ARCA RE/MAX Series Wraps Up 3-Day Test at Daytona Int'l Speedway; 3rd-Generation Racer Will Kimmel, Veteran Patrick Sheltra Quickest Overall; Logano, Carmichael, Hamilton, Gerhart, Jones Among the Testers DAYTONA BEACH FL (12-21-08) -- On the ...
ARCA RE/MAX Series Wraps Up 3-Day Test at Daytona Int'l Speedway; 3rd-Generation Racer Will Kimmel, Veteran Patrick Sheltra Quickest Overall; Logano, Carmichael, Hamilton, Gerhart, Jones Among the Testers
DAYTONA BEACH FL (12-21-08) -- On the heels of a race event title sponsorship announcement, the ARCA RE/MAX Series wrapped up a three-day open test at Daytona Int'l Speedway over the weekend during which 62 drivers participated in preparation for the 46th annual and newly-named Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 coming Saturday, February 7th, 2009.
Several series regulars, an abundant collection of newcomers and an interesting combination of big names shared headlines throughout the open test under sunny skies and high temperatures in the low 80s.
Morning and afternoon test sessions Friday, Saturday and Sunday were divided up in separate single car runs and separate drafting runs.
Among the drivers who tested in the single car runs, third-generation ARCA racer Will Kimmel, nephew of nine-time series champion Frank Kimmel, circled the "World Center of Racing" quickest overall with a time of 49.730 seconds, for an average speed of 180.977 mph.
Kimmel, in the no. 44 Kimmel Racing Ford Fusion, attributed his on-track performance to, "Ford" and "an experienced crew."
Steve Blackburn, in his own Dodge Charger, was second quickest overall among those who made single car runs with a speed of 180.955 mph.
"We put on a new set (of tires) and they hooked up," said Blackburn. "The test was a real boost to our team; we can walk out of here with our heads held high. Just hope we can come back in February and do it again."
Blackburn was also second quickest overall among those who made runs in two separate drafting sessions Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
However, ARCA RE/MAX Series regular Patrick Sheltra, in a Dodge Charger, posted the quickest time of the entire three-day test in the Saturday afternoon drafting session during which the Indiantown, Florida driver set the bar with a top speed of 183.846 mph.
"We weren't planning on drafting right away but we found ourselves right in the thick of the draft in our first three laps on the track and the car drafted brilliantly," Sheltra said. "We just wanted to make sure it could suck up. It did that and more. I can't take credit for everything. These guys that work on these racecars are the best and it's because of their hard work that we're sitting atop of the charts."
Newcomers' JR Fitzpatrick, Parker Kligerman, Mikey Kile, and Beau Slocumb also showed promise in the draft as each spent time near the top of the charts.
Several teams with multi-car efforts participated including Bobby Gerhart Racing, Eddie Sharp Racing, TRG Motorsports, Venturini Motorsports, Andy Belmont Racing and Jones Group Racing to name a few.
Gerhart, a five-time ARCA winner at Daytona, tested several different drivers including Gomez, AJ Henriksen and Joey Coulter.
Gerhart's team was one of the first to drive through the gates and one of the last to leave Sunday night.
"If there were five days, I would be here for all of them," said Gerhart. "We try to get here first and we're always the last to leave. That lesson was taught to me a long time ago."
Gerhart, who hails from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, works tirelessly on his Daytona International Speedway cars and says that every year the field of drivers only gets tougher.
"The field is great," Gerhart said of the 2009 entry list. "I know when I come here I become a very unpopular guy. In a way, it's going to sound odd, but that's a pretty big complement. That really goes to the level of exposure that this place has brought to this race.
"I've always felt that coming here to Daytona is a huge privilege for anybody. Just coming to the garage and be a part of this thing let alone get on the race track and in my case be unbelievably fortunate to win one (race) and looking back on it to be where we're at today. I never could have envisioned that."
Big names garnering headlines during the test included Joey Logano, Ricky Carmichael, Bobby Hamilton, Jr. and PJ Jones, all of whom spent time behind the wheel over the weekend.
Logano, testing under the Joe Gibbs Racing banner with Venturini Motorsports, took his first laps around the legendary motorsports facility.
"I'm just getting as many laps as I can and learn as much as I can," Logano said, who will replace Tony Stewart as the driver of the Home Depot Toyota in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2009. "I've got a big year ahead on the Cup side . . . whatever I can do to make myself better."
Logano is preparing to pull off the Saturday night doubleheader at Daytona.
"I'm doing it," Logano added of his busy DIRECTV Speedweeks 2009 schedule. "I'm running both races (ARCA and Budweiser Shoot Out) and then I've got the Nationwide race with the Game Stop Toyota and then running the Cup race with the Home Depot Toyota. Between all that, I've got my hands full."
Toss in the Gatorade Duel At Daytona 150-mile qualifying races, Logano will be racing five events during DIRECTV Speedweeks.
Carmichael, a five-time Daytona Supercross By Honda champion, added stock cars to the list as he too participated in the three-day ARCA RE/MAX Series test.
"This is what it's all about; when you hear about Daytona, it's stock car racing," Carmichael said. "I'm having a great time here. This race track has a lot of character and a lot of history. This is what I want to do. I've been around here in a sports car and obviously a motorcycle a time or two. I'm just glad to be in a stock car. This is a dream of mine and I'm glad to have the opportunity to do that."
Carmichael, utilizing the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA RE/MAX Series race at Daytona as a tune-up for the 250-mile NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona, tested a Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc.
"We want to obviously get the car as fast as we can for qualifying and then drafting practice and see how the car drafts and make it handle as good as we can and do good in the actual race," Carmichael said of this weekend's testing goals. "For us, the main thing is going to be drafting practice and see how the car handles."
Local Daytona Beach native/favorite Alli Owens was also on hand for the three-day test. The 20-year graduate from Atlantic High in Port Orange, in a D'Hondt Motorsports-prepared Toyota, was fourth fastest in the Saturday morning session.
"Every time I come back to Daytona, it's always a special thing because I'm the hometown girl," Owens said. "This is the first year in a Toyota and a new team with D'Hondt Motorsports and my sponsors that we still have with Electrifying Careers.com.
"Coming out here and seeing my name up front on the sheets for the last couple of days is exciting and cool. That's something that's never been never done before by me. It's nice to see my name up there and hopefully it's going to stay there."
The Saturday afternoon, February 7th Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona Int'l Speedway is LIVE on SPEED.