ARCA East: Max Gutierrez Scores First Career Win; Controversy Fills Air at New Smyrna Featured

Tuesday, Feb 09 447

Max Gutierrez entered the ARCA Menards Series East opener on Monday with no wins.

Gutierrez, 18, from Mexico City, left the season opener with his first career East victory in a thrilling three-wide finish at the stripe in ARCA Overtime. 

“I can’t believe it,” said a happy Gutiérrez in Victory Lane. “To qualify second was a surprise for me, but the last green-white-checkered, I was thinking OK (running third), this is good for the championship.”

Gutierrez, riding inside the top 10 for the majority of the race at New Smyrna, led only the most important lap of the night in his No. 30 Tough Built Ford with owner Mark Rette. The young driver rebounded from a hiccup at the initial start of the race that sent cars left and right around Gutierrez.

“But on the last corner there were battling for first and I saw an opportunity and I took it,” Gutierrez described the last lap. “I’m very happy and proud of the team and my sponsors TOUGHBUILT, Telcel, TekNekk and Avaya, I can’t thank them enough for everything. This is a great, great start toward the championship.”

The young driver will leave the 0.480-mile oval with his first top five and top 10 finish across the East and West divisions.

Along with rain, controversy filled the air at New Smyrna Speedway involving three drivers...

ARCA sent out a team information bulletin Dec. 21st outlining pit stop rules for the upcoming 2021 season. For events in which modified live pit stops occur, teams can only change two tires at a time. Teams are allowed to pit and change the other two tires if they choose … so long as they do so in two separate pit stops.

Mason Diaz and Sammy Smith came to pit road a lap earlier than they should have under the scheduled competition caution at halfway. Taylor Gray followed the procedure correctly and restarted third … while Diaz and Smith restarted upfront. 

Rain hit as the field worked under a caution flag for debris … resulting in a lengthy red flag period with six circuits remaining. ARCA race control reviewed the situation during the red flag and decided to penalize Sammy Smith on the restart with three to go. Mason Diaz, who don’t forget pitted early along with Smith, was scored as the leader on the restart with three to go without receiving a penalty. This placed Gray second on the leaderboard for the restart.

Then, coming off turn four on the white-flag lap, Gutierrez managed to pull ahead by a fender over second-place finisher Sammy Smith; while Gray battled both drivers on the outside to finish third. 

“Basically, I mean, just last lap deal. He tried to move me and … didn’t do it right. Whatever. I’m not gonna say too much more before I get in trouble,” said a frustrated Taylor Gray after the race.

Mason Diaz and Joey Iest rounded out the top five.

Daniel Dye, Colt Hensley, Brandon Oakley, Parker Retzlaff and Willie Mullins rounded out the top 10 finishers.

The Jeep Beach 175 will air on NBCSN on February 15th at 10:30 p.m. ET.

The next race on the ARCA Menards Series East calendar will be at Five-Flags Speedway on February 27th. The event will air live on NBC Sports Gold TrackPass.

Brett Winningham

Brett has been following the sport of NASCAR since the beginning of the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Since Brett was 13, he has had a passion of chasing a job in sports that not many get the opportunity of doing. He has been in the NASCAR media since the middle of the 2010 season. Since then, he has been a part of many racing podcast shows to improve his talents. You can find him on twitter @NASCAR_Brett.