KIMMEL TOUGH TO BEAT AT DAYTONA TEST presented by Advance Auto Parts
Leicht and Tracy Also Share Spotlight in Their First ARCA Rides by Matt Kentfield
There was an understatement heard the most during the weekend’s ARCA RE/MAX Series test session at Daytona International Speedway: Bobby Gerhart is fast.
Rainclouds and puddles were all that could stop Bobby Gerhart at Daytona. (51 Photos)
The three time and defending Daytona ARCA winner has shown the rest of the ARCA field that he’s going to be the man to beat again when the series opens the 2006 season at Daytona on February 11th. Gerhart was the fastest driver in Friday afternoon’s and Saturday morning’s on-track sessions.
“It’s been a great test,” said Gerhart. “We came down here with five cars, two of which are for me to use and shake down as primary cars for the race in February. We worked really hard on all the cars to get them up to speed and the cars that I was running were right there on time. We’ll see how things shake out when it counts, though.”
All eyes were on Gerhart's #5 and the #11 that open wheeled star Paul Tracy was driving at Daytona.
“The car is really good,” said the 2005 ASA Late Model Series Champion Leicht. “I was able to get the hang of the track pretty early and it showed with our times. We’ve thrown a bunch of things at the car to see what can make us better and I’m happy with how things turned out. Basically it was good to be fast, but it’s a big head start being able to work with the guys so that we’ll be strong for the race.”
Another driver looking for some extra seat time by testing at Daytona on Friday was open wheel star Paul Tracy. It’s no secret that the Canadian has been digging for a stock car ride for the past few seasons, and it appears that one is lining up for the 2003 Champ Car champion. Tracy hopes to be announcing an eight to 10 race deal in the NASCAR Busch Series for 2006 with Biagi Brothers Racing, starting with the race in Daytona in February. In order to get a jump start to his Busch debut, Tracy turned to Andy Hillenburg for a little extra track time.
Gerhart focused on getting his two Chevrolets ready for the race during the weekend’s test, but his attention was also divided by preparing cars for young drivers who were behind the wheel of identical #5 machines to get experience at the 2.5 mile superspeedway. G.R. Smith, Willie Allen, Andrew Myers and Ian Henderson all saw time on the track in one of Gerhart’s entries. With so much going on in Gerhart’s garage, the driver helped the young drivers as much as he could but focused on the task at hand; winning a fourth Daytona 200.
Stephen Leicht took right to Daytona.
“I basically took half of the first day just getting the other cars shaken down myself, said Gerhart. “Once I was happy with how they felt, I let them get in the cars while I focused on my cars that I wanted to get ready for the race, the car I ran here last year and the one we used at Talladega last year. “We put some guys in our other cars that wanted to get a chance to run here. They’re all kids that have come to me that wanted to get approved to race in ARCA and we were able to put them behind the wheel.”
The only two names that were able to top Gerhart atop the speed chart were rookie sensation Stephen Leicht and Mother Nature. Leicht piloted his Robert Yates Racing Ford to the top of the list in Friday morning’s practice, while rain showers forced the cancellation of Saturday afternoon’s and all of Sunday’s on-track activities.
we got a feel for it right away and we ran pretty good (Friday) afternoon. We ended up fifth fastest and the car felt really good. We were just making some changes just so I could feel what it’s like all day. Andy was really trying to get me to feel what certain changes do to the car so I can have a better feel for the car when I come here to race.”
“Andy’s been real helpful in trying to help me get into NASCAR, and before I tested with Childress earlier in the year I ran one of his cars just to get familiar with what stock car racing is all about,” said Tracy. “Andy told me that he had an extra car going down to Daytona for testing this weekend. He wanted me to come down and drive it for the day and that way when you come back I’ll be up to speed. That way I won’t be searching around trying to figure out what to do when I get here in February.”
Even for one of the most accomplished open wheel racers, being able to run at over 180 miles per hour on the historic high banks of Daytona is a pretty special feeling. When you can finish the day fifth fastest, it’s an even bigger rush.
“This place is cool,” said Tracy. “It’s definitely different than what I’m used to and the cars are really different. Luckily