The 21st edition of ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards action at Charlotte Motor Speedway just might be one of the most exciting races in its history at the track. The General Tire 150 ends a 14-year hiatus of ARCA competition at a home track for many of the series’ most talented teams, and as a result, some of the top young talents in the world of motorsport have come out of the woodwork to take part.
After posting a top speed nearly three miles per hour faster than his closest competitor in open testing earlier this month, Todd Gilliland should be near the front of the field when General Tire Pole Qualifying wraps up on Thursday afternoon. But anything can happen in an ARCA race, and the winner isn’t always the driver you expect it to be. Keep these five drivers in mind for strong results on Thursday night, and don’t forget to tune in at 9PM ET/6PM PT on FS1 to watch the General Tire 150 live:
One of a number of NASCAR NEXT drivers in this week’s field, Smith is by far the one with the most momentum coming in. He’s won three of the first five races of the 2018 season, taking the first in Nashville in April before going back-to-back at Talladega and Toledo, two tracks that couldn’t be more different from one another. Charlotte is directly between those two course in terms of size, and a win would firmly establish the MDM Motorsports driver as the one to beat for this year’s championship.
One of off-road racing’s most impressive young talents as a teenager, Creed has since made the switch to stock cars (for the most part) and adapted quite well. Sandwiched between MDM Motorsports teammates Smith and Chase Purdy in the points, Creed is in fact only 30 markers back of the lead. That’s the equivalent of only six finishing positions—or three, if he can take the pole and Smith misses the top three entirely. After a DNF in Toledo cost him the points lead, he’s determined to take it back.
Another familiar name in off-road circles, Herbst has to enter this weekend’s race as a threat to take his first win of 2018. The third-generation driver is now in his second ARCA season with Joe Gibbs Racing, and has already proven that he can win on larger tracks after taking the checkered flag in Pocono last summer. Last year, he finished 13th in Chicago, seventh in Kentucky, and ninth in Kansas as the schedule ended with three 1.5-mile tracks; can he build on that consistency this weekend?
As the only full-time driver for ARCA mainstays Venturini Motorsports, Decker has reaped the benefits of an experienced race team on the way to holding onto a top five spot in the championship. She kicked off the season by taking the pole and earning a fifth place finish in Daytona, and comes into Charlotte just days after posting a seventh place run in Toledo. Paired with Daytona winner Michael Self, Leilani Munter, and Brandon Lynn in Charlotte, Decker will look for another top-five result this week.
From the aforementioned Self at Venturini Motorsports to Xfinity Series driver Brandon Jones with MDM, this week’s field isn’t lacking for top young talent. But Gilliland, the two-time K&N Pro Series West champion who currently races for Kyle Busch Motorsports, may be the most competitive of all. He’s only made two career ARCA starts, but his first was a win in Toledo three years ago. He ran 10th in the Camping World Truck Series race here last weekend, and just might steal the victory from the regulars.