ARCA Wraps Up Three-Day Test at Daytona by ARCA PR
2009 Season Opener is Coming Up in February
On the heels of a race event title sponsorship announcement, the ARCA RE/MAX Series wrapped up a three-day open test at Daytona Int'l Speedway over the weekend during which 62 drivers participated in preparation for the 46th annual and newly-named Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 coming Saturday, February 7th, 2009.

Several series regulars, an abundant collection of newcomers and an interesting combination of big names shared headlines throughout the open test under sunny skies and high temperatures in the low 80s.

Morning and afternoon test sessions Friday, Saturday and Sunday were divided up in separate single car runs and separate drafting runs.

Among the drivers who tested in the single car runs, third-generation ARCA racer Will Kimmel, nephew of nine-time series champion Frank Kimmel, circled the "World Center of Racing" quickest overall with a time of 49.730 seconds, for an average speed of 180.977 mph.

Kimmel, in the no. 44 Kimmel Racing Ford Fusion, attributed his on-track performance to, "Ford" and "an experienced crew."

Steve Blackburn, in his own Dodge Charger, was second quickest overall among those who made single car runs with a speed of 180.955 mph. 

"We put on a new set (of tires) and they hooked up," said Blackburn. "The test was a real boost to our team; we can walk out of here with our heads held high. Just hope we can come back in February and do it again."

Blackburn was also second quickest overall among those who made runs in two separate drafting sessions Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

However, ARCA RE/MAX Series regular Patrick Sheltra (right), in a Dodge Charger, posted the quickest time of the entire three-day test in the Saturday afternoon drafting session during which the Indiantown, Florida driver set the bar with a top speed of 183.846 mph.

"We weren't planning on drafting right away but we found ourselves right in the thick of the draft in our first three laps on the track and the car drafted brilliantly," Sheltra said. "We just wanted to make sure it could suck up. It did that and more. I can't take credit for everything. These guys that work on these racecars are the best and it's because of their hard work that we're sitting atop of the charts." 

Newcomers' JR Fitzpatrick, Parker Kligerman, Mikey Kile, and Beau Slocumb also showed promise in the draft as each spent time near the top of the charts.

Several teams with multi-car efforts participated including Bobby Gerhart Racing, Eddie Sharp Racing, TRG Motorsports, Venturini Motorsports, Andy Belmont Racing and Jones Group Racing to name a few.

Gerhart, a five-time ARCA winner at Daytona, tested several different drivers including Gomez, AJ Henriksen and Joey Coulter.

Gerhart's team was one of the first to drive through the gates and one of the last to leave Sunday night.

"If there were five days, I would be here for all of them," said Gerhart. "We try to get here first and we're always the last to leave. That lesson was taught to me a long time ago."

Gerhart, who hails from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, works tirelessly on his Daytona International Speedway cars and says that every year the field of drivers only gets tougher.

"The field is great," Gerhart said of the 2009 entry list. "I know when I come here I become a very unpopular guy. In a way, it's going to sound odd, but that's a pretty big complement. That really goes to the level of exposure that this place has brought to this race.

"I've always felt that coming here to Daytona is a huge privilege for anybody. Just coming to the garage and be a part of this thing let alone get on the race track and in my case be unbelievably fortunate to win one (race) and looking back on it to be where we're at today. I never could have envisioned that."

Big names garnering headlines during the test included Joey Logano, Ricky Carmichael, Bobby Hamilton, Jr. and PJ Jones, all of whom spent time behind the wheel over the weekend.
Logano, testing under the Joe Gibbs Racing banner with Venturini Motorsports, took his first laps around the legendary motorsports facility.

"I'm just getting as many laps as I can and learn as much as I can," Logano said, who will replace Tony Stewart as the driver of the Home Depot Toyota in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2009. "I've got a big year ahead on the Cup side . . . whatever I can do to make myself better."

Logano is preparing to pull off the Saturday night doubleheader at Daytona.

"I'm doing it," Logano added of his busy DIRECTV Speedweeks 2009 schedule. "I'm running both races (ARCA and Budweiser Shoot Out) and then I've got the Nationwide race with the Game Stop Toyota and then running the Cup race with the Home Depot Toyota. Between all that, I've got my hands full."

Toss in the Gatorade Duel At Daytona 150-mile qualifying races, Logano will be racing five events during DIRECTV Speedweeks.

Carmichael, a five-time Daytona Supercross By Honda champion, added stock cars to the list as he too participated in the three-day ARCA RE/MAX Series test.

"This is what it's all about; when you hear about Daytona, it's stock car racing," Carmichael said. "I'm having a great time here. This race track has a lot of character and a lot of history. This is what I want to do. I've been around here in a sports car and obviously a motorcycle a time or two. I'm just glad to be in a stock car. This is a dream of mine and I'm glad to have the opportunity to do that."

Carmichael, utilizing the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA RE/MAX Series race at Daytona as a tune-up for the 250-mile NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona, tested a Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc.

