By: Tadd Haislop
ARCA Menards Series East Bounty Rookie of the Year: Sammy Smith
As was the case in the overall ARCA Menards Series East championship battle, multiple drivers were in the mix for the series’ rookie of the year crown.
And as was the case in the title race, ultimately, nobody could stop Sammy Smith from rising to the top.
Smith, the 17-year-old from Johnston, Iowa, won the Bounty Rookie Challenge title in the East Series by 18 points over Daniel Dye, the driver he also beat in overall series points. Both titles were well-deserved for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
Driving the No. 18 Engine Ice Toyota, Smith led all East Series regulars in wins (three), top fives (seven), top 10s (seven), laps led (396) and average finish (4.3). There was no doubt he was the driver to beat in the series all season, even as a rookie.
In fact, omitting the four East Series races Smith’s JGR teammate Ty Gibbs won — three of which were combination events with the ARCA Menards Series — Max Gutiérrez was the only East Series driver not named Smith who won a race this season.
Gutiérrez did it in the season-opener at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway with a dramatic pass in the final corner. Smith finished second.
He was that close to completing a JGR sweep of all races in the series in 2021. A series championship and a Bounty Rookie Challenge title, though, will do nicely.