ARCA OPENS 2005 SEASON WITH BIG NUMBERS presented by Advance Auto Parts
Nearly 60 Cars Practice In Hopes Of Making Daytona by Jeremy Troiano
The first of the big national Short Track Series officially opened their 2005 season on Thursday at one of the biggest tracks on the schedule.
The ARCA Re/Max Series began the year with impressive numbers at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. As the track officially opened for practice, a total of 58 cars took times, with several impressive “big names” at the track to join the ARCA regulars.
Kluever is one of several big guns that are at the track racing “one-off” races. Kluever, whose ride is a former Matt Kenseth Cup car, is at the track just hoping to get some more drafting experience leading up to his debut in the #50 Roush Craftsman Truck next weekend at Daytona.
Bobby Gerhart (#5) and Blake Feese (#94) were two of the best cars on Thursday. (51 Photos)
Looking at the time sheet, there wasn’t much surprise as to who was up top. The defending and six-time ARCA Series Champion, Frank Kimmel, led the practice sheets after the afternoon’s drafting practice, followed closely by Roush Racing’s Todd Kluever.
“We struggled quite a bit this morning,” said Kimmel, “but the car really took off during the afternoon drafting session. All we need to do it get a good top-10 qualifying run in and we’ll go from there. The car drafted really well and that bodes well for the race.
“Here, it is all about who you are out there drafting with.”
And Kluever isn’t the only “outsider” in Daytona for the race. Several others, including Tim Steele, Larry Foyt, JJ Yeley, David Ragan and even Super Late Model standout Eddie Mercer is at the track hoping to not only make the race, but to also find Victory Lane.
“I just don’t know where all the money comes from,” added Kimmel. “This is an expensive race to come run. But I don’t blame people. When you pull in the gate and you see that is says Daytona Speedway, you just realize how cool this is.”
After Kimmel and Kluever, the favorites for Saturday and for Friday’s qualifying round could come from the Gerhart camp. Bobby Gerhart Racing (BGR) has two cars in the field and a third that is actually a Hendrick Motorsports ride, but whose driver has spent time behind the wheel of a BGR car before.
Todd Kluever is making his first career ARCA start at Daytona.
Kyle Krisiloff is driving Gerhart’s #7, while Gerhart himself is piloting the flagship #5. Blake Feese, a two-time winner with BGR last year, is piloting the same car that Kyle Busch drove to victory in last year’s Daytona ARCA race and the same car he won with at Talladega last season.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a couple of weeks now,” said Krisiloff. “We didn’t really have a good test a few months ago, but everyone really did their homework and the car has been so fast today, it is unbelievable.
“We really only did like 10 laps in the draft during the afternoon because the car was so good. It gave me a good enough idea as to what the race will be like.”
NASCAR Southeast Series regular Robert Richardson is making yet another ARCA Series start (his second career) and first at Daytona. This year, he is working with Bob Schadt Motorsports, although his car looks eerily familiar to his #33 SES car.
Kyle Krisiloff (#7) was one of the most consistant cars on Thursday in both single-car and drafting practice.
Krisiloff was the fastest in single-car practice Thursday morning, followed by Gerhart. In drafting practice, he was third quick with Gerhart fourth.
“(Bobby) helps me out quite a bit, but there again, he is a race himself, so he wants to try to keep a little bit of an advantage. He’s helped me just about as much as anyone else in my career. He just comes here with the attitude that he wants all of us to finish up front.”
ARCA regular Christi Passmore had early problems, as her #91 blew an engine early in the morning practice. Passmore was then forced to practice some in the team’s second car, which is being run this weekend by Paul White.
“We got hooked up with Bob through Stuart Kirby,” said Richardson. “We struggled with the car today, but it is getting better. We were really better in the draft than we were on single car runs. We could push a car really well, but we weren’t very good out front. We’ve got another practice to actually get it better.”
Walt Brannen was fifth quick in afternoon practice, followed by Mercer, Feese, defending Rookie of the Year TJ Bell, Billy Venturini and Steele.
Joey Miller and Matt Hagans have team cars at Daytona this weekend. Both were in the top-15 in single-car practice, but slipped a little down on the sheets in drafting practice, although both also ended the day early.
Christi Passmore's team changes engines in the #91 on Thursday afternoon.
Friday will bring another practice and qualifying for Saturday’s 200-lap event.