Twenty-one-year-old rookie Gavin Harlien (No.55 Autism Awareness Toyota) will make his third ARCA Menards Series start of the season with Venturini Motorsports (VMS) in Saturday’s ARCA throwback race - the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers Fall Classic 200 at Salem Speedway.
Making the transition from the world of off-road truck racing to stock cars and circle tracks, Harlien will feature the flamboyant colors of Chartreuse and Fuchsia on the reverse side of his Toyota Camry which was once sported by the late Tony Venturini during the 1950’s while racing at Chicago’s Soldier Field and other local tracks.
“It’s really cool ARCA does this throwback race at Salem,” says Harlien. “I feel lucky to be a part of it especially running with the Venturini’s and all the success they’ve had over the years. With decades of family history in this sport It’s truly an honor to run those colors.”
Earning a top-10 (eighth) during his ARCA debut at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway followed by a 12th place finish at Iowa Speedway, Harlien shares his thoughts while looking ahead to Salem’s fast and furious half-mile bullring.
“I’m excited and feeling confident headed into my third series start. Finishing eighth in my first race was a great way to start in the series. Unfortunately, our second start at Iowa didn’t go as we wanted in terms of results - honestly our Iowa race was a wakeup call. I’m getting more comfortable but I’ve still got a lot of learning to do in these ARCA cars.
“There’s only so much you can do to prepare for a track like Salem,” added the University of Arizona senior. “Knowing it’s going to be a dog fight I’ve watched lots of film and have spent a good amount of time talking with my crew chief Frank Kimmel to get a better idea of what to expect. This race surely will test my endurance. It looks fun. I can’t wait to get back in the car and feel those bumps flying through the turns in three and four. Everything I’ve seen and heard about Salem points towards having to man handle the car to have success.”
Harlien will be a part of a four team effort joining former Salem winning teammates Michael Self, Christian Eckes and Chandler Smith at Salem Speedway. Overall VMS has earned eight team wins at Salem Speedway with the first coming in 2006 when team owner Billy Venturini claimed the checkered flag.
The ARCA Menards Series will be joined by the Lucas Oil Great American Stocks at Salem Speedway on Saturday night, September 14. Activities will kick off with ARCA Menards Series practice at 12 noon ET, followed by General Tire Pole Qualifying at 4 pm ET. The Great American Stocks 50-lap feature will roll at 5 pm ET, with the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers Fall Classic 200 set for 7:15 pm ET. The race will be televised live flag-to-flag on MAVTV.