Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Chandler Smith Dominates Salem Speedway ARCA 200

Chandler Smith dominated the Salem high banks
I can't really say I was surprised that Chandler Smith led 199 of 200 laps at Salem Speedway recently to win the 104th ARCA race at that venerable old southern Indiana racetrack. I am surprised how easy he made it look as the 16th year old is rapidly rising into the category of phenom as far as I'm concerned as his pace this year has been phenomenal. Seemingly coming out of nowhere this year, this kid knows how to go fast with multiple pole positions this season in a limited schedule with Venturini Motorsports. He "only" started second this race but jumped pole winner Zane Smith at the start and never really looked back, which is a good thing as there was some serious craziness going on behind him as the evening unfolded. Series points leader Sheldon Creed managed to stay clean all night and left Salem with a nearly insurmountable lead in the points with only two races to go this season.

Pole winner Zane Smith would have a rough night
And then there was Zane Smith. Zane oh Zane. After taking pole position, his race unraveled in a big way as he got into a shoving match with Michael Self which damaged his car and he rejoined the race dozens of laps down to retaliate. He ended up taking both himself and Self out with an intentional crash in between Turns 3 and 4. As you can imagine, the ARCA officials were not pleased with Zane's behavior and neither was Self''s Venturini crew which had words with Zane and his MDM Motorsports guys. Zane's lapse in judgement was penalized by ARCA with a loss of points and a monetary fine which helps Creed in the season standings. It was interesting reading the comments on social media following the race and it reminded me of a similar incident between Scott Speed and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., a few years ago. With the rescheduled Shore Lunch 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway coming up October 6th and the season finale at Kansas Speedway October 19th, it will be interesting to see how these guys race from here on out. Sheldon Creed will most likely take the series championship at Lucas Oil Raceway and enjoy Kansas as a victory parade.

Michael Self
To Zane's credit, during the race I noticed that Michael Self was putting a fender to a lot of different racers throughout the night but never spun anyone out that I saw. Retaliation is never a good idea, although it does seem to happen in all levels of motorsports - but especially in stock car racing for some reason. I often wonder if that's due to the apparent safety of modern stock cars and the drivers getting a feeling of immunity from harm when they are able to routinely walk away from what appear to be big impacts from the outside. I've never raced a stock car let along crashed one so I can't say I'm an expert by any means, but retaliation would never occur in Indycar for instance because the risks are so much greater in an open cockpit race car. Drivers are somewhat cocooned in a stock car compared to open wheel machinery and I'm sure the perception of risk is different for every driver no matter what series they race in. Accidents do happen in all forms of racing and nobody likes to see drivers get hurt so I hope the guys I cover in ARCA can get things worked out and finish the season on a high note.

Sheldon Creed leads the ARCA season standings with 2 races left

By my count, this race at Salem was my 24th ARCA race there since I started going on a regular basis back in 2006. The track has grown on me over the years and has consistently produced memorable racing with the quality of competition improving noticeably in ARCA the last few years as all the young kids come into the series. After the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Salem now is the track I've visited second most since I started shooting motorsports in 1984 at Indy. The fall ARCA race is always special since it's a night race and teams often put together "throwback" paint schemes to honor the history of ARCA at Salem which goes back to 1956, a year before I was born! Believe it or not, they used to run 500 laps at Salem which is incredible given the high banks and bumpy old surface. After we finished our race photos editing Saturday night, I walked to my car through a deserted pit area and decided to take a lap around the track before I hit the highway. I was amazed at how hard it was to see around the corners at Salem due to the steep banking. I didn't push my luck (or my speed) as I didn't want to hurt my Civic so I pulled through the gate and headed home to Indy after a single lap. I got to pass some cars on State Road 56 heading east to I-65 so I was happy and had my need for speed thoroughly satisfied. I was also very tired after a long, hot day in southern Indiana, a day which started with my alarm at home in Indy going off at 5:00 a.m. and ended with me rolling back home and into bed after the race at 1:00 a.m. the next morning. In between, I shot about 2300 pictures and walked over 18,000 steps so it was a good days' work.

Zane Smith laps during practice on the Salem backstretch
The ARCA series hasn't officially announced its 2019 schedule yet but I have an idea of what is coming. I plan to make every race I possibly can in what will likely be a transitional year to NASCAR's full ownership and control of the series. So far, only Daytona, Iowa and Michigan race dates have been announced for 2019. I know I will be at Daytona in February since it is the home of NASCAR  and I am really looking forward to that. I am excited to finalize my schedule for next year and already it looks like 2019 could be my busiest year ever as a motorsports photographer so if you need my help next season, you better contact me soon! Until next time, come say hello at Lucas Oil Raceway October 6th and enjoy these photos from Salem.
Late summer skies were spectacular at Salem
A healthy crowd saw the ARCA "kiddie corps" put on a great show
Michael Self (55) leans on Riley Herbst in Turn  1 in this shot but that's racing!
Zane Smith (41) and Michael Self are probably not going to be exchanging Christmas cards this year
I got a little wet in the post race celebration and it felt great!