Make no doubt about it, the annual Speed Weeks has arrived at the Daytona International Raceway. The garage area is filled to capacity with cars and team members, the racing media are all over the place and so are the fans who turned this annual pilgrimage to Daytona Beach-Florida into a dream come true motorsports vacation.
Another Daytona Speed Weeks tradition is set to present itself on Saturday, February 15th. It's the Automobile Racing Club of America, better known as ARCA-presented by Menards. This very popular and historic series will kick off season 2014 at Daytona with their annual running of the Lucas Oil 200, Presented by MAV TV-American Real.
ARCA's prominent history actually began in 1953 and quickly became a show case for the young and talented drivers who were seeking a racing format to launch their great American dreams. The series is perfect for racing newcomers because of its diverse racing schedule that includes super speedways, such as Daytona and Talladega, intermediate sized tracks, short tracks, road courses and there's even some bullring style dirt tracks on the schedule.
Over the decades, since the 1950's, the series has indeed launched the careers of some very prominent names. That list includes: Iggy Katona, Jack Bowsher, Benny Parsons, Ramo Stott, Jim Sauter, Kyle Petty, Tim Richmond, Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch just to name a few.
The modern day version of ARCA racing is also loaded with a group of young great American dream chasers that includes the likes of Mason Mitchell, John Wes Townley-the defending race champion, Justin Boston, Will Kimmel, Spencer Gallagher and Mason Mingus.
This group will be joined in Saturday's race by a group of young drivers from NASCAR's Generation Next who will be using the Lucas Oil 200 to gain additional seat time at Daytona as they prep for new careers in NASCAR's Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. This group includes the likes of Jeb Burton, Chase Elliott, Dylan Kwasniewski, Justin Allison and the aforementioned John Wes Townley.
The young stars will be blended in with some true ARCA veterans who have become the series' heroes over the years. That list is absolutely topped by Frank Kimmel. The 51 year old Indiana native has been a prominent fixture with ARCA Racing since 1991. He has a chart topping ten series' championships and 80 wins.
However, the one aspect of ARCA Racing that has eluded Kimmel is a series win at Daytona. He has scored eight top five finishes in 22 consecutive starts there. The 2014 season has brought major change for this series champion. He will be driving for a brand new team. Kimmel will be making his debut in the seat of the #44 Ansell-Menards Toyota for Win-Tron Racing owned by Kevin Cywinski and Nate Thiesse. Kimmel would just love to score his first Daytona win on Saturday for his new owners.
Still another ARCA veteran that should be carefully watched is Pennsylvania's Bobby Gerhart, the driver of the #5 Lucas Oil-MAV TV Chevrolet. Gerhart has been a prominent fixture in the series since 1988. Gerhart practically owns the ARCA Series victory lane ceremony at Daytona. From 1999 to 2012, he's hosted that party a record setting eight times.
Saturday's Lucas Oil 200, presented by MAV TV-American Real, will be 80 laps/200 miles around Daytona's 2.5 mile tri oval and its 31 degree high banks. The race will be broadcast live by Fox Sports 1 beginning at 430pm eastern time. Replays will be aired by Fox Sports 2 on Sunday at 7pm et and by Fox Sports 1 on Monday at 12pm et.
Traditionally, the ARCA season opener at Daytona is a very exciting race, one that will be well worth your television viewing time.