The ARCA Menards Series will return to action on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway following a three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The series, last racing at Phoenix Raceway in March, will host their third race of the year in 2020.
The entry list features 21 entries for Saturday’s General Tire 200 at the 2.66-mile oval in Alabama. Of those drivers some of the entries include Hailie Deegan, Tanner Gray, Riley Herbst, Bret Holmes, Michael Self and Gus Dean.
According to the crew chief handout posted on ARCARacing.com, there will be some differences to this weekend’s event. Most notably, there will be no qualifying. ARCA will set the lineup by 2019 owner points for the first 20 spots. ARCA will then conduct a random draw for positions 21-30 and 31st – 36th will be determined by the provisional process.
The 76-lap, 200-mile event will have two segments with a halfway break at or near lap 38. Lead lap vehicles that pit will be lined up in the order they were running at the beginning of the break behind the cars that elected to stay out.
A total of four crew members may service the vehicle while no tires or fuel may be added outside of the break.
Deegan, piloting the No. 4 DGR Crosley Ford at Talladega, spoke to the media on Wednesday discussing what she needed to work on the most going into the General Tire 200 – her second start on a superspeedway track.
“I still feel like I need to work on backing up to the guy behind me. Me and my spotter were just talking about that … watching the past races from Daytona and Talladega,” said Deegan. “The thing I need to work on the most is just being able to get out of the gas to back up to the guys behind me and get that draft off. And little bit of restarting, too”
In the season opener at Daytona in February, Deegan qualified seventh and finished runner-up in her superspeedway debut. She enters the weekend at Talladega with two top fives and six top 10 finishes while still chasing her first career ARCA victory.
Bret Holmes is another contender chasing his first career victory in the ARCA Menards Series. Holmes, from Munford, Alabama, has eight combined starts (four each) at Talladega and Daytona.
"There is a lot of pressure that comes from racing here," said Holmes on Wednesday’s meeting with the media. "Not only that, but just from being here and racing across the road at the dirt track. The success of the Alabama Gang at Talladega. I want to be a part of that. I want to win here more than any place we race at."
Since the COVID-19 hiatus started, Holmes had spent time finishing school and working for a construction company. SpeedwayDigest.com asked him how working in the construction industry keeps him focused and disciplined when at the track working with the team.
“I’ve really learned a lot through all those all those things. Communication is very important,” said Holmes. “Mainly, as far as the track goes, communication with your crew chief and spotter … telling them what you need … what they want you to do and how you get that point across and knowing what the goal you’re trying to get to is. It’s definitely helped. And not just a communication aspect but a maturity aspect also. I’m glad I’ve kinda had facets of everything and I think it’s helped me as a person.”
Gus Dean, winner at Talladega Superspeedway in 2016, will pilot the No. 32 MASHONIT Apparel Chevrolet with owner Kevin Cywinski. In three career starts at the superspeedway track, Dean holds one top five and three top 10 finishes and led four laps there in 2019.
"When you get to the closing laps and you know you’re in a position to win you start counting down the laps, and you’re counting every corner," said Dean on Wednesday. "Honestly you’re just trying to forget that it’s the end of the race. You want to drive a little harder at the end of the race but you don’t want to get yourself psyched out and let your nerves ruin your chances. It definitely got a little crazy at the end.”
Dean has 14 top five and 30 top 10s along with two victories in 52 starts.
The ARCA Menards Series race will air live on FOX Sports 1 at 2:00 p.m. ET. The Motor Racing Network will offer a live radio broadcast of the General Tire 200 on their website along with SiriusXM on Ch. 385 and online Ch. 985.