Even though Sammy Smith is technically driving for a new team in 2022, his ARCA Menards Series title defense got off to an incredible start in Tuesday’s Race to Stop Suicide 200 at New Smyrna Speedway.
Smith – who will compete for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the ARCA Menards Series and ARCA East Series in 2022 — paced the 90-minute practice-qualifying hybrid session earlier in the afternoon, earning him the pole position for the event.
Starting from the pole, Smith had to deal with a continuous hard-fought charge from David Gilliland Racing’s Taylor Gray, who many consider to be Smith’s biggest obstacle in his quest for back-to-back championships.
RJ Starcevic – at New Smyrna Speedway for TobyChristie.com — captured some video of an intense exchange for the lead between Smith and Gray in the late stages of the event.
UP THE TRACK GOES TAYLOR GRAY!
Sammy Smith back to the lead!#NASCAR #ARCA pic.twitter.com/uVwmx0a6sb
— RJ Starcevic (@RJStarcevic) February 16, 2022
The flow of the event was interrupted on multiple occasions by a pesky rain shower, which caused two of the eight caution flags, as well as an extended stoppage during the race’s halfway break.
A spin by Mason Diaz – driving the No. 44 for Ferrier-McClure Racing — brought out the final caution of the event inside of 10 laps to go, setting up a late-race restart eerily similar to that of last season’s.
On the final restart of the race, with six laps to go, Gray struggled to properly fire off – something that had been a strong suit of his throughout the entire evening — which allowed the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver to scurry away from the field.
With only five laps remaining in the event, Gray was unable to overcome the immense deficit built by Smith, allowing the 17-year-old to capture his fourth victory in the ARCA Menards Series East.
Gray would bring home a second-place finish, while Max Gutierrez – last year’s New Smyrna winner — finished in third, despite an early-race spin and a late-race incident with Christian Rose.
On debut, Leland Honeyman finished fourth for Young’s Motorsports, with Donald Theetge rounding out the top-five for Visconti Motorsports. Mason Diaz, Logan Misuraca, Willie Mullins, Stephanie Moyer, and Ed Pompa rounded out the top-10.
After the first of seven ARCA Menards Series events, Smith leads the point standings by six markers over Taylor Gray. The series heads to Five Flags Speedway for the second of seven events on the schedule, with the race taking place on March 19th.
2022 Race to Stop Suicide 200 at New Smyrna Speedway Results:
|Pos||St||Car No.||Driver||Team||Laps||Diff||Best Lap||Status|
|1||1||18||Sammy Smith||Kyle Busch Motorsports||200||--||--||Running|
|2||2||17||Taylor Gray||David Gilliland Racing||200||-1.638||--||Running|
|3||7||30||Max Gutierrez||Rette Jones Racing||200||-3.619||--||Running|
|4||4||02||Leland Honeyman||Young's Motorsports||200||-4.062||--||Running|
|5||3||74||Donald Theetge||Visconti Motorsports||200||-17.685||--||Running|
|6||5||44||Mason Diaz||Ferrier-McClure Racing||199||-1 lap||--||Running|
|7||6||60||Logan Misuraca||Josh Williams Motorsports||199||-1 lap||--||Running|
|8||8||11||Willie Mullins||Fast Track Racing||198||-2 laps||--||Running|
|9||10||01||Stephanie Moyer||Fast Track Racing||193||-7 laps||--||Running|
|10||11||10||Ed Pompa||Fast Track Racing||190||-10 laps||--||Running|
|11||9||42||Christian Rose||Cook Racing Technologies||145||-55 laps||--||Running|
|12||13||22||Steve Austin||CCM Racing||122||-78 laps||--||DNF|
|13||16||95||Caleb Costner||Last Chance Racing||47||-153 laps||--||DNF|
|14||12||12||Tony Cosentino||Fast Track Racing||21||-179 laps||--||DNF|
|15||14||48||Brad Smith||Brad Smith Racing||8||-192 laps||--||DNF|
|16||15||0||Zachary Tinkle||Wayne Peterson Racing||0||-200 laps||--||DNS|
2022 ARCA Menards Series East Point Standings After 1/7 Races: