ARCA NOTES: DAYTONA THURSDAY By Jeremy Troiano and Matt Kentfield
Brannen Fast, Gogel Unhurt, Blount Helping & More
DEFENDING CHAMP FAST, HAPPY
Bobby Gerhart, the defending ARCA Daytona 200 winner, wasn’t on the track much Thursday. He was the fastest in Thursday morning’s practice session, and then topped the charts early on in the second session. After that, the #5 team closed the garage doors and called it a day early; partly because his car was good and ready and partly because one of his team cars, the #7 driven by Andrew Myers, was not running up to par.
LAMAR STILL UPBEAT DESPITE LACK OF TRACK TIME
One of the NASCAR Nextel Cup-affiliated teams that looked to have a stout showing in Thursday’s practices was the Kevin Harvick, Inc. entry of Burney Lamar. The former NASCAR West Series star plans to run several ARCA races in addition to his full Busch Series schedule for Harvick, but his Daytona Speedweeks haven’t gotten off to a good start.
“Well, we’ve been here for two days and we’ve only gotten seven laps,” said Lamar. “We’re having some drivetrain problems right now, let’s just say that.”
“I didn’t want to do any kind of race run today because there are cars out there today that won’t be there come race time,” said Gerhart. “This other car we weren’t happy with, so we wanted to focus on it.”
Things look very positive for Gerhart to make it back-to-back on Saturday afternoon. He also remains a threat for the pole, which would be his fourth at Daytona should he win it.
“I think there is more pressure on you when you come back after winning the thing,” added Gerhart. “It seems it will be a bigger surprise now if we don’t run well.”
Ron Hornaday is in Lamar’s pit area this weekend, as the former Craftsman Truck champ is serving as a mentor for the young Lamar. Even though the team has struggled with their car, Hornaday and Lamar are able to joke around about it.
“This has all made Hornaday and the rest of the boys here get very dirty,” joked Lamar.
While Lamar says the team’s fighting drivetrain issues, Hornaday has a different philosophy.
“We’re just testing the skills of the crew for 2006,” said Hornaday. “We know Burney’s good, we just want to see what everyone else around here has.
Even with the joking around, Lamar is still appreciative of all the help that his KHI team provides for him.
“As much as we have fun, Ron’s been very good to me in getting accustomed to this kind of racing. He’s been taking care of me, pretty much. Between him and Rick Carelli, I’ve got some good guys to learn from. Plus Harvick is a pretty good guy to learn from too. It’s pretty cool to be in that kind of company.”
PETER SHEPHERD IS LIVING THE GOOD LIFE
One year ago, Canadian Peter Shepherd was unloading his Super Late Model at New Smyrna Speedway getting ready for Speedweeks.
Gerhart's #5 car didn't get much attention on Thursday afternoon. (51 Photos)
Ron Hornaday (L) is at Daytona helping out Burney Lamar (R).
Shepherd is just serving a crew member this weekend, but helping him become familiar with the team.
“It was their idea to get me out here and just help get acquainted with the team. I’m out here as a worker and that is what I’m going to do.”
Shepherd won’t forget his short track roots though.
“There are stipulations in my deal where I can run stuff on weekends, as long as I can find the right stuff to get into. I am aiming for maybe eight races in ARCA, but they aren’t sure yet. Anytime I can get in a car though, I’m going to get in a car.”
In fact, on Sunday, he gets to test a Silver Crown car at Homestead with Roush teammate Carl Edwards.
LAST MINUTE OK WITH BRANNEN
Monday morning, Walt Brannen was planning to watch this weekend’s Daytona race at home. Now, he’ll be watching it from behind the wheel. And he might be out front of the pack, if Thursday’s practice sessions predict anything.
“We are excited. We knew we had a good car. We did a lot of work on it over the winter. Last minute, Monday night, (team owner) Brack (Maggard) told us to come on down and have fun and we can’t complain now.”
The late decisions proved to pay off for the #65 team. Brannen was in the top 10 in both practice sessions.
“The car seemed to be just as good in the draft as it was last time. We’ll just have to wait and see, but I’m way excited.”
ENGINE CHANGE WON’T SLOW VENTURINI
Billy Venturini was not a happy camper on Thursday. His car was not up to par and he was just 42nd in the first practice session.
This year, Shepherd was at Daytona, helping unload the #39 ARCA car that Danny O’Quinn will pilot in Saturday’s ARCA 200 for Roush Racing.
Later this year, Shepherd will also race the #39 after he was recently signed up to a driver development contract with Roush.
“I feel great,” said Shepherd on Thursday. “This is the beginning of a dream come true. This is all I’ve ever wanted to do. Now, being in the infield at Daytona is a great thing. Last year, I was in the infield at New Smyrna and it is a totally different atmosphere. I’m really excited.”
