NEWTON, Iowa: On the heels of a top-10 finish this past Saturday night at Elko (Minn.) Speedway, ARCA Menards Series regular Joe Graf Jr. (@JoeGrafJr.) treks to Iowa Speedway with his Chad Bryant Racing (CBR) team seeking his second top-five of the year in Friday night’s Fans with Benefits 150.
It wasn’t that long ago that Graf Jr. made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at the 0.875-mile short track with Richard Childress Racing (RCR) where he fought for a respectable top-20 finish.
Taking the knowledge of his Xfinity Series experience, plus his recent ARCA test at the Midwest oval, Graf Jr. hopes all the dots will connect and offer an opportunity to contend for his second career win on July 19.
“Been looking forward to going back to Iowa for the last couple of weeks,” said Graf. “It’s a cool short track and without a doubt the more laps I circle around there – I feel like the better I get it.
“We really need to have a strong run on Friday night. It hasn’t been the season we had been hoping for, but we still have a bunch of races stacked on the schedule and I’m hoping we can turn some heads this season.”
For Graf Jr., the short track scene is one the recently turned 21-year-old embraces and while he expects a tough field this weekend, he’ll make no excuses to maneuver himself through the field and put his Mooresville, N.C.-based team in the heat of the battle.
“Iowa is a place with multiple grooves,” added Graf Jr. “That’s what is so fun about Iowa. It’s a place where you can run the top, middle and bottom – but you need to have a car that rotates good. Tire strategy has proven to be an indicator too.
“Four tires will often be better than two or none, but that’s just circumstances. We’ll just have to race hard for 150 laps and hope the fans will benefit in the end.”
For the 14th straight race, EAT SLEEP RACE, a racing lifestyle apparel company headquartered in New Jersey returns as the primary sponsor of Graf Jr.’s No. 77 Ford for the 150-lap race.
“It’s been so great representing EAT SLEEP RACE this year,” added Graf Jr. “I’ve noticed a lot more talk about them, especially since they’ve been on the Xfinity car the last couple of weeks. We just launched an official Joe Graf Jr. Driver Collection line and I’m looking forward to adding items to that collection here in the next month or so.”
Getting back into the short track mindset, Graf Jr. is well aware that Friday night’s race could be decided with a little aggression that could entail a bump and run. Known as one of the more physical drivers in the series, but Graf makes no apologies for his driving style.
“It’s hard to get into Victory Lane, so you have to get up on the wheel and do what it takes,” he said. “I want to win. I thrive on winning and when you’ve had the year that I have, I make no mistake about doing what I can to put our Chad Bryant Racing team in Victory Lane. I respect my competitors but at the same time, I have a job to do.
“Sometimes being aggressive can get you in trouble, but for me, if being aggressive and sometimes even using the fenders propels our team forward, then it’s something I shouldn’t apologize for.”
Entering Iowa, Graf Jr. has 32 ARCA Menards Series starts to his credit with one win (Berlin (Mich. Raceway, 2018), seven top-five and 32 top-10 finishes to his credit. After 13 races, he stands fifth in the championship standings with seven races remaining.
In addition to his ARCA Menards Series presence, Graf Jr. has made two NASCAR Xfinity Series starts for Richard Childress Racing aboard the No. 21 Chevrolet Camaro. He’ll compete in at least two more at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Richmond (Va.) Raceway respectively.
The Fans with Benefits 150 (150 laps | 132 miles) is the 14th of 20 races on the 2019 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards schedule. Practice begins Fri., July 19 with an hour and 30-minute practice session planned from 11:45 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. General Tire pole qualifying is set for later in the day at 3:45 p.m. The race is set to take the green flag shortly after 8:00 p.m. The event will be televised live on MAVTV. ARCARacing.com will also stream live timing and scoring throughout the day’s festivities. All times are local (Central).
About EAT SLEEP RACE:
EAT SLEEP RACE (eatsleeprace.com) is a racing lifestyle apparel company based out of New Jersey. Since 2001 the brand has offered a full product line including accessories and apparel for men’s and ladies. As one of the pioneers of motorsports apparel, the brand has deep roots in the racing industry and was created to offer fresh designs for all racing enthusiasts.
The company has expanded to now offer a dedicated children’s product line of apparel and accessories branded as the Fast Kids Club with it’s hot selling ABC book for future race car drivers.