Story By: TADD HAISLOP / ARCA – WEST ALLIS, WI – There was a point Sunday during the Sprecher 150 at the Milwaukee Mile when Sammy Smith did not have the dominant car. Taylor Gray took the lead from Smith near the halfway point of the event and led through the second of two scheduled race breaks.
That time, though, was short-lived. Smith regained the lead on the ensuing restart and proceeded to leave no doubt he was the driver to beat Sunday afternoon on the historic, one-mile paved oval.
Smith, 18, picked up his third ARCA Menards Series (national) victory of the year when he took the checkered flag in the Sprecher 150, which also served as the penultimate race of the ARCA Menards Series East season. In that series, the victory marked Smith’s fourth in six races this year.
“I’m not sure what we did there that (first) stop, but it wasn’t very good,” Smith said of the first race break Sunday. “I was able to stay with [Gray], but I felt like we needed to get away from him to protect my lead, and the changes we made on the last stop were awesome.”
Smith, who started Sunday’s race on the General Tire Pole, entered Sunday’s race with a 27-point lead over Gray in the East Series championship standings. That edge will grow as the series enters its season-finale at Bristol Motor Speedway on Thursday, Sept. 15, for another combination race with the ARCA Menards Series.
Driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2022, Smith is the defending East Series champion. He has registered a top-five finish in all six East Series races this season.
Smith also has a top-five finish in nine of his 11 ARCA Menards Series starts in 2022.
Not including Brandon Jones, who won a combination race at Iowa Speedway in June, Gray remains the only driver not named Smith to win in the East Series this year. He has five top-five finishes in six East races.
“I feel like we just lost a lot of front grip there at the end,” Gray said of Sunday’s race at Milwaukee. “Second stage, I thought we had a really good car. And then we didn’t do enough for the track getting tighter at time went on. Just need to go back to the shop and keep working and keep getting better.”
Daniel Dye, Rajah Caruth and Nick Sanchez finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively, at Milwaukee. That’s notable considering those three drivers are in a tight race for the 2022 ARCA Menards Series driver’s championship.
Sanchez entered the 15th race of the season with a 13-point edge over Dye in second and a 17-point lead over Caruth, his Rev Racing teammate, in third. That lead will shrink with Sanchez having finished behind both Dye and Caruth at Milwaukee.
Five races remain in the ARCA Menards Series season, with events at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds (Sept. 4), Kansas Speedway (Sept. 10), Bristol Motor Speedway (Sept. 15), Salem Speedway (Oct. 1) and Toledo Speedway (Oct. 8) still on the schedule.
Landon Pembelton, Jesse Love, Jake Finch, Greg Van Alst and Matthew Gould rounded out the top 10 at Milwaukee. Gould’s 10th-place finish came in his ARCA Menards Series debut.
Sunday’s race nearly ran incident-free, as the only caution for an accident arrived on Lap 3, when Alex Clubb cut a tire and hit the wall to bring out the first yellow flag of the afternoon.
The Sprecher 150 also served as the eighth leg of this year’s Sioux Chief Showdown, a series within the ARCA Menards Series. As he did in the East Series standings, Smith grew his lead over Gray in the Showdown standings with his victory.
The ARCA Menards Series returns to action Sunday, Sept. 4, with the Rust-Oleum Automotive Finishes 100 at DuQuoin, the second of two dirt races on the schedule. If Love, the Springfield Mile winner from last week, takes the checkered at DuQuoin, he will win a $50,000 bonus as part of the Performance Seed Dirt Double.
The East Series will be back in action on Sept. 15 for its championship race at Bristol.