ARCA Menards Series West Car Owner Champion: Alex McAnally
The ARCA Menards Series West may have operated under a new name for the 2020 season, but business was the same for Bill McAnally’s team.
Bill McAnally Racing scored its second consecutive West championship, and its fifth in six seasons, with 15-year-old Jesse Love (No. 19 NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota) at the wheel this year. It marked BMR’s 10th championship dating back to the 1999 season.
McAnally moved into the ownership realm midway through the 1998 West season, vacating his seat in favor of second-generation Canadian driver Gary Smith. The transition was nearly flawless; Smith was competitive immediately and picked up the first of many wins for BMR at Portland Speedway in just his fourth start in the NAPA-backed No. 16 car.
The No. 16 quickly emerged as the team’s flagship ride. Decked out in NAPA’s signature blue and yellow, the car grew to be synonymous with success in the series when drivers Sean Woodside and Brendan Gaughan combined to win three championships in BMR’s first three full-time seasons.
Though the driver lineup has varied over the last two decades at BMR, the team wound up in Victory Lane perpetually on its way to 10 West championships. McAnally has seven championships himself as a car owner while music mogul and longtime racing sponsor Mike Curb claims two titles towards the team’s total. Alex McAnally, Bill’s son, became the third listed car owner to take home the championship trophy for BMR thanks to Love’s impressive 2020 season.
Love won races at the Utah Motorsports Campus, California’s Irwindale Speedway and Colorado National Speedway for Alex McAnally and the No. 19 crew in 2020. The win at Utah, in particular, was significant for BMR, as it was the team’s 100th victory over 23 years of competition.
The milestone made the return to racing after a four-month pause amid the COVID-19 pandemic that much sweeter for BMR. When the fall rolled around, a pair of Love’s teammates finally broke through to join him in Victory Lane. Gracie Trotter (No. 99 ENEOS Toyota) earned her first ARCA Menards win at the Las Vegas Bullring in September, and Gio Scelzi (No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota) got his first win at California’s All American Speedway in October. The latter win put the famous No. 16 in Victory Lane at the team’s home track for BMR’s 104th win.
BMR will aim for a third straight West title in 2021, and such a threepeat would not be unprecedented. The team has done it twice, from 1999-2001 and from 2015-17.
ARCA Menards Series East Car Owner Champion: Maury Gallagher
The ARCA Menards Series East also was rebranded for the 2020 season, but one could be forgiven for experiencing déjà vu when glancing at the outcome.
Sam Mayer (No. 21 Chevy Accessories Chevrolet) once again drove the Mardy Lindley-prepared GMS Racing Chevrolet to the series title in 2020 for car owner Maury Gallagher. Mayer was even more dominant in his second consecutive title, winning five of the six races on the schedule while finishing less than a quarter of a second away from the victory in his only non-winning effort.
Overall, 2020 marked the most successful season yet for Gallagher and his GMS team. Mayer’s second straight East championship for GMS was matched less than a month later by Sheldon Creed, the 2018 ARCA Menards Series champion, when his late charge at Phoenix Raceway earned him both the race win and the 2020 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship. It was the second NGROTS championship for GMS, having claimed the 2016 title with Johnny Sauter as the team’s driver.
Mayer’s championship was the first for Gallagher under the ARCA Menards Series East name, but it was not Gallagher’s first ARCA Menards championship. In 2015, the team then known as Gallagher Motorsports won the ARCA Menards Series championship thanks to a dominant performance from driver Grant Enfinger.
All five championships for GMS Racing have come in Chevrolets. Mayer carried multiple charitable foundations in 2020 rather than the bright blue-and-orange color scheme of Allegiant Air, the well-known budget airline Gallagher oversees.
Gallagher re-entered GMS into ARCA Menards racing ahead of the 2019 season, running a partial schedule on short tracks with Mayer. The return to ARCA Menards racing came on the heels of Chevrolet announcing a multi-team Drivers Edge Development program, which prepares up-and-coming racers by way of competing for JR Motorsports and GMS Racing.
Mayer made the jump from the JR Motorsports late model program to running full-bodied stock cars for the first time with GMS. Gallagher rebooted the ARCA Menards Series team but mainly focused on the former NASCAR K&N Pro Series East for Mayer, as he could run every East race but not every AMS race due to age restrictions.
Gallagher’s return to the grassroots level of the sport has gone more than swimmingly. The team had previously gone out on top when Enfinger won the ARCA Menards Series title in 2015. It then sold its inventory in order to prepare to run the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series full-time.
Most of the equipment was purchased by another 2020 ARCA Menards championship-winning team: Bret Holmes Racing.
ARCA Menards Series Driver Car Owner Champion: Stacy Holmes
Alabama’s Bret Holmes (No. 23 Golden Eagle Syrup Chevrolet) was ready to jump to the ARCA Menards Series in 2016 and run a limited schedule in ex-GMS Chevrolets owned by his father, Stacy Holmes, with the family’s Holmes II Excavation business on the hood.
Initially, it appeared Bret Holmes would find success just as GMS Racing did, qualifying on the outside of the front row and finishing fifth in his ARCA Menards Series debut at the Nashville Fairgrounds in 2016. Holmes added five more top-10 finishes in six starts that year, including ninth at his home track of Talladega. Bret Holmes Racing even wound up in victory lane for the first time that year when it tabbed Grant Enfinger to return to the car in which he won the 2015 ARCA Menards Series championship for a one-off at Pocono.
The first full-time season for Bret Holmes Racing in 2017, though, did not go as expected.
