NOTEBOOK: Landon Huffman ready for return to ARCA competition in Salem

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Landon Huffman is enjoying a career resurgence.

The 26-year-old driver from Claremont, North Carolina, recently won his first Hickory Motor Speedway Late Model Stock Car Track Championship, an honor he now shares with his father, two-time Hickory Champion Robert Huffman.

Not too long ago, young Huffman was unsure of his future in the racing world.

Huffman made his ARCA Menards Series debut in 2016 driving for Venturini Motorsports, starting fourth and finishing 16th at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway. In the years that followed, he also made five starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but could only get a better finish of 16th in 2019 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Fast forward to Saturday’s Herr’s Snacks 200 at Salem Speedway, and Huffman, who is still rightly celebrating his championship at Hickory, is set to return to the ARCA Menards Series through a partnership with team owner Jeff McClure.

ARCA in Salem: List of entries | Full calendar of events

“I’ve been friends with Jeff McClure for quite a while. He’s also friends with my uncle, so he’s been a family friend for a long time,” Huffman said. “Jeff actually ran the crew for me when I drove for Venturini in 2016. I actually scouted Jeff for most of that year, so I’ve had a good working relationship with him too , both inside the car and at the observers’ stand.

“Last year Jeff went out and made his own deal. He had other drivers in [the car]and I’ve been in contact with him back and forth, and that if the opportunity arose for me to sit in the seat, we would try to do so.

Huffman’s performance this year at Hickory, which included three wins in addition to his season championship, allowed him to muster the sponsorship needed to climb back into an ARCA Menards Series entry for the first time since 2016.

“After the deal with Hickory ended and we won the championship there, I had a few opportunities from a few companies to raise some money, and Jeff had the seat open,” Huffman said. “He called and asked if it was something I was interested in and if it was something we thought we could raise money for.”

Huffman has never raced at Salem Speedway, but he has been there and worked there as a spotter, so he knows the way the track goes. He hopes his experience at Hickory, another track with an old and abrasive surface, will help him on Saturday afternoon.

” I’ve been there many times. I think the place is great,” Huffman said of Salem. “It’s an incredible short track. He has a lot of character. Old worn sidewalk. Lots of tire wear.

” I can not wait to be there. Salem is a different animal, but I think with my experience on worn race tracks and being a bit older, I don’t think it will be too difficult for me to adapt. I’m just ready to go out and get a feel for everything.

Venturini takes on KBM for ARCA owner’s title

Jesse Love (#20) and Sammy Smith (#18) in action during the Menards 250 for the ARCA Menards Series at Elko Speedway in Minnesota on June 25, 2022. (Matt Krohn/ARCA Racing)

The battle for the ARCA Menards Series Drivers’ Championship comes down to the wire between Nick Sanchez and Daniel Dye, with the two drivers separated by just five points with two races to go in the season.

In the owner classification, the battle is just as intense between Venturini Motorsports and Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Going into the Herr’s Snacks 200 at Salem Speedway on Saturday, the #20 Venturini Motorsports team holds a six-point advantage over the #18 Kyle Busch Motorsports team for the ARCA Menards Series Owners Championship.

The No. 20 team has visited Victory Lane three times this year, with Corey Heim taking victories at Daytona International Speedway and Kansas Speedway and Jesse Love triumphing at Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Meanwhile, the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports entry picked up four wins. With Sammy Smith at the wheel, the team won trophies at Berlin Raceway, Elko Speedway, the Milwaukee Mile and Bristol Motor Speedway. Drew Dollar also rode the No. 18 in four events with a best finish of seventh.

The No. 18 team, owned last year by Joe Gibbs Racing, recently won both owners’ and drivers’ championships. Ty Gibbs rode wins No. 18-10 en route to a season championship sweep in 2021.

Will Kimmel, driver of the #69 Kimmel Racing Ford, looks past the Atlas 100 for the ARCA Menards Series at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois on August 21, 2022. (Jeff Curry/ARCA Racing)
Will Kimmel, driver of the #69 Kimmel Racing Ford, looks past the Atlas 100 for the ARCA Menards Series at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois on August 21, 2022. (Jeff Curry/ARCA Racing)

A home race for Will Kimmel

The Kimmel family has a long history at Salem Speedway, and Will Kimmel has done his best to carry on that family legacy.

The 34-year-old from nearby Clarksville, Indiana is a multiple winner at Salem Speedway in Super Late Model and Grand American Stock Car competitions.

In fact, when Kimmel made his Salem Speedway Super Late Model debut in 2006, he became the first driver in track history to win on his first Super Late Model start. A year later, he won the Super Late Model track championship at Salem at the age of 19, the youngest driver to do so. He added a second track title in 2019, when he won the Great American Stock Car Championship.

Most recently in Salem, Kimmel captured the annual Great American Stock Car Halloween 200 race in 2021. He became the third member of the Kimmel family to win the event, joining his uncle Frank Kimmel and cousin Frankie Kimmel as event winners.

The Kimmel clan also saw ARCA success in Salem, with Frank Kimmel taking nine of his 80 series wins on the legendary short track. Will Kimmel continues to chase after his first ARCA win, but he’s come close to Salem before. He has four top-five finishes on the ARCA competition track, including a second result in 2011 for recent NASCAR Cup Series winner Chris Buescher.

Will Kimmel was also there last year, finishing fourth behind winner Jesse Love, Ty Gibbs and Rajah Caruth.

REMARKS:

  • Jesse Love returns to Salem Speedway as the reigning race winner. Last year he took the late lead from Ty Gibbs and earned his first ARCA Menards Series victory. He added his second ARCA triumph earlier this year at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
  • Ed Pompa is back for his third season debut in the ARCA Menards Series this weekend at Salem Speedway. He finished 20th at Pocono Raceway and 17th at Watkins Glen International this year.

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