DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Corey Heim picked up right where he left off in the ARCA Menards Series during Saturday’s season-opening Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
After topping last year’s finale at Kansas Speedway, Heim took his second-straight ARCA Menards Series win with a dominant performance at the World Center of Racing.
The 18-year-old from Marietta, Ga., took control of the race after then-leader Tanner Gray pitted under caution on lap 45 and controlled the remaining distance with the help of his Venturini Motorsports teammate, Drew Dollar.
Heim paced the final 38 laps uncontested, holding off Dollar in a one-lap, overtime sprint to the finish after a late caution bunched the field back up.
“That all came down to strategy,” Heim said in victory lane. “I have to give all the credit to (crew chief) Shannon Rursch; he made the perfect call and executed this race perfectly for us. He dialed this JBL Camry in and gave me something I could work with. To win here is awesome. It’s what we dream of.
“I have to give a lot of props to Drew Dollar; he really helped me there at the end,” Heim added. “Drew lining up right behind me on the last restart was important, because he had some experience in the draft, and I put my trust in him to help us there at the end and it really paid off. It was a lot of pressure.”
Though he went winless in his first 15 ARCA starts, Heim has now won in each of his last two appearances.
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He’ll chase the championship this year in the No. 20 Venturini Motorsports Toyota Camry, and Heim knows that a win at Daytona is the biggest step he could have taken toward achieving that goal.
“There’s only one direction things can go from here, and that’s forward,” Heim noted. “I’m just really blessed to be here. It’s crucial that we won here today. It’s probably the biggest field we’ll have here all season, and if you DNF and finish in the 30s … you won’t have the opportunity to make that (deficit) up and it makes for a rocky road ahead.
“To start off with a win, I couldn’t ask for any more. Everyone did an amazing job all weekend.”
Heim also kept Venturini Motorsports’ streak of success at Daytona alive as well. Saturday marked the team’s fourth-straight Lucas Oil 200 win and its fifth consecutive victory overall at the World Center of Racing, counting last August’s race on the Daytona road course.
Dollar tried to get to Heim’s outside coming to the finish line, but a lack of drafting help from behind – combined with damage to his left-front fender from a lap-28 crash – kept him from mounting a charge.
“We did all we could do there,” Dollar noted. “I think we put on a good show for everyone. I tried to push him out (there), but lagged back and just couldn’t get a run. We had a parachute for a left-front (fender) there at the end.”
Reigning ARCA champion Bret Holmes, running a partial schedule this season, crossed the line third ahead of Ty Gibbs and Ryan Sieg, the younger brother of NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Ryan Sieg.
Derrick Lancaster was a career-best sixth, followed by Gray, who came from 17th after his pit stop to finish seventh. Modified ace Andy Jankowiak, rookie Jack Wood and Sean Corr completed the top 10.
Short-track legend Rich Bickle, a five-time winner of the Snowball Derby for super late models,
The overtime finish was set up when Scott Reeves blew a right-front tire in turn four and pounded the outside wall with five laps left, while the biggest incident of the day was on lap 28 after two other Venturini cars – Gracie Trotter and Derek Griffith – got together in a battle for the race lead.
Trotter tagged Griffith into a spin in turns three and four, collecting Greg Van Alst, Nick Sanchez, and Scott Melton as well when the pack broke apart in the banking. All drivers involved were uninjured.
The ARCA Menards Series season continues March 12 at Arizona’s Phoenix Raceway.
1. Corey Heim, 2. Drew Dollar, 3. Bret Holmes, 4. Ty Gibbs, 5. Kyle Sieg, 6. Derrick Lancaster, 7. Tanner Gray, 8. Andy Jankowiak, 9. Jack Wood, 10. Sean Corr, 11. Jason Kitzmiller, 12. John Ferrier, 13. Howie DiSavino III, 14. Jason White, 15. Rich Bickle, 16. Eric Caudell, 17. Richard Garvie, 18. Toni Breidinger, 19. Tim Richmond, 20. Benny Chastain, 21. Thad Moffitt, 22. Con Nicolopoulos, 23. Gracie Trotter, 24. Scott Reeves, 25. Chuck Hiers, 26. D.L. Wilson, 27. Dave Mader III, 28. Willie Mullins, 29. Greg Van Alst, 30. Derek Griffith, 31. Nick Sanchez, 32. Scott Melton, 33. Owen Smith, 34. Brittney Zamora.