Peter Shepherd helps to push the #39 of Roush teammate Danny O'Quinn.
As for the engine change… while the team was doing it, Venturini just walked away, obviously frustrated.
“I don’t know why it ended up getting changed, but it needed to be changed.”
GREEN #59 HAS NO GIBSON
It isn’t uncommon to see the green Williams Bros. Lumber #59 cruising around Daytona. But it is a little weird to see Mark Gibson standing in the garage area, and not behind the wheel, while the car in on the track.
The team then decided that things needed to change. And that change came in the engine department.
“We were just junk horrible this morning. Now we are just horrible. So I guess we are improving,” said Venturini, who is returning to Daytona for the first time since his accident last year which resulted in a broken neck.
“We are ok. We are struggling. We have a couple of other things to throw at it though. We’ll probably end up qualifying mid-pack. Hopefully, it will race well.”
The #25 undergoes an engine change.
Gibson has moved from the driver’s seat to the pit box for Daytona, handing the reigns of his car over to Ryan Howard.
“It isn’t weird,” said Gibson on Thursday. “Not so far at least. Maybe come race time it will be a little weird. We’ll just have to wait and see I guess.”
Last year, Gibson talked about how he didn’t like running at Daytona after getting involved in yet another multi-car accident.
This year, he is trying to teach Howard how to avoid some of those disasters.
“Daytona is a tough place to get a true test on someone. It is aggravating and tough. It can be really frustrating. There isn’t much you can tell him about those big wrecks. You really can’t teach anyone anything about those. You just got to keep him calm and get his ready for whatever might come his way.”
BARNHART ATOP SPEED CHART, BUT WHO IS HE?
The drivers that were expected to be at the top of the speed charts after Thursday’s practice sessions were there. Bobby Gerhart, Matt Hagans, and the Cup-affiliated entries of Stephen Leicht, Matt McCall, and Justin Diercks were all in the top-10 speed listing all day. But nobody expected to see the name Greg Barnhart near the top of the charts.
Nobody except for Barnhart, that is. The Oklahoma City, OK native is a veteran of dirt, legends, and late model racing in and around his hometown, but he knows that he belongs with the best of the best.
“We kind of went up and down on the speed chart a little bit, but we’ve been pretty confident that we’ve got something good to work with,” said Barnhart.
While the Cup-affiliated teams are the favorites in Saturday’s race, Barnhart isn’t worried about the talent and big money that those teams brought to Daytona.
“This is a family team, my dad Les owns the team. We have no Cup affiliation by any means. The closest we’ve got is a buddy of mine, Ron Barfield, who is helping us out this weekend. He’s run the Craftsman Truck Series before and some Busch races, so having him help out and spot for me has been a big help. But we’ve shown that we can be good out there and I think we could be as good as fifth or so in qualifying.”
SUPER SUB BLOUNT
Chad Blount might be considered a jack of all trade… especially if those trades are driving different racecars.
Mark Gibson and Ryan Howard look under the hood of the #59.
On Thursday, Blount spent time in two different cars, running practice for two different teams. He turned some laps in the #75 Bob Schacht Motorsports car, then got behind the wheel of the #56, which is serving as a backup car for Matt Hagans.
“I’m just trying to help some people out,” said Blount. “I’ve got a lot of laps here in Cup cars, Busch cars and ARCA cars. My deal here with Matt right now is just to try and help him out a little bit. I’m just trying to get him a little extra information for his car.
“The deal with Bob Schacht is that his driver didn’t have a physical. So the car was ready to go on the racetrack
but the driver wasn’t. So I jumped in there for some laps.
I’m just having fun and it is nice to get to help some people out.”
EARLY CRASH PUTS DAMPER ON GOGEL’S DEBUT
Florida Late Model star Amanda Gogel had high hopes for her Daytona International Speedway debut this weekend. Gogel looked to kick off her Speedweeks by qualifying for and racing well in Saturday’s ARCA 200 before taking on some of the best short track racers in the country at her home track of New Smyrna Speedway all next week.
Unfortunately for Gogel things didn’t get off to a good start on Thursday. Early in the first afternoon session, Gogel spun her Ralph Solhem owned #01 on the backstretch, causing extensive damage to the rear end of her car, which is running as a team car to the #00 of Ed Kennedy.
“When I came off of turn two, my spotter told me I was running a good line,” said Gogel. “I guess we ran over a piece of metal out there and my left rear tire went out. I spun and the back end of the car hit the inside wall. The crew was able to get everything fixed so far, so we should be able to get out there tomorrow for qualifying. I wish what happened out there hadn’t happened here today, but we’ll try to get it out there tomorrow.
Gogel plans to make six ARCA starts with Ralph Solhem Racing in 2006.
Chad Blount helps push the #56 out to pit road. It was one of two cars that he piloted on Thursday.