The ARCA series opened up the race weekend and we had a plethora of young phenoms that every fan should have their eyes on. ARCA has become so much fun to watch since officially joining the ranks of NASCAR and being a true development series.
There were so many names that we need to be watching over the next five years like:
- Chandler Smith
- Ty Gibbs
- Tanner Gray
- Hailie Deegan
- Lawless Alan
- Gio Scelzi
- Drew Dollar
- Jesse Love
- Thad Moffitt
- Sam Mayer
- Gracie Trotter
After every other ARCA race, I’m going to go over a short highlight of each driver’s day as well as how their development is going. Hopefully, this will keep fans updated on a driver they’re rooting for coming up the ranks or to introduce you to a new driver to root for in the future.
I will not highlight guys like Michael Self, Zane Smith, Chase Cabre, and any other driver not listed above. Reason being that they either are a little too old to be considered development drivers, were stepping down to ARCA for one race and are already far enough along in their development to not need to be highlighted, or I don’t feel their talent was worth taking a look at as harsh as that sounds.
Gracie Trotter – 22nd
Living in the shadow of Deegan’s success, the Concord, North Carolina native is struggling at the start of the 2020 season. Getting a ride in the prestigious Bill McAnally Racing has not begun to show off her potential yet after ending up having some technical difficulties.
Trotter is still someone to keep a close eye on as she hasn’t reached her full potential yet. She’s had great runs in the series before and I think she’ll come into her own as the year goes on. Right now she’s just not as far along as some of her other regular competitors.
Sam Mayer – 20th
Really surprised to see Mayer with a 20th place finish after winning the first two races of the year. He didn’t seem to have the car to win but he was running in the top five consistently all night until technical issues took him out.
Mayer is still one of the top development drivers in ARCA so not much to see here. He didn’t have as good of a car as Ty Gibbs, but it would’ve been fun to see those two battle. I think those are the two names to really watch this year as a far as a championship battle goes.
Thad Moffitt – 18th
This one hurts. I’ve always been a big Richard Petty fan and root for any Petty in racing, but Moffitt had a disappointing night. Finishing 18th after his car gave out on him. He flirted with the top ten all night but didn’t have a strong running to begin with.
To be blunt, Moffitt isn’t showing that he belongs in NASCAR. When you watch him race with other competitors you can even see him lift off the gas significantly before he should and almost runs scared at times. He’s in good equipment and he’s yet to prove he can compete at the ARCA level.
Jesse Love – 16th
He was running in the top ten before Drew Dollar ended both their chances at great runs. He is continuing to impress at only the age of 15-year old. Can’t give him too much fault for the poor finishing position.
This is the first season we’ve been able to see him race and he is coming off a 2nd place finish in Las Vegas, so I think that this will be a kid that will be fun to see where he goes the remainder of the year. He’s shown to have the talent and speed to run up front, and at such a young age that’s crazy to think about.
Drew Dollar – 14th
Didn’t have a car capable of really challenging the leaders but he was running in the top five for a large portion of the race before dealing with some communication issues hurt his day. He then remained in the middle of the field for the remainder of the race. He got caught up in a late-race caution that seemed to be of his own doing as he ran into the back of Jesse Love, hurting both of them.
He’s going to have to bounce back and show he can hang with the likes of Gibbs and Mayer. I think Dollar has the potential to run well this year and contend for wins, but I think the challenge will be if he can close the talent gap between him and his fellow development drivers.
Gio Scelzi – 10th
I was really impressed by Scelzi. He came back from a spin of his own doing to end up finishing inside the top ten. That kind of mental fortitude is what you like to see at such a young age. The ability to come back from a mistake and still rummage together a good day is what elite talent does.
Scelzi will be fun to watch because he’s still learning stock car racing, coming from World of Outlaws. Kyle Larson has endorsed him on the Dale Jr. Download as a name to watch. Already seeing an impressive run like this; it will be exciting to see his growth throughout this year.
Lawless Alan – 9th
Alan was a guy who was bouncing in and out of the top ten all day and benefitted from some of the calamity that came towards the end of the race to help his way into a 9th place finish. Still did a good job of avoiding said calamity, so gotta give credit where credit is due.
This is his first season in NASCAR mainstream and he’s still earning his stripes against some of the top competitors at his age. Apparently he has carved quite a legacy for himself at Irwindale Speedway in multiple formats, so we will have to see how his season shapes up.
Hailie Deegan – 7th
A relatively quiet day for her standards, but still came home with a top ten. Deegan remained in the top ten all day and didn’t experience race nor technical issues all day, and there is still merit to that. She didn’t have the car to be able to challenge for a win, but she managed what speed she did have for a solid day.
This year is going to be a big year for Deegan’s development. Not a make or break year by any means, but she has stiffer competition in ARCA this year to compete with. Can she hang with Ty Gibbs and Sam Mayer for the entire year? I think she’ll have her ups and downs, maybe even have a more come back down to Earth type of season. I’m not worried about her development though, she’s still worthy of the hype surrounding her.
Tanner Gray – 4th
Immensely impressed with this young man. He managed to remain in the top five all day and while he wasn’t exactly giving the leaders a run for their money, he never wavered throughout the whole race. For a guy still learning how to take corners when he races, that is impressive to me.
Gray is in the second year of a transition from NHRA to stock cars and he has shown loads of talent. With him running so well in the Truck Series, I was hoping to see him run great down a level in ARCA and he did not disappoint.
Ty Gibbs – 3rd
Class of the field all day but had it slip through his fingers. Giving that trademark Gibbs scowl after the race, you could see the disappointment. It’s an experience issue really, as a bad restart with only two laps to go essentially gave Chander Smith the win.
Gibbs is primed to be a star one day and he’ll learn from this moment. I’d be willing to bet that there won’t be too many more races like this that get away from him the remainder of the season.
Chandler Smith – 1st
Anytime you can win a race with a car that really shouldn’t win it’s impressive. Don’t get me wrong, he’s driving for Venturini Motorsports, he has good equipment, but his car was not the fastest in the field. Pit strategy aided him in getting the lead and he was able to hold off Gibbs and Michael Self to win.
I’ve been keeping up with Smith since last year and he has a bright future ahead of him and if he can get signed to a development deal with a good team there is no doubt we will see him in the Cup Series soon.