nd place to Taylor Gray in the No. 17.
After the race break on lap 100, the race resumed under the green flag on lap 106. The No. 18 of Gibbs and the No. 17 of Gray would battle for the lead over a few laps, though Gibbs would eventually take and extend the lead, like he had been doing for the restarts prior. After this, there were few on track altercations, other than Taylor Gray and Jesse Love battling for the 2nd position and Thad Moffit involved in a bump-and-run with the No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet driven by Daniel Dye. After giving a hard shove to Jesse Love, Taylor Gray would take second place.
Going green after the second race break on lap 176, Ty Gibbs would once again be unchallenged, with Love and Gray still battling for position behind. Not too long after Love took second, the No. 11 would spin once again, and a third time a few laps later. After the second restart, Corey Heim would make it three wide with Ty Gibbs and teammate Jesse Love, with Gibbs, once again, coming out on top. Not much action happened for a while, until about 10 laps to go, the No. 66 Toyota of Ron Vandermeir Jr. would spin, forcing the 7th and final Yellow flag.
On the final restart, Ty Gibbs would start in first place. Going into turn 1, the No. 20 of Corey Heim would send Gibbs’ car up the track, where he would later hit the wall on the back straightaway. Gibbs would pass Taylor Gray trying to regain his lead, though it would be ineffective, as Corey Heim would win the Menards 250 at Elko! The top 5 would be the No. 20 of Heim, the No. 15 of teammate Jesse Love, the No. 25 of early contender Gracie Trotter, the dominant No. 18 of Ty Gibbs, and the frontrunner No. 17 of Taylor Gray.
Photo via Twitter, @ToyotaRacing