Joey Coulter again topped the speed charts in ARCA RE/MAX Series open testing, this time at the Kentucky Speedway Monday where the 19-year-old Miami Springs, Florida rookie was fastest in the morning and afternoon sessions.
Coulter, in a Chevrolet, circled the 1.5-mile superspeedway in 30.531 seconds, for an average speed of 176.869 mph.
"Right off the bat we started off better than the last time I was here," said Coulter. "I feel like I've really got a handle on the track. And I think going to Michigan (Int'l Speedway) and some of those really big tracks helped my learning curve a lot."
Coulter, who was also fastest in the recent Michigan and Iowa Speedway tests, is on a roll lately coming off three consecutive top-five finishes at Pocono Raceway, Michigan and Mansfield Motorsports Park where he finished a career-best second.
"We were fast right off the bat so we just started throwing different things at the car, completely changing the set-up - changing all four springs, shocks, sway bar. When we thought we found something, we tuned on it; if not, we threw it out. I'm really getting comfortable. After about my second time back out I felt like I was driving a pretty good line, got into a solid rythym and our times got real consistent."
Coulter was among 17 drivers who posted time and speed at the open test in preparation for the July 18th Click It or Ticket Buckle-Up Kentucky 150, the 19th appearance of the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Kentucky Speedway since its 2000 debut.
Four-time Kentucky winner Frank Kimmel was second fastest overall on the speed charts with a top speed of 176.194 mph.
"It was pretty-much a qualifying run for us," said Kimmel who, like Coulter, posted his best speed in the final moments of the test. "We ran one car in the morning and early part of the afternoon; then we got out the second car. It was faster so we stayed with it, kept tweaking on it and steadily improved it. We were happy with it, so we put on a set a stickers and taped it off."
Josh Richards, Grant Enfinger and Bryan Silas completed the top-five in speed respectively.
The open test day also brought out an interesting collection of coaches including NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran Kasey Kahne, who was there to help open wheel driver/rookie Brad Sweet and 15-time AMA Motocross champion Ricky Carmichael get up to speed.
"I think that for Ricky [Carmichael] the opportunity to work with Kevin Harvick is a huge benefit," said Kahne. "You can tell that he really cares about his team and the input he gives really helps the drivers in that organization. Ricky and I are friends and I have always been a huge fan of his from the motorcycle days. I grew up in the Seattle area and used to watch him. I still watch him on tv when he is commentating the motorcycle races. I went with Ricky to a Late Model test at Hickory [Motor Speedway in North Carolina] and he made some laps. That's what he needs more than anything - laps. The advice that I give everyone is to work up to it. Just take your time. You see guys like Ricky who are so used to just going out full force every time they do something so you worry a little bit their first time in a car, hoping that they will take their time. Ricky did really well. He took his time and worked up to it, just like I would have done. I had a lot of people help me out when I first started Cup racing. Especially Tony Stewart and Bill Elliott-those two probably helped me more than anyone. It's good for me when I am able to help others now just like people helped me when I was starting out. This is Brad's first time in a stock car ever."
Kahne also commented on the condition of the track surface.
"The track doesn't feel quite as rough today as it did last time I was here. It definitely needs some work before they bring Cup cars here though. I hope they do make those changes before that happens. Vegas is unbelievable. The fans are so close at that track. They are basically inside of your car while you are driving. You look up and it's like whoa! It's a good thing though because the fans are so important to what we do."
Although Kahne, in a Doug Stringer Motorsports entry, was second fastest in the morning session, Sweet, unfortunately, in the same car, spun off turn four and backed into the outer retaining wall ending his test session prematurely. Sweet was not hurt but the car was badly damaged.
Carmichael, who is running a mix of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races and ARCA RE/MAX Series races in 2009 for Kevin Harvick Inc., was ninth fastest overall.
