Rookie No More: Tom Hessert Ready to Make the Most of Cunningham Motorsports Ride TOLEDO, Ohio (January 23, 2010)--Tom Hessert doesn't consider himself a seasoned veteran in the ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards but with 45...
Rookie No More: Tom Hessert Ready to Make the Most of Cunningham Motorsports Ride
TOLEDO, Ohio (January 23, 2010)--Tom Hessert doesn't consider himself a seasoned veteran in the ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards but with 45 career starts in the nationally touring sanctioning body he's not a raw rookie either. Hessert, who enters the 2010 ARCA Racing Series under the Cunningham Motorsports banner, a team with Penske affiliations and serious validation after leading Parker Kligerman to nine race wins and a near-championship last year, knows that the upcoming season may prove to be his break out year.
"I really don't like the term veteran," said Hessert. "That makes it seem like I've been around for a while, and yes, I've been around, but I'm still learning a lot. I will start calling myself a veteran when I start maxing out on everything I want to achieve in ARCA. Kerry Scherer and Briggs Cunningham have built up such a phenomenal program and this year will really be my best opportunity to win races and the championship.
"Everyone from Paul Andrews, who is the General Manager of the entire operation, to Jonathan Davis who came with me to Cunningham from RAB Racing and who is working primarily on the 22 car....It doesn't matter what team you are assigned to at Cunningham, both the 22 and the 77 work together and that is huge. John Monsom is my crew chief this year and I've been spending the last week and a half working one-on-one with him just trying to get to know him and build up a relationship with him. So far it's going really well. Paul Andrew's son, Tim, is my car chief and spotter and I can already tell that we have a good line of communication open together and we will work well together. Really, I'm in the best position to advance my career."
Part of that career advancement includes making the most of testing opportunities. Hessert and his teammate Dakoda Armstrong are among several drivers heading to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend to prepare for the February 6 Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona Int'l Speedway (live on SPEED at 4 p.m. Eastern). One of the advantages of having a couple of solid years of experience in the ARCA Racing Series is that Hessert is familiar with restrictor plate racing and has had successes at both Daytona and Talladega, the two tracks on the ARCA Racing Series schedule in which Series Officials mandate the use of restrictor plates. He earned the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell at Talladega in 2009 and qualified second at Talladega in 2008. And in addition to solid qualifying efforts, the New Jersey native has produced solid race results; finishing sixth at Daytona in 2008 and tenth at Talladega in 2009.
"I remember sitting at home and watching these Talladega and Daytona races on television years ago and just thinking that the two tracks were very similar," said Hessert. "Now that I've raced on both of them I know that's not accurate at all. You get spoiled by racing at Talladega-it's smooth and easy to drive-but Daytona is very bumpy and the car just doesn't handle as well. For testing purposes it's fine because we are mainly just looking for speed. We'll get the car dialed in at Talladega this weekend and get the most speed we can out of it and when we go back to Daytona for the race we will work on handling. If you're not starting on the pole it doesn't really matter where you start as long as your car sucks up good to the cars around it and you are good in the draft."
Hessert, Armstrong, and the Cunningham Motorsports team will be joined at the Talladega Test by drivers and teams just as focused on winning as they are-including five-time Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart (Bobby Gerhart Racing), open-wheel driver-turned stock car racer Milka Duno (Stringer Motorsports), southern-based Late Model ace Hal Martin (Mark Gibson Racing), veteran Series driver James Hylton (Hylton Motorsports) and nine-time ARCA Champion Frank Kimmel (Kimmel Racing). With so many drivers investing the time to test in the weeks leading up to Daytona it is clear that Hessert will face some stiff competition come February 6.
"What I really want is a championship," said Hessert. "Yes, winning is important. If you're leading laps and winning poles eventually you're going to put yourself in the position to win races and when those race wins add up you find yourself battling for a championship. The problem is that I am not the only driver who wants that. There are a lot of good guys in the Series and my goals are like everyone else, which makes it tough.
"I've got 40 competitors with the same exact plans as me but I feel like I've put myself in the best position to succeed."
Hessert and the Cunningham Motorsports Team begin the 2010 ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards with the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona Int'l Speedway on Saturday, February 6, 2010.