After Qualifying, ARCA Race Will Be One To WatchBy Chris Knight
Practice for the 44 teams on the grounds was cut short on Thursday afternoon after Mother Nature drenched the 2.5-mile superspeedway after just an hour and a half of the anticipated four hour run. For some, the weather left a soggy taste in their mouths, for others they were glad they participated in the open-test session back in December.
Qualifying took center stage at the “World Center of Racing” a tick after 2:00 p.m. Friday afternoon and it was evident based on pre-season testing and Thursday’s shortened practice that the potent Venturini Motorsports team were expected to be a factor to claim the top-spot.
They didn’t disappoint.
All said and done and approximately two hours after it started, John Wes Townley in the No. 15 Zaxby’s Toyota Camry captured his first ever ARCA pole after turning a lap of 49.638 seconds at 181.313 miles per hour.
Although it was Milka Duno in the No. 35 CANTV / Milka Way Toyota Camry that in many eyes stole the spotlight from her teammate after rocketing to her career-best qualifying run by rounding up the second quickest lap, a little over two-tenths of a second behind Townley’s lap.
Veteran Daytona racer and defending champion Bobby Gerhart qualified third in his No. 5 Lucas Oil / MAVTV American Real Chevrolet followed by Venturini Motorsports’ third entry driven by NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie Darrell Wallace Jr.
The first of two Frenchmen in the field Julian Jousse qualified his No. 94 Dave Leiner Racing / Barbarac.fr Toyota Camry fifth in Milka Duno’s old ride. Grant Enfinger in one of two entries for Team BCR Racing qualified sixth while Ricky Ehrgott in the Coulter Motorsports’ entry will lineup seventh while defending ARCA champion Chris Buescher starts eighth.
Mason Mingus in his Daytona debut will start his first full-season of ARCA competition rolling from ninth with veteran Tom Hessert in his Cunningham Motorsports return completes the top-10.
The Turner Scott Motorsports entry driven by Kyle Larson will make his Daytona debut from 11th in the No. 4 Cessna Chevrolet Impala. Ken Schrader Racing’s Chad Boat, son of former IZOD IndyCar Series driver Billy Boat lines up 12th with freshman Justin Boston in the fourth and final Venturini Motorsports entry in 13th. The time trials run for Boston in the No. 25 ZLOOP Toyota Camry was quite surprising considering he was one of the fastest cars in December and in practice. Many though don’t expect the full-time rookie driver to stay outside the top-10 for long.
Michel Disdier making his ARCA return in a second Cunningham Motorsports entry qualified a strong 14th in his No. 22 auto-us.com Dodge Charger. He was trailed by NASCAR Camping World Truck Series sensation Brennan Newberry in his own NTS Motorsports entry.
Veteran Mark Thompson in the second Turner Scott Motorsports ride landed in 16th while last year’s runner-up finisher Drew Charlson starts 17th, while 2012 ARCA Daytona pole sitter Sean Corr in his No. 82 Empire Racing Ford Fusion will look to draft from 18th.
The Kimmel’s will occupy row 10 with nine-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel in 19th and nephew and last season’s third-place finisher Will Kimmel in 20th.
Caleb Armstrong who tested for Venturini Motorsports in December will make his Daytona debut behind the wheel of the No. 6 Eddie Sharp Racing Chevrolet in 21st, followed by Bo Lemastus (22nd), Mason Mitchell (23rd), Martinsville Speedway track president Clay Campbell in 24th and Canadian Terry Jones in 25th.
Donnie Neuenberger who didn’t turn a lap of practice Thursday afternoon successfully made his way onto the grid with the 26th fastest lap. Owensboro, Kentucky native Brett Hudson starts 27th with Benny Chastain back with Bob Schacht Motorsports right behind in 28th in toe with Matt Kurzejewski 29th and Josh Williams, the final car to qualify on-time in 30th. Williams experienced motor fatigue in practice yesterday forcing his Josh Williams Motorsports team to change engines Friday morning.
With ARCA shortening it’s starting fields for 2013, the traditional top-32 qualifiers were axed to just 30 and the final 10 starting spots were yielded for provisional starters.
Roger Carter who obtained the owner points from CGH Motorsports and driver Chad Hackenbracht last year netted the first safe spot into the race with 31st.
Spencer Gallagher in the No. 23 Allegiant Air Chevrolet starts 32nd followed by rookie Steve Kemp, Thomas Praytor, Galen Hassler, Ed Pompa, Rick Clifton, James Hylton, Dexter Stacey and Buster Graham round-out the starting line-up for the 40-car field.
Hylton will make his third and final Daytona start after announcing earlier this week that 2013 will be his retirement tour. Pompa makes the field after losing an engine in his first lap of practice Thursday afternoon.
Four drivers who had hoped to be racing in the race, but missed the show were Andrew Gresel, Brent Cross, John Ferrier and George Cushman.
Additionally, four drivers (Darrell Wallace Jr., Kyle Larson, Brennan Newberry and Dexter Stacey) are running the Lucas Oil 200 presented by MAVTV American Real in order to gain approval from NASCAR to compete in either the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series or NASCAR Nationwide Series season-openers next weekend. Pending their performance, all are expected to be cleared to compete.
After carefully reviewing the starting lineup, unfortunately, the dreaded “big one” is highly likely with several young and inexperienced drivers poised to make their ARCA debut Saturday afternoon. In all, 19 drivers will make their first Daytona start while nine drivers will make their inaugural ARCA debut.
Who’s going to win? Well, at this point that’s anyone’s guess. The Venturini Motorsports posse will be tough to beat but you cannot count out the veterans of Bobby Gerhart, Chris Buescher , Tom Hessert, Mark Thompson, or Frank Kimmel.
But, there are also plenty of young and comers ready to win in ARCA’s biggest race of the year. Early-race favorites Darrell Wallace Jr., Mason Mingus Kyle Larson, Chad Boat and Brennan Newberry are all expected to be a threat.
But can she do it? Can Milka Duno pull off the upset? Will the Caracas, Venezuela native become the first winner in ARCA’s 61-year history? It’s Daytona, anything can happen.
Sleepers you ask? Well, there’s those too. Julian Jousse, Justin Boston, Michel Disdier, Drew Charlson, Will Kimmel, Caleb Armstrong, Josh Williams – the list goes on and on.
I’m getting a headache just thinking about who will the biggest race of their career, but one thing is for certain, if you’re not attending the race, strap yourself down in front of a television (4:30 p.m. SPEED), because the ARCA race is bound to produce all the fireworks that you’ll need to get revved up for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Sprint Unlimited set to launch at 8:00 live on FOX.
Follow Chris Knight on Twitter @Knighter01.
Views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Catchfence
Article Tags: ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona presented by MAVTV American Real