"We want to obviously get the car as fast as we can for qualifying and then drafting practice and see how the car drafts and make it handle as good as we can and do good in the actual race," Carmichael said of this weekend's testing goals. "For us, the main thing is going to be drafting practice and see how the car handles."

Local Daytona Beach native/favorite Alli Owens was also on hand for the three-day test. owensincardaytonatest08.jpg

The 20-year graduate from Atlantic High in Port Orange, in a D'Hondt Motorsports-prepared Toyota, was fourth fastest in the Saturday morning session.

"Every time I come back to Daytona, it's always a special thing because I'm the hometown girl," Owens said. "This is the first year in a Toyota and a new team with D'Hondt Motorsports and my sponsors that we still have with Electrifying

"Coming out here and seeing my name up front on the sheets for the last couple of days is exciting and cool. That's something that's never been never done before by me. It's nice to see my name up there and hopefully it's going to stay there."

The Saturday afternoon, February 7th Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona Int'l Speedway is LIVE on SPEED.

ARCA RE/MAX Series Open Testing  
Daytona Int'l Speedway, Daytona Beach FL
December 19, 20, 21, 2008    
Overall Single Car Runs    
1 44 Will Kimmel 49.730 180.977 Ford
2 69 Steve Blackburn 49.736 180.955 Dodge
3 14 Tom Hessert III 49.738 180.948 Ford
4 74 JR Heffner 49.751 180.901 Chev
5 60A Patrick Sheltra 49.813 180.676 Dodge
6 19 Alli Owens 49.849 180.545 Toyota
7 30B Dominick Casola 49.861 180.502 Dodge
8 25 Joey Logano 49.870 180.469 Toyota
9 5A Bobby Gerhart 49.906 180.339 Chev
10 30A Terry Jones 49.954 180.166 Dodge
11 5B AJ Henriksen 49.965 180.126 Chev
12 95 Chase Mattioli 49.997 180.011
13 09 John Wes Townley 50.006 179.978 Ford
14 1A Brett Butler 50.026 179.906 Ford
15 33 Ricky Carmichael 50.027 179.903 Chev
16 30C Jesse Smith 50.036 179.870 Dodge
17 00 Ed Kennedy 50.038 179.863
18 11A Bryan Silas 50.044 179.842 Ford
19 32B James Buescher 50.092 179.669 Toyota
20 20 Steve Arpin 50.092 179.669 Dodge
21 5C Jonathan Gomez 50.100 179.641 Chev
22 71B Beau  Slocumb 50.137 179.508 Chev
23 15A Ryan Fischer 50.171 179.386 Chev
24 51  Eddie Mercer 50.176  179.369  Chev
25 99A John Ferrier 50.210 179.247 Ford
26 07 AJ Frank 50.279 179.001 Chev
27 15B Marc Davis 50.296 178.941 Chev
28 07A Matt Lofton 50.322 178.848 Chev
29 99 Randy Baker 50.336 178.798 Ford
30 5D Joey Coulter 50.352 178.742 Chev
31 71A JR Fitzpatrick 50.353 178.738 Chev
32 29 Mikey Kile 50.356 178.727 Chev
33 39 Mark Thompson 50.372 178.671 Ford
34 77 Parker Kligerman 50.391 178.603 Dodge
35 47 Peyton Sellers 50.421 178.497 Chev
36 7A Stephen Mccurley 50.467 178.334 Chev
37 54 Roger Carter 50.520 178.147 Dodge
38 15B Justin Lofton 50.564 177.992 Chev
39 37 PJ Jones 50.574 177.957 Chev
40 96 Todd Hoddick 50.590 177.901
41 9 Derek Murphy 50.630 177.760 Dodge
42 75B Benny Chastain 50.643 177.715 Ford
43 80B Scott Alves 50.651 177.687 Ford
44 80D Charlie Vest 50.664 177.641 Ford
45 9A Matt Merrell 50.703 177.504 Dodge
46 81B Craig Goess 50.740 177.375 Toyota
47 80E Mark Easton 50.751 177.336 Ford
48 4 Nur Ali 50.791 177.197 Dodge
49 0 Butch Jarvis 50.937 176.689 Dodge
50 80 Rick Clifton 50.965 176.592 Ford
51 31 Troy Wangerin 50.989 176.509
52 62 Larry Hollenbeck 51.099 176.129
53 27 Dicky Williamson 51.204 175.768 Ford
54 75A Bob Schacht 51.208 175.754
55 80C Alex Ciompi 51.340 175.302 Ford
56 75C Charles Walker 51.355 175.251 Ford
57 2 Tim  George Jr. 51.485 174.808 Toyota
58 48 Leilani Munter 51.857 173.554 Ford
59 34 Darrell Basham 52.080 172.811 Chev
60 80A Barry Fitzgerald 52.437 171.635 Ford
61 14A Marcus Fux 52.674 170.862
62 7 Donny Kelley 53.075 169.571 Chev

Among the drivers testing at Daytona were (Top to Bottom) Bobby Gerhart, Ricky Cramichael, Bobby Hamilton, Jr., Ali Owens and Joey Logano.  (Daytona International Speedway Photos)