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Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA Fall Classic: Drivers to Watch

Coverage presented by General Tire

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Venturini Motorsports (1); Gus Dean Racing (2)

The 2018 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards schedule changed slightly with the wet weather in Indianapolis last weekend, postponing the Shore Lunch 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway to next month. That means that the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA Fall Classic, the series’ second visit to Salem Speedway (also in Indiana), will serve as the 18th of 20 rounds on the season.

With an entry list mostly comprised of series regulars, don’t expect a surprise winner on the half-mile oval this weekend—expect the trophy to go to one of the front runners. Here are four of those names that might find themselves etched onto the winner’s trophy on Saturday night:

Christian Eckes

Alongside Michael Self, Eckes is one of two Venturini Motorsports drivers to win twice so far in 2018. His first win of the season came here at Salem all the way back in April, and his second came in his dirt debut at the Illinois State Fair in August. He’ll look to snap an unfortunate trend where he’s alternated finishes inside and outside of the top 10 in his past eight starts; that said, he’s also led at least 36 laps in four of the past eight races he’s run, and led 72 laps on the way to his win here.

Gus Dean

Yes, Dean was the first non-Toyota driver to win this season, snapping a 12-race winning streak to start the season for the manufacturer when he took his Chevrolet to victory lane at Elko Speedway in July. But as competitive as he is, that’s not the biggest reason to watch out for him this weekend: this weekend, Dean’s Kevin Cywinski-owned ride will bear a Hawaiian Tropic-inspired livery in tribute to racing legend Donnie Allison, who served as Dean’s mentor at the beginning of his career.

Chandler Smith

After winning the pole and leading the most laps here in the spring, Smith wasn’t able to bring the checkered flag home in the first Salem race. Same goes for the series’ visit to Toledo Speedway in May. But the third time was the charm for Smith, as he completed the sweep at Madison International Raceway in June for his only win so far this year. All three of those tracks are half-mile ovals (or close to it), so don’t be surprised if Smith is fast yet again this weekend for Venturini Motorsports.

Sheldon Creed

Just how competitive is this year’s ARCA field? Over the past 12 races, Creed is the only driver in the field to win more than once. That’s right—out of a list that includes Brandon Jones, Harrison Burton, Chandler Smith, Michael Self, Gus Dean, Zane Smith, Christian Eckes, Joe Graf Jr., and Logan Seavey, Creed’s three wins make him one of a kind in the period since the General Tire 150 at the end of May. Combine that with relentless consistency, and you have this year’s likely series champion.

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