In its 17th full season the ARCA Truck Series may be witnessing its most evenly matched competition at the front of the field, and it’s in the form of some differing faces in varying vehicles from past years.
For the first and only time since its inaugural year, the first two races of the season concluded with two first-time winners. That streak came to an end this past Friday night at Motordrome Speedway (PA) when 2014 series rookie of the year Jeff Myers Jr. passed Brandon Huff for the top spot with seven circuits remaining in the 50-lap feature.
After a mediocre qualifying run, the teenage driver from Michigan assured Speed51.com powered by JEGS that the truck was set up for the finish.
“The truck was balanced the whole race,” Myers said. “When other trucks fell off we were there. The last few laps racing with (Huff), he was coming off the corner and I was just sticking it low and putting the hammer down. I took a look once and I didn’t get him and then the one lap I got under him and he came down on me and I was there. He went up the track and I was just gone from there.”
In the past few years, the ARCA Truck Series has mostly been dominated between Danny Jackson and Levi Mansfield. The champions in the past three seasons have moved on leaving an enormous amount of opportunity for those who have learned from and followed the two driving aces.
Transitioning from a Limited Late Model with a treaded tire to an ARCA Truck with a 10-inch Hoosier slick was a learning experience in itself for Myers in 2014. This year he has a specific connection to Jackson’s past success.
“The biggest thing that is helping right now is this actually used to be Danny Jackson’s truck,” Myers indicated. “That talks for itself. He won five of the eight races last year and it has won two out of the three races this year. This truck is hooked up.”
25-year-old Huff finished a consistent third in points last season and has been one of the favorites week in and week out, but after pacing practice sessions and winning pole awards, victory has still eluded the Ohio driver.
“Even with Levi and Danny moving on there are still a lot of good guys in this series,” Huff explained. “It’s a tough crowd. We get out there and do what we need to do in practice and qualifying, but we just can’t seal the deal quite yet to get our first win. We’re still digging.”
Another driver predicted to win was the only driver not named Jackson or Mansfield to win in 2014, Cody Quarrick. The Uniontown, Pennsylvania racer in his mid-20s dominated the opening portion of the most recent feature, but had to settle for second-place for the third straight race.
Quarrick competes with Ford V8 power under the hood in a field mostly composed of V6s, but despite the variance in engine combinations his competition remains closely matched.
“It’s tough, you’ve really got to be on,” Quarrick said. “When we unloaded we knew it was going to be tight. The top four were all within the same tenth. It’s fun and it’s nerve racking. It takes your box and makes it a lot smaller, but as a whole it makes your crew chief a better crew chief, it makes your spotter better, and it makes you better as a driver. It’s what we are all here to do is become better and climb the ladder.”
Becoming better is something that a couple series veterans have steadily worked at over the years, and have been on the verge of success. Brad Yunker approaches 100 career starts as he nears closer to career win number one.
2011 rookie of the year Shawn Szep finally accomplished the feat the previous week at the tiny Lake County Speedway, a tight 1/5-mile track in northeast Ohio. Unfortunately, his Motordrome performance was interrupted by a fire in practice as a result of hitting a piece of lead on track and an on-track altercation that sidelined him during the feature.
“Highs and lows, we had a great weekend (at Lake County), our first win in the ARCA Truck Series at a great track,” Szep summed up. “That’s just how it is. One weekend you’re doing great and the next weekend you’ve got to fight the demons. At least that has been my career.”
The 2015 class of the field has their sights set on a fairly unique prize, a signature championship ring at season’s end. One driver even put some other plans on hold to chase the title.
“We were going to run (a Late Model) some this year, but we just decided that ARCA ring is pretty badass and decided I wanted to try and get one,” Quarrick said. “Everyone was on board and really wanted to see through it and try to chase it down. So far so good, we are leaving here with the points lead. We know where we are getting beat and we have to figure out why.”
The ARCA Truck teams continue their summer grind next weekend at the 1/3-mile bullring of Columbus Motor Speedway (OH) and then head back to Pennsylvania to compete at the half-mile Jennerstown Speedway the following weekend.
– By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Pennsylvania/Central New York Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
– Photo credit: Speed51.com