Holmes had two top fives in 2017, one fewer than he had in 2016 when he only made seven starts instead of a full 20. The 2018 season was off to a similar start when the team decided to cut back. On top of the underwhelming results, a slew of crew chief changes and a lack of sponsors outside of the family business forced Stacy Holmes to put the team’s schedule on hold.
In 2019, the team hired Shane Huffman, formerly of the championship-winning MDM Motorsports team, to crew chief Bret Holmes and the No. 23 car. Another disappointing start to the season ensued, resulting in just one finish better than 10th in Holmes’ first four events. Then a reversal of fortune began.
Holmes earned a top-five finish at Nashville, the same track at which he had impressed in his ARCA Menards Series debut three years prior. Huffman proved to be an excellent fit with Holmes, who ended 2019 with a streak of 16 consecutive top-10 finishes.
Bret Holmes Racing showed up at Daytona to kick off the 2020 season without knowing its plan for the year. Stacy and Bret made no commitment to running the full ARCA Menards Series schedule, but despite the lack of firm plans, Stacy kept the team intact and working while the pandemic postponed the 2020 season.
The move arguably won the team the championship.
Bret Holmes Racing made the trek to Ohio’s Toledo Speedway for the ARCA Menards Series East’s Herr’s Potato Chips 200, the first ARCA Menards-sanctioned race upon the resumption of the season. Driving a new car that was built while the season went on hold, Bret Holmes finished third. He matched that result the next week at Talladega.
The Cinderella story was on from there. Holmes tied his personal best finish at Kentucky when he crossed the line second. Finally, in his 69th career start, Holmes added his name to the list of ARCA Menards Series winners with his victory in the the Dawn 150 at Kansas in July.
The team’s hard work and long hours paid off, and it wasn’t just any win; it was a thoroughly dominant performance. Holmes crossed the finish line roughly half a lap ahead of the rest of the field.
From that point, Holmes’ championship run was highlighted by a near-miss at Michigan, an adventure on the Daytona road course in a rented Ken Schrader-owned car, a wild night at I-44 Speedway in Missouri and a bruising race at Bristol. On a cool, dusty afternoon at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Holmes was one of just eight drivers left at the finish of the grinding penultimate race of the season. When championship foes Holmes and Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) dove spinning into a cloud of dust in Turn 1 late in the race, only Holmes emerged on the other side with an intact car.
Holmes returned to Kansas for the season finale with a fancy new paint scheme and all the confidence in the world. A runner-up result clinched an unlikely championship for Bret, Stacy and the whole Bret Holmes Racing team, joining the likes of Mason Mitchell, Patrick Sheltra and Justin Allgaier as recent ARCA Menards champions that overcame well-equipped, multi-car challengers to win with their smaller, family-operated teams.
ARCA Menards Series Car Owner Champion: Coy Gibbs
For the second consecutive season, multiple car owners ended the year with championships in the ARCA Menards Series. This time, though, the same team didn’t take both trophies.
Last year, Christian Eckes drove his No. 15 Toyota to a championship for Venturini Motorsports, but it was Venturini’s No. 20 that took the owners’ title. Likewise, even though Holmes won the 2020 driver’s championship, the team that ended the 2020 ARCA Menards Series season with the most owner points was the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota for car owner Coy Gibbs.
JGR has long been known for its NASCAR Cup Series success as well as the NFL exploits of the team’s namesake, Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs. JGR opened its ARCA Menards Series team in 2017 with Riley Herbst (No. 18 Monster Energy Toyota) behind the wheel, a position he held full-time for two seasons.
In 2019, Ty Gibbs, the son of Coy and the grandson of Joe, became old enough to compete in select races on the ARCA Menards Series schedule and shared the seat with Herbst. Retired driver Mark McFarland also joined the team as crew chief.
Ty Gibbs is a second-generation driver, as Coy embarked on a NASCAR career after his days as a college football player ended. Though there were a few close calls during his days in the NASCAR Truck Series, he never won a race.
Coy Gibbs continued his involvement with the family’s team in hopes of seeing his children behind the wheel, a vision that became reality in 2019 when Ty Gibbs landed on the scene. After a seemingly unending string of seconds, Gibbs won at Gateway with an exciting last-lap pass via a bump-and-run on Mayer. It was the first victory for his father Coy as the car owner in more two years dating back to 2017, when Herbst won a race at Pocono.
A huge win by Ty Gibbs at Indiana’s Salem Speedway in the fall of 2019 set the tone for the season to come. As the schedule changed throughout the year, Gibbs became eligible to run 16 of the 20 races that eventually made up the final ARCA Menards Series schedule, while Herbst would run the remaining four events.
Gibbs won six races and was a threat to win even more. His finest performance might have been when he led 199 of 200 laps in a victory at Winchester, only briefly losing the lead on one of the restarts. With Herbst adding a win of his own at Michigan, the two drivers ensured that Coy Gibbs had a healthy lead in owner points throughout the season.
The driver championship went down to the wire between Holmes and Self, but the fight for the ARCA Menards Series owner championship ended before the last green flag of the season even flew.
Three generations of the Gibbs family — Joe, Coy and Ty — were able to pose for photos and celebrate their 2020 season prior to the start of the finale at Kansas. The family certainly preferred it that way, as Ty’s final start of the season featured a lengthy stint behind the wall with mechanical issues that left him 40 laps down at the finish.
It was a rare blemish on JGR’s record for a 2020 ARCA Menards Series season that otherwise was filled with trophies, pole awards and more than 1,000 laps atop the scoring pylon for the No. 18 team.
— ARCA Racing —