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Dean Scores Emotional Win At Daytona for Venturini’s 100th in ARCA


Gus Dean Celebrates Emotional ARCA Victory At Daytona (Photo: Cornnell Chu/The Podium Finish)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Gus Dean and the Venturini Motorsports Toyota team took home an emotional win early Saturday morning after making a last-lap pass on his teammate, Jake Finch, who ended up wrecked in Turns 3 and 4 in a multi-car collision with several other drivers.

The win was an emotional win for Dean as he recently lost his grandfather a few weeks ago. The victory was also special for the Venturini Motorsports camp as they took home their 100th career team victory in the ARCA Menards Series.

“I started racing when I was four years old at a tiny little dirt track in South Georgia,” Dean said in a FOX frontstretch interview with Amanda Busick. “I spent a whole lot of miles, a whole lot of work, and a whole lot of people behind me. My grandad came to every race I ever ran and every single one of them, he would tell me ‘to get what I can.'”

“Tonight, we got what we could. It might not be the (Daytona) 500, it might not be the biggest race, but it is the biggest coliseum. For a small-town kid from Bluffton, South Carolina, this is everything.”

In what was originally scheduled to be a Saturday afternoon race, ARCA officials decided to move the race up to late Friday night following the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race due to forecasted inclement weather on Saturday. The race got underway shortly before midnight with polesitter, Willie Mullins and Tim Richmond leading the field to the green flag.

Just like the Truck Series race, a big crash erupted early on. Entering Turn 1 on just the fourth lap, Dean threw a late block on teammate Toni Breidinger, causing her to get bobbled up in a pack of cars before eventually spinning out. Numerous drivers were involved, taking out nearly half the field. Drivers such as Ed Pompa, Tanner Gray, Kris Wright, Amber Balcaen and Chicago Cup Series winner Shane Van Gisbergen were among the handful involved.

Another caution came out a few laps later for debris. Mullins ended up striking the debris, which caved in his front bumper. Meanwhile, as yellow flags began littering the race, Venturini teammates Jake Finch and Dean stayed in contention through the halfway break at Lap 40.

Right at the break, a caution came out on the backstretch for a wreck involving Mullins, Leland Honeyman Jr, Armani Williams, Dale Quarterley and Marco Andretti.

As the race went back green, the race settled down a little bit before the action started heating up again. Likely the biggest incident of the night saw the second major crash with 19 laps to go when the No. 99 of Michael Maples got turned around and tagged the No. 69 of Scott Melton. As Melton came down the track, Mullins plowed into the back of his car. The race went red flag momentarily to allow safety officials to get to Mullins’s car.

Fortunately, Mullins exited uninjured from his beaten-up Chevrolet. The red flag lasted seven minutes and 42 seconds.

After the crash, a restart came with 12 laps to go with Finch and Dean on the front row. Finch, who was on the high lane, came down to the low lane so the two could draft with each other. The tandem duo was racing cleanly before a late-race caution was seen with four laps to go when Andretti blew a right-front tire and smacked the wall entering Turn 1.

Shortly after hitting the wall, Andretti’s car caught on fire, but he got it to the grass and the fire was extinguished. With the late yellow, there would be an overtime restart. Once the leader takes the green flag, the white flag is also displayed at the same time. If there is a yellow, on the last lap, the race is over.

On the final restart of the night, Finch and Dean were in the top two spots — Finch on the outside, Dean on the inside. Dean got a great advantage getting out front, while Finch began losing momentum on the outside, he began losing momentum on the backstretch. Looking for one last gasp of hope, Finch briefly started to rally back to the front until he was turned into the outside wall, and then the big one broke loose with most of the field involved.

With the caution coming out, Dean was the leader at the time and eventually the winner. The victory was Dean’s third of his ARCA Menards Series career in 65 starts.

“The Venturini Motorsports cars always work really well with each other, we always try to do the teammate restarts,” Dean said about the late-race restart. “I love Jake (Finch), he’s a great kid and he’s a hell of a racecar driver, he has a big bright future ahead of him. I just didn’t have it in me to do the restart teammate with one lap to go. I had a little bit of a special reason for tonight and I came here with one mission.”

There were nine cautions for 49 laps and 11 lead changes among six different drivers. Dean led twice for one lap en route to victory.

Dean, Thomas Annunziata, Greg Van Alst, Christian Rose, Tim Richmond, Jason Kitzmiller, Gil Linster, Alex Clubb Amber Balcaean and Andy Jankowiak rounded out the top 10 finishers and were the only cars on the lead lap.

Up Next: The ARCA Menards Series will head west to Phoenix Raceway in what will be an ARCA Menards West Series combination race, on Friday, March 8 live on Fox Sports 1.


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