It’s been 23 years since the ARCA Menards Series has raced at Five Flags Speedway, and most of the drivers entered weren’t even born then. But several drivers in the field do have previous racing experience at Five Flags Speedway, including 2016 Snowball Derby winner Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota), Carson Hocevar (No. 28 Scott’s/Berger Chevrolet/KBR Development Chevrolet), 2016 Five Flags Speedway pro late model champion Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation/Southern States Bank Chevrolet), and Connor Okzresik (No. 14 Metro Glass Chevrolet) the 2019 ARCA/CRA Super Series SpeedFest 200 winner at Crisp Motorsports Park in Cordele, Georgia.
A handful of drivers will be making their ARCA Menards Series debuts in the ARCA Pensacola 200 presented by Inspectra Thermal Solutions, including, Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers/Advance Auto Parts Toyota), Corey Heim (No. 22 Speedway Children’s Charities Ford), former 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock champion Tanner Gray (No. 54 Gray Motorsports/Valvoline/Durst Toyota), and Tim Richmond (No. 06 GreatRailing.com Chevrolet).
The ARCA Menards Series competed at Five Flags Speedway for five consecutive seasons in the early 1990’s. Five drivers have won those previous races: Roy Payne (1992), Harold Fair (1993), Gary Bradberry (1994), Bob Schacht (1995) and Frank Kimmel (1996).
Several drivers in the previous five races at Five Flags Speedway will be at the track this weekend serving in a different capacity. Frank Kimmel, winner of the race in 1996 when the ARCA Menards Series last competed at Five Flags, will be back working as a crew chief for Venturini Motorsports. Venturini Motorsports team owner Bill Venturini will be at the track as well. He finished sixth in the inaugural race at Five Flags in 1992. His son, Billy Venturini, will serve as crew chief for Chandler Smith (No. 20 Smith General Contractors Toyota); Billy finished fifth in the 1995 race. Andy Hillenburg, the 1995 ARCA Menards Series champion and sixth-place finisher at Five Flags that season, will be at the track as car owner for Tommy Vigh, Jr. (No. 10 Extreme Energy Solutions Toyota).
One driver entered in the 2019 ARCA Pensacola 200 presented by Inspectra Thermal Solutions was in the field in the 1996 race at Five Flags Speedway. Brad Smith (No. 48 Copraya.com Chevrolet) was in the field in 1996, but Lady Luck was not on his side that night; Smith was sidelined after just one lap due to engine failure.
Frank Kimmel’s win at Five Flags in 1996 was the second of his record 80 career ARCA Menards Series wins. The only previous win on Kimmel’s impressive resume was at Toledo Speedway in May 1994.
Five drivers have started from the General Tire Pole at Five Flags: Rich Bickle (1992), Tim Steele (1993), Gary Bradberry (1994), Doug Reid III (1995) and Bobby Bowsher (1996).
For the first time since 2012, an ARCA Menards Series race will have a No. 21 in the field. Series officials have kept that number off the track out of respect for 55-time race winner, three-time series champion and five-time owner’s champion Jack Bowsher who used the No. 21 throughout his illustrious career. The last time the Bowsher family entered a race was the fall race at Salem in 2012; Bob Strait finished 33rd after an accident sidelined him early in the race. Sam Mayer will carry the No. 21 on his GMS Racing-prepared Chevrolet at Five Flags.
The ARCA Pensacola 200 will be Ron Drager’s 486th race as president of ARCA. His first race as the organization’s president was the series’ last visit to Five Flags in 1996, when he assumed the leadership role after ARCA’s previous president Bob Loga perished in an automobile accident the previous weekend. Drager’s tenure as president, now in its 24th season, is second only to his grandfather John Marcum. Marcum served as ARCA president from the time of its founding in 1953 through his untimely passing in 1981.