|Concord, North Carolina (May 22, 2017) – Venturini Motorsports (VMS) turned in solid performances across the board this weekend in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards thanks to the driving efforts of teenage rookies Zane Smith, Christian Eckes and Natalie Decker in Sunday’s Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care at Toledo Speedway.
It was seventeen-year old Zane Smith topping the trio of talented drivers with a fourth-place finish behind the wheel of his No. 55 La Paz-Icon Vehicle Dynamics Toyota Camry. Smith, a native of Huntington Beach, CA and one of the most recent selections in this year’s 2017-18 NASCAR Next Class of drivers set a new ARCA career best with Sunday’s finish.
“We’re happy with the way it ended…bummed on how we started,” said Smith. “I slid in some water on pit road and stalled the car and lost a lot of positions. Our car was good…we just need to be a little better. We got a push when the sun came out.”
After missing Daytona and Talladega earlier in the year due to ARCA age restrictions, Zane Smith is set to compete in the remainder of the season schedule with VMS’ 55-team. Smith, with five career starts, improves his mark with 4 top-10 finishes to go along with his first top-5 in the series.
Christian Eckes continued his strong season start leading laps in his third consecutive series race en route to his fourth career top-10 finish. After starting second on the gird, Eckes, a sixteen-year old high school honor student, wheeled his No.15 New York Bus Sales Toyota Camry to an eighth-place finish.
“Our time is coming,” said Eckes. “We’ve had strong Toyota’s in each and every race out this season. We’re getting close – just need to put together a full race. This fifteen-team continues to bring great equipment and my crew chief Jeff McClure is great to have in my corner. I’m still learning and my confidence continues to grow. I’m excited to get back at it at Elko, we should have a great shot.”
Among the early season series leaders in laps led, Eckes has become a legitimate contender each and every week he straps himself into his racecar. In just seven series starts the Middletown, NY Native has improved his series stats with four top-10 finishes including three-in-a-row this season. Eckes will compete in six more series events this season including Elko Speedway early next month.
Newcomer, Natalie Decker out of Eagle River, WI, lived up to pre-race hype scoring an impressive 11th place finish in her highly anticipated ARCA Series debut at Toledo on Sunday. Decker, a nineteen-year old driver and fan favorite impressed behind the wheel of her VMS prepared No.25 N29 Capital Partners Toyota Camry by racing most of the day inside the top-10 running order.
Checking pre-race nerves aside Decker exceeded expectations during her maiden series voyage running a near flawless 200-lap event, finishing on the lead lap and returning to the garage without a scratch on her Toyota Camry.
“I can’t thank everyone at Venturini Motorsports and N29 Capital Partners enough for this opportunity,” said Decker. “I was really nervous at the onset but once I put my helmet on it was just like every other race. My crew chief, Dave Leiner, was absolutely amazing this weekend providing me the extra confidence I needed. Dave brings a lot of experience to the program and helped me adjust in my transition from the super late models I’m use to running to these bigger-heavier ARCA cars.”
Decker, who signed on with VMS earlier in the season will compete in the next two series events at Elko Speedway and Pocono Raceway.
The series will break for the Memorial Day weekend and return to action for the Shore Lunch 250 at Elko Speedway on Saturday, June 3.