Story By: BRANDON WHITE / ARCA – CONCORD, NC – Friday’s General Tire 150 at Charlotte Motor Speedway came down to survival for Brandon Jones.
Several top contenders encountered issues during the first half of the 100-lap race, but Jones avoided the chaos and managed to pull away from Corey Heim to pick up his sixth career victory in the ARCA Menards Series.
Although he remains busy with his NASCAR Xfinity Series commitments, Jones said that any opportunity to compete in the ARCA Menards Series only benefits him when it comes to building confidence and gaining precious on-track experience.
“We’re trying to progress to the next level and get to the Cup Series,” Jones said. “I always have fun coming back down to the ARCA Menards Series. I have a great relationship with Menards and it’s fun to have a race like we did [on Friday] so I could get them back in Victory Lane.”
A victory for Jones was far from assured when the green flag waved, as it only took a couple of laps for Rajah Caruth to pass him for the lead.
Sporting a special paint scheme featuring his college, Winston-Salem State University, Caruth proved to have the fastest car during the first half of the General Tire 150 even though he had to contend with Jones, Heim and teammate Nick Sanchez during several restarts.
Any hopes of Caruth breaking through for his first win evaporated when he and Sanchez made contact in Turn 4 shortly before the halfway break. Caruth sustained damage to his right rear that impacted the aerodynamics of his car and took him out of contention.
“Off Turn 4, I got cleared and all of sudden Nick [Sanchez] came up there and it ruined both of our days as a company,” Caruth said. “I feel bad about that, and [the contact] took all of our downforce away for the rest of the race. We brought one of the best cars and had nothing to show for it.”
With Caruth fighting an evil car, it only took Heim a couple of laps to take the lead. That advantage proved to be short-lived, as Heim could not hold off the faster car of Jones and ended up settling for second.
While Heim had hoped to pick up his second ARCA victory of 2022, he was more than happy to rebound from a disappointing showing at Kansas Speedway and commended his crew for working to get his car right after struggling to find speed earlier in the day.
“I’m super proud of these guys at Venturini Motorsports,” Heim said. “We started off a little bit out of it, but we just adjusted our way into contention there and that’s all I can ask for. If we got one more caution, put some tires on it and adjusted a little bit more, we might have had a shot at it. Regardless, I’m super proud of these guys.”
Jones’ victory in the General Tire 150 also gave him a much better idea on how to approach the NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco Uniforms 300 on Saturday afternoon.
With the racing at Charlotte having changed since traction compound was laid down on the surface, Jones noticed several competitors finding success in the top groove and gradually moved his line up as Friday’s race progressed; a strategy he knew was going to be a part of his game plan in the Xfinity race.
“[On Friday], I certainly learned everything I wanted to learn,” Jones said. “The PJ1 spray has been put down a bunch over the past couple of years and we really wanted to get a read on that. We got passed by some people who went up to the PJ1 and made some time on me. I committed to that lane when I saw that. It was a successful day and a big thanks to Menards and Tide for letting me come down here and have some fun.”
The General Tire 150 was slowed by four cautions during the first 50 laps, with Drew Dollar, Daniel Dye, Andy Jankowiak and Will Kimmel being among those impacted by the early-race chaos.
Caruth held on to his loose car in the closing laps of the General Tire 150 to come home third. Connor Mosack and Greg Van Alst completed the top-five.
Daniel Dye, Amber Balcaen, Sanchez, Tony Cosentino and Sean Corr were sixth through 10th, respectively.
The next race on the ARCA Menards Series schedule will be the Calypso Lemonade 150 at Iowa Speedway on Saturday, June 11.