The ARCA Menards Series doubleheader race weekend at Watkins Glen International and the Illinois State Fairgrounds produced only four different leaders — two who only led one lap.
Two days later, Jesse Love led every lap en route to winning the Atlas 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, also referred to as the Springfield Mile. Love picked up his first ARCA win this season and his second career main series victory, too.
After those two races, Nick Sanchez has opened a double-digit lead over the competition. Unofficially, Sanchez leads Daniel Dye by 13 points and his Rev Racing teammate Rajah Caruth by 17. Fourth place Greg Van Alst and fifth place Toni Breidinger are both more than a full race worth of points behind the top three.
With the ARCA road course races complete and one dirt track race this season in the history books, how did the contenders fare after those two events?
1. Nick Sanchez
Sanchez now holds the largest points lead all season. No, his lead is not insurmountable, but Sanchez has finally emerged as the championship favorite.
Sanchez wheeled his No. 2 Chevrolet to a runner-up finish at Watkins Glen, followed by a fifth-place finish at the Springfield Mile. In both events, Sanchez bested Dye and Caruth, and he now has the best average finishing position among those three.
Sanchez won at Michigan International Speedway with some outstanding defensive driving. Can he hold Dye and Caruth off for six more races en route to winning the ARCA championship?
2. Sammy Smith
Sammy Smith had the best car at Watkins Glen, leading 39 of the 41 laps. Yet the last lap contact netted him a fifth-place finish. In his first dirt track event, Smith finished fourth. In 13 career ARCA starts, Smith has two wins and both 11 top fives and top 10s. In short, Smith has finished inside the top five a staggering 84.6% of his career.
In addition to that astonishing statistic, Smith further demonstrated his talent as he drove an impressive NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International.
First stage win.
First top 10.
First top five.
— Xfinity Racing (@XfinityRacing) August 20, 2022
The reigning ARCA Menards Series East champion shows no signs of slowing down,…