ARCA Daytona Veterans Provide Thoughts on "Smooth, Easier" Track
(TOLEDO, Ohio) - Between them, nine-time ARCA Racing Series champion Frank Kimmel and six-time Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart have made 42 ARCA starts at Daytona International Speedway. With the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 - the opener for the 59th season of ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards action - just over one week away, the two drivers and several other Daytona veterans gave their expert thoughts on the 2.5-mile superspeedway's newly-paved surface and the way racing action will change.
Frank Kimmel, No. 44 Ansell/Menards Ford (19 starts, seven top-fives, 10 top-10s):
"Well, from the grandstands, I think it's going to be a better race for the fans. You'll be able to run two- and three-wide all the way around. As for the drivers, the track's easier to drive; it's got so much grip and it's so smooth. You don't have the issues you had with the track in the past so I think you'll see bigger groups running together all the way around. It should make the drivers more confident and should be an exciting race."
Bobby Gerhart, No. 5 Lucas Oil Chevrolet (23 starts, six wins, eight top-fives, 12 top-10s):
"If history repeats itself, and it usually does, I think we'll see a very good race. I go back to Talladega. When Talladega was newly paved, it was the most passing we had seen there in a long time. The only glitch is that we've got the same basic aero package we had then but we're two notches down on the restrictor plate now. So if I had any reservations for Daytona, it's that I just don't know based on the maneuverability of the cars based on the drag power, or the power we don't have, I should say. When Talladega was paved, it was the most passing we've seen, but that was on a 29/32nd (of an inch)-stamped plate. Now we're on a 27/32nd (of an inch)-laser cut plate. Each one of the moves has moved the power meter down. Every time you do that, it makes the cars a little harder to maneuver. You'll have to calculate more in how to make a pass. It doesn't mean you can't pass, but you're going to have to plan ahead more. The track itself - they did a beautiful job. Like I've always said, it's going to be a privilege to race there."
Steve Arpin, No. 25 Mike's Hard Lemonade Toyota (two starts, one top-10):
"I think you'll definitely see a better race. You'll see a lot closer racing with bigger packs, much like you do at Talladega; but Daytona will have its own unique characteristics. The transition (at Daytona) off the banking is a lot more aggressive than it is at Talladega, so it's a much faster transition at Daytona. I think Daytona's going to be the best of both worlds - tighter, cleaner racing, and more aggressive. From the fan's perspective, that means a tighter, better race all the way around - bigger groups, more bumper-to-bumper. And from the driver's perspective, handling won't be the issue it used to be on the old track, so the drivers are going to be a lot more comfortable in the cars. One thing's for sure, being the first stock car race on the track, there's going to be a lot of eyes on us, which will make it even more exciting. You take the bumps out, smooth like it is, and we're all going to feel like Superman out there. It's going to be so cool; I can't wait."
(Arpin competed at Daytona in the NASCAR Nationwide Series last season, finishing a career-high 10th).
Tim George Jr., No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet (two starts, one top-10):
"The new racing surface at Daytona has tons of grip and is great to drive on. I just finished the Rolex 24 weekend there, and the banking feels like it's a lot smoother. I think this will yield closer and more exciting racing. I know my confidence is up after a great test with RCR in the ARCA Racing Series a few weeks ago. There's a bump low between (Turns) 3 and 4, but other than that the surface is much smoother than the old track. I think the set-ups will be a lot more like Talladega - which I love. Just set the car to go fast since handling is less important now. Of course, everything will change in a big draft.
"Testing helps at a superspeedway like Daytona, but we did not draft at all at the ARCA open test. We are scrambling to get my backup car together and didn't want to risk hurting the primary - especially since it's so good! (Earnhardt Childress Racing) does a great job with their plate motor package and my guys have worked hard to get this car right. We are going back to Daytona to compete for the win.
"ARCA will be the first series to run in a large draft at Daytona on the new pavement. Hoosier builds us a great tire to run on. I'm excited to get back down to Daytona - most of my days in 2011 so far have been at Daytona. With Rolex and ARCA testing, then the Rolex 24, I'm feeling right at home there."
(George competed in the Grand Touring segment of the Rolex 24 at Daytona last week and was part of a TRG Motorsports team that finished 13th in the class.)