BRISTOL, Tenn. — When the ARCA Menards Series takes to the storied high banks at Bristol Motor Speedway on Thursday night, three championships will be on the line.
Ty Gibbs has recently ascended to the lead in the battle for the ARCA Menards Series, leading by 16 points over his season-long rival Corey Heim.
Gibbs has been on a tear, winning nine times and scoring 16 top-five finishes in 17 starts headed into the Bush’s Beans 200 at Bristol. Gibbs’ dominance is evident when looking deeper into the season’s stats, as he leads the General Tire Pole Award standings with 11 poles while no one else has earned more than one.
Gibbs has also led three times as many laps as his next nearest competitor in the Valvoline Lap Leader standings, 1238 to 405 over second-place Heim.
Heim has been with Gibbs nearly step-for-step in 2021. He’s tallied six wins, including wins at Daytona Int’l Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, and led the series standings for much of the season until ceding the lead to Gibbs after the Sprecher 150 at The Milwaukee Mile.
The Bush’s Beans 200 is the 18th race of the 20 that make up the 2020 ARCA Menards Series season, and with just a trio of races yet to go every lap will be critical.
The 200 on the .533-mile concrete banked oval at Bristol could prove to be crucial for Heim if he has any hope to contend against Gibbs for the title in the final two races at Salem Speedway in Indiana and Kansas Speedway in October.
Gibbs also leads the Sioux Chief Showdown standings, 13 points ahead of Heim.
The Showdown, a series within the overall ARCA Menards Series, offers drivers younger than 18 years of age an opportunity to contend for a championship on oval tracks less than one mile in length and on road courses. Gibbs has won six times in Showdown competition compared to just one for Heim. Bristol will mark the ninth round of 10, with the finale coming up on October 2 at Salem Speedway.
Additionally, the ARCA Menards Series East championship will be settled in the Bush’s Beans 200, with Gibbs’ Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sammy Smith coming into the finale with a 24-point lead over Daniel Dye in second.
Dye assumed the second position in the standings with an impressive runner-up performance at Milwaukee, leapfrogging over Mason Diaz.
Smith has three East series wins so far in 2021, and while Dye has yet to find victory lane in an East race, he did win in the ARCA Menards Series at Berlin Raceway in July.
Smith’s 24-point lead is comfortable, but by no means does it mean he’s sealed the deal. He needs to finish 21st or better regardless of what Dye does to clinch the championship.