Rain couldn't stop 12 years of waiting as the ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards returned to Texas Motor Speedway for a test session in preparation for the Rattlesnake 150 on Friday, April 16, that is part of the Samsung Mobile 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend. While the morning session was washed out due to heavy rains throughout Monday, the 1.5-mile superspeedway was dry by 1 p.m. CT today and ready for practice for the 21 drivers on hand. Tuesday's test marked the first time the ARCA Racing Series had raced at Texas Motor Speedway since the inaugural Z-MAX 250 on Sept. 18, 1998.
West Lake, Louisiana's Mikey Kile, in a Venturini Motorsports Toyota, led the charts circling the 1.5-mile speedway in 29.033 seconds, an average speed of 185.995 mph.
Brandon McReynolds, in an ESR Toyota, was second quickest overall at 185.752 mph. McReynolds is the son of former crew chief and current FOX race analyst Larry McReynolds. McReynolds hopes to make his first career ARCA Racing Series start in the Rattlesnake 150.
"It definitely helps chatting with Dad and other guys that have been around here a lot," said Brandon, whose father served as a successful crew chief for the likes of Dale Earnhardt and Davey Allison, among others. "It definitely helped being around the race tracks. I'm comfortable because I've been here before. I've seen the facility. Obviously, with Dad over here, it is amazing the things he can tell you even though he didn't drive the race car; he really knows what he's doing."
Steve Arpin, suffering from flu-like symptoms, took just 20 laps around the track but managed the third fastest speed (184.647 mph).
"We've got a really good car, but to be honest, my whole body aches," said Arpin. "I woke up sick Sunday night, and I'm just not at my best. We're going to lean on my teammate Mikey (Kile) for the notes. He made a bunch of runs, so that's going to help a lot. This track's so fast; one mistake and you're going to be in trouble. Car's great though. I know that."
Craig Goess, also in an ESR car, was fourth on the charts.
"We made good, steady progress all day," Goess said. "We tried a bunch of stuff; some worked, some didn't. But we learned a lot. We should be very competitive when we come back. First time on the track for me; it's fast alright. You find yourself holding your breath for the first few runs. It takes a while to figure out just how much corner speed you can carry here. Winner of this race is going to be on his toes."
Grant Enfinger, in a Ford, was fifth fastest followed by Chad Finley in a Brad Keselowski Racing Chevrolet.
"We worked on our aero package all day," said the 17-year-old Finley, the son of former ARCA Racing Series winner Jeff Finley. "Mostly, it was just me getting used to how fast everything happens here. I talked to Brad (Keselowski) on Saturday and he gave me some pointers. It helped a lot. He talked about the transitions of the corners here, that it takes some getting used to."
For many of the ARCA drivers, the test was the first opportunity for them to get a look and feel for 'The Great American Speedway!'
"You always hear about the racing going on in Texas," veteran ARCA Racing Series driver Patrick Sheltra said. "To come here and experience that is amazing. To come back here for the first time since 1998, you really see how far Texas Motor Speedway has come. It's a blessing for ARCA to come back here."
For a pair of Texans, today's test session was more than just about logging laps.
Lance Fenton, of nearby Tyler, and Nur Ali, of Fort Worth, took their cars around Texas Motor Speedway for the first time. Ali, who has raced on Texas Motor Speedway's road course while competing in the Star Mazda Series, has yet to compete on the 1.5-mile oval. Ali, who moved from Pakistan to Fort Worth in 1983 and graduated from Trinity High School, is looking forward to the opportunity to race in front of the hometown crowd next month.
"It's been exciting," Ali said. "I've always wanted to be in NASCAR. I've grown up in Texas for the last 27 years and Fort Worth is home. I'm very excited that the ARCA Series is now participating at Texas during the NASCAR weekend. We are excited about racing here at home in front of the home crowd."
For Fenton, racing close to home provides some added pressure to perform but is definitely looking forward to his first opportunity to compete at Texas Motor Speedway.
"We are really stoked about being close to home and getting to come back to home turf," Fenton said. "I tell everyone that I get to race, but none of them get to see it at the other tracks so it will be cool to bring the entourage and make it a local event for me."
The test session marked yet another opportunity for former Formula One driver Nelson Piquet Jr. to gain more track time. Piquet Jr., the son of three-time Formula One champion Nelson Piquet, is making the transition from the open-wheel discipline to stock cars. To ease into his transition, Piquet Jr. is running a limited number of ARCA and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events this year. That schedule includes two stops at Texas Motor Speedway, the first being the Rattlesnake 150 and then the WinStar World Casino 400k NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on June 4. For Piquet Jr., the test session offered him yet another opportunity to enhance his learning curve as he makes the transition.
"Every day I've been learning about a lot, hearing stories," said Nelson, who made his debut in both the ARCA Racing Series and Camping World Truck Series at Daytona in February. "The driving part is taking a bit of awhile because I'm not in a car every day. For me, it's tougher to run these kinds of cars than a normal road course. Hopefully slowly, I'll get more and more use to it. Today is a big day for me."
The Rattlesnake 150 race caps off The Dallas Morning News Qualifying Days on Friday, April 16, that will feature qualifying in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series for the Samsung Mobile 500 and O'Reilly Auto Parts 300, respectively. The ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards kicks off the race week action for the Samsung Mobile 500 with practice and qualifying for the Rattlesnake 150 on Thursday, April 15.
Tickets for the Samsung Mobile 500 race week events are available by calling (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.
ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards
Open Testing, Texas Motor Speedway (3-9-10)
POS NO DRIVER MAKE TIME SPEED 1 25 Mikey Kile Toyota 29.033 185.995 2 2 Brandon McReynolds Toyota 29.071 185.752 3 55 Steve Arpin Chevy 29.245 184.647 4 81 Craig Goess Toyota 29.336 184.074 5 09 Grant Enfinger Ford 29.352 183.974 6 29 Chad Finley Chevy 29.422 183.536 7 16b Joey Coulter Chevy 29.490 183.113 8 82 Sean Corr Ford 29.502 183.038 9 60 Patrick Sheltra Toyota 29.601 182.426 11 11 Bryan Silas Ford 29.768 181.403 12 31b Scott Wimmer Chevy 29.782 181.318 13 15 Alli Owens Chevy 29.786 181.293 14 22 Dakoda Armstrong Dodge 29.904 180.578 15 36 Robb Brent Dodge 29.947 180.319 16 6 Nelson Piquet, Jr. Toyota 29.969 180.186 17 38 Alex Kennedy Dodge 30.080 179.521 18 12 Nur Ali Chevy 30.353 177.907 19 77 Tom Hessert Dodge 30.543 176.800 20 95 Lance Fenton Dodge 30.547 176.777 21 31a Tim George Chevy 31.024 174.059