Daytona season opener preview

Record ARCA RE/MAX Series/Daytona Entries for 43rd Running; Field Full of Flavor DAYTONA BEACH FL (2-3-06) - Excitement, anticipation and wonder are just a few words to help describe the overall theme for the season-opening ARCA RE/MAX Series...

Record ARCA RE/MAX Series/Daytona Entries for 43rd Running; Field Full of Flavor

DAYTONA BEACH FL (2-3-06) - Excitement, anticipation and wonder are just a few words to help describe the overall theme for the season-opening ARCA RE/MAX Series event at Daytona Int'l Speedway. At present, a Daytona/ARCA record 71 top-notch teams have filed entries for the 43rd running of the Daytona ARCA 200 Saturday afternoon, February 11th, LIVE on SPEED at 4 PM Eastern. The event annually rates respectably well in Nielsen Ratings, and for the last two years, has been among SPEED's top-10 highest rated programs of the entire year. From a quality standpoint, the 2006 Daytona ARCA 200 arguably represents the most competitive field ever assembled in series history, now in its 54th consecutive season. This year's RE/MAX Series race will serve as a preamble for Saturday night's NASCAR Nextel Cup Bud Shootout.

From 18 years young to 71, the entry list, representing 22 states and Canada, is jam-packed with flavor from a wide variety of origins.

Seven-time series champion Frank Kimmel is the only former RE/MAX Series champion entered. As Kimmel prepares to chase an eighth title in 2006, a Daytona victory still eludes the Clarksville, Indiana driver; and it's not like he hasn't been close. Kimmel's career-best finishes at Daytona are second in '05 & '04 and third in '01 & '02. In addition to the ARCA 200, Kimmel's Daytona exploits this year include the Crown Royal IROC Series, which is scheduled to roll off on Daytona's high-banks Friday afternoon, February 17th at 6 pm. Kimmel's participation in the renowned series marks the first time in history that an ARCA RE/MAX Series driver will compete in IROC.

Three-time Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart ('05, '02 & '99) will be aiming for what would be a record fourth Daytona victory. Gerhart and the late Iggy Katona are the only 3-time Daytona ARCA 200 winners. In addition to Gerhart's three wins there, the Lebanon, Pennsylvania veteran is the only ARCA RE/MAX Series driver in history to win three consecutive Pork Pole Awards at Daytona ('05, '04 & '03). Gerhart's average finish at Daytona since his inaugural victory there in '99 is 4.4.

Driver development entries for the Daytona ARCA 200 are especially stout this year. Robert Yates Racing, Evernham Motorsports, Kevin Harvick, Inc., Roush Racing and Ganassi Racing are just a few familiar NASCAR names that will be competing. From the Yates ranks, Justin Diercks, Stephen Leicht and Matt McCall have all pre-entered the event. In addition, Cunningham Motorsports has entered Ganassi Racing's Scott Lagasse, Jr., as part of their Dodge Driver Development Program while Burney Lamar is entered a Kevin Harvick Chevrolet. Series veteran Erin Crocker, who finished second at Kentucky Speedway in 2005, is also entered in an Evernham Motorsports '06 Charger with title sponsorship from Hamburger Helper. And Roush Racing has also entered Danny O'Quinn in a Roulo Brothers Ford.

Florida flavor is abundant in this year's field with eight drivers entered from the sunshine state. Those drivers include Scott Lagasse (Jacksonville), Tim Russell (Longwood), Mario Gosselin (Lake Wales), Johnny Leonard (Cape Coral), Steve Bramley (Sarasota), Dawayne Bryan (Lake Alfred), Drew White (Inglis) and Amanda Gogel (Port Orange). While Lagasse, Russell and Gogel will be making their first series attempts, Gosselin, Leonard, Bramley, White and Bryan are veterans of the tour. Gosselin won two ARCA races at Lowe's and Nashville whereas Bryan won at Chicagoland last year in his rookie season.

As is typical of any ARCA RE/MAX Series starting field, the entry list has its share of second-generation ARCA drivers, three of which are sons of former series champions. Entered are Todd Bowsher, whose father Jack Bowsher won ARCA national titles in 1963, '64 & '65; Billy Venturini, whose father Bill Venturini won titles in '87 & '91 and 18-year-old Billy Leslie, whose father Tracy Leslie won the title in '88. All three ARCA championship fathers are expected to be at Daytona to assist in their sons' efforts. Other second-generation drivers entered include Kimmel, whose father, Bill Kimmel, Sr., won three ARCA races during his career and Scott Lagasse, whose father Scott Lagasse, Sr. won an ARCA road course race on the streets of Des Moines, Iowa in 1994.