"This transition [from bikes to stock car racing] is going good," said Carmichael. "I've really enjoyed it. We've had some good runs. You have to be realistic with the expectations. I got an ARCA car here and we are testing that. For me, that is huge because now when we come to the race I won't feel like I'm behind. I like the ARCA cars. I really enjoy them. They seem to really stick to the track.
"The transition from motorcycles to auto racing is going good. I have really enjoyed the whole process. We've had some good runs. You have to be realistic with the expectations. I met Kasey Kahne in 2004 in Daytona through Oakley-a sponsor of ours. He has become a good friend ever since and has really helped me with things. The decision to stop driving the bikes and start driving stock cars was not too difficult. I knew that I was at the end of the road there. I had pretty much accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish. Kevin [Harvick, team owner], has gone out of his way to help me here so I am very thankful. I hope he lets me run the ARCA race. That would be fun. In the motorcycles you have to have so much more physical strength whereas in the stock cars require more mental strength. I don't know if that is because you are going so fast in a stock car or because it is something that is new to me so it is more mentally taxing."
ARCA RE/MAX Series regular Justin Lofton, currently second in ARCA RE/MAX Series point standings, was testing a car for his Eddie Sharp Racing teammate Tim George, Jr.
"Everyone is coaching here today," said Lofton. "My car isn't here but I have my suit on and I have made a couple of laps. My teammates are here and they are both rookies. It's been a big learning curve for them this year but heading into the season we knew that they would make some big gains mid-way through the year and so far they have made tremendous gains in the last several races. They are doing great. Eddie Sharp Racing is a great organization and I wouldn't want to race for any other team in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. As a second-year driver it's very cool to me that they want my input. I don't have a car here but I did make a few laps and I am noticing how the cars are reacting to different changes the teams make to the cars so I am going to go back to the shop and give that feedback to my crew chief Mark Rette and we will make a game plan and come back here in a few weeks and hopefully it will be a good race for us."
Current ARCA RE/MAX Series point leader Parker Kligerman was also on hand for the open test; however, the 18-year-old rookie sensation did not get on the track as he was there to assist his Cunningham Motorsports teammate Dakoda Armstrong get up to speed. Armstrong, who was eighth fastest overall, is scheduled to make his superspeedway debut at Kentucky.
Before the upcoming event at Kentucky Speedway, the ARCA RE/MAX Series travels to Iowa Speedway for this Saturday's July 11th running of the Prairie Meadows 200, the third consecutive appearance of the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Iowa.
2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series
Kentucky Speedway, Sparta KY
Overall Open Testing Results, 7-6-09
NO DRIVER/HOMETOWN CAR TIME SPEED
16 Joey Coulter/Miami Springs FL Chevrolet 30.531 176.869
44B Frank Kimmel/Clarksville IN Ford 30.648 176.194
25 Josh Richards/Mooresville NC Chevrolet 30.925 174.616
83 Grant Enfinger/Fairhope AL Ford 30.958 174.441
11 Bryan Silas/Stuart FL Ford 31.027 174.042
09A Tom Hessert/Cherry Hill NJ Ford 31.238 172.866
81 Craig Goess/Greenville NC Toyota 31.252 172.789
90 Kasey Kahne/Enumclaw WA Toyota 31.266 172.712
4 Dakoda Armstrong/New Castle IN Dodge 31.486 171.505
33 Ricky Carmichael/Tallahassee FL Chevrolet 31.532 171.255
32 James Buescher/Plano TX Toyota 31.550 171.157
44A Frank Kimmel/Clarksville IN Ford 31.686 170.422
2 Justin Lofton/Westmorland CA Toyota 31.769 169.977
09B Tom Hessert/Cherry Hill NJ Ford 31.789 169.870
74 JR Heffner/Stephentown NY Chevrolet 31.928 169.131
31 Brent Brevak/Ashland WI Dodge 32.108 168.182
5 Bobby Gerhart/Lebanon PA Chevrolet 32.165 167.884
2 Tim George Jr./New York NY Toyota 32.502 166.144
90 Brad Sweet Toyota 34.285 157.503