From the open-wheel ranks Brian Tyler, Justin Allgaier, Tony Ave, Christi Passmore and Erin Crocker lead the charge. Tyler, a two-time USAC National Sprint Car champion, made five RE/MAX Series starts in '05 producing immediate results with a second place finishing position at Berlin. Allgaier, who also has a solid history in the RE/MAX Series with career-best finishes of second at Springfield and Toledo, is a veteran of USAC Midget and Silver Crown competition, and made the A-Main for this year's Chili Bowl in Tulsa. Both Passmore and Crocker are graduates of winged sprint car racing. Crocker is still the only female driver in history to win a World of Outlaws-sanctioned A-Main event. Ave is a graduate of the USAC Sprint, Midget and Silver Crown divisions. In fact, open-wheel grads reflect well overal in the history books; we know that Ryan Newman and the late Kenny Irwin were Daytona ARCA 200 winners in their career-first Daytona starts; Newman in a Penske Racing Ford, and Irwin in a Robert Yates Racing Ford.

2005 ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series champion Brett Rowe is entered in the Day Enterprises #90 Chevy Monte Carlo. The event will mark Rowe's career-first ARCA RE/MAX Series attempt. He'll be driving for the same team that David Ragan drove for in 2005. Ragan, in 19 starts in the car, posted one victory at Lanier among 8 top-five and 11 top-10 finishes. Ragan, who now has a fulltime ride with Roush Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, also won three Pork Poles in 2005. RE/MAX Series veteran Brandon Knupp, who finished a career-best sixth in points in 2005, is also a graduate of the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series.

ARCA/NASCAR veteran driver James Harvey Hylton, at 71, is the oldest driver entered in the field. Harvey, who finished second in NASCAR Nextel Cup Series points three times, once to David Pearson in his rookie '66 season and twice to Richard Petty, has 41 career RE/MAX Series starts with a career-best finish of sixth at Daytona in 1975. According to Harvey, the Inman, South Carolina driver, who earned 321 top-10 finishes over more than 600 NASCAR Cup starts, plans on competing in all 23 RE/MAX Series events in 2006, all part of his farewell tour to his driving career.

There are four female drivers entered including Erin Crocker, Christi Passmore, Amanda Gogel and Jayme Beck. Crocker, who finished second at Kentucky in '05, is tied with Shawna Robinson, who finished second at Daytona in '99, as the highest finishing female drivers in series history. Passmore, in 65 career series starts, finished a career-best third at Chicagoland in 2004. Gogel and Beck will be making their career-first series attempts at Daytona. No female driver has ever won an ARCA RE/MAX Series race.

Seven drivers have won from the pole in the Daytona ARCA 200: Benny Parsons '69, Andy Hampton '72, Iggy Katona '74, Woody Fisher '77, Jeff Purvis '93, Andy Hillenburg '97 & Bobby Gerhart '05. Interestingly, no driver has repeat wins in consecutive years.

RACE WINNERS AT DAYTONA SINCE 1964 (42 events): 3 -- Bobby Gerhart, Iggy Katona; 2 each - Andy Hampton, Ben Hess, Andy Hillenburg, Jimmy Horton, Jeff Purvis; 1 each - Grant Adcox, Charlie Blanton, Jack Bowsher, Kyle Busch, Woody Fisher, Mickey Gibbs, Ferrel Harris, Ron Hutcherson, Kenny Irwin, Ralph Jones, David Keith, Ralph Latham, Chase Montgomery, Ryan Newman, Benny Parsons, Kyle Petty, Lennie Pond, John Rezek, Tim Richmond, Joe Ruttman, Jim Sauter, Glenn Sears, Nelson Stacy, Ramo Stott, Mike Wallace, Rick Wilson.

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Series ARCA
Drivers Kyle Petty , Kevin Harvick , Shawna Robinson , Mike Wallace , Ryan Newman , Frank Kimmel , Tony Ave , Chase Montgomery , Andy Hillenburg , Jeff Purvis , Joe Ruttman , Bobby Gerhart , Richard Petty , Jim Sauter , Todd Bowsher , Brian Tyler , Benny Parsons , Erin Crocker , Scott Lagasse Jr. , Burney Lamar , Robert Yates , Johnny Leonard , David Ragan , Mario Gosselin , Justin Allgaier , Stephen Leicht , Danny O'Quinn , Dawayne Bryan , Matt McCall , Brandon Knupp , Tim Russell , Justin Diercks , Brett Rowe , Billy Leslie , Kyle Busch , David Pearson
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Yates Racing