ACCESS ARCA: Lowe's Wednesday Notes  by Jeremy Troiano
Thigpen, Gerhart, Knupp, Gibson, Weaver & More

Veteran ProCup Series driver Mart Nesbitt knows his way around the short tracks of the Southeast, but Wednesday was his first time around a southeastern superspeedway.  Prior to qualifying 22nd for Thursday night’s race, the longest track Nesbitt had ever been on was the .75-mile USA International Raceway in Lakeland, FL.

“This is a whole new ball game for me,” said Nesbitt.  “These cars are so much different.  It is just hard to get a handle on them because you feel things in the seat
ProCup veteran Mart Nesbitt is running on a track larger than one mile for the first time.
“There is nothing you can do about it.  I've been racing for years on a low budget and there is nothing you can do about it.

“You can't be anything but happy because at least you are still alive and enjoying life.  Sure it sucks, but what can you do.  It is over with now.”

Then, with about a half hour left in Happy Hour, everything came to a crashing end.

“We were just trying to get the car a little better,” said Thigpen.  “We were a little tight so we freed it up.  I was passing a slower car off of three and four and it just got away from me.  I tried to save it and thought I had it saved, but she just got away from me.”

Thigpen slammed into the wall, destroying the front end of his ride.

“This is our only car.  We pretty much have no plans to get anything else.  We are done for the weekend.  There is no way to fix this car and I have no other options.
Brandon Knupp, driving for Andy Belmont Motorsports, had a slight set back on Wednesday when he brushed the wall in turn four after coming up quickly on a slow car heading to the pits.

“I had the wheel turned and the car just hit one of those bumps and took off toward the wall,” said Knupp.  “That was a set back for sure, but things turned out ok considering the circumstances.”

Knupp qualified the car 25th.

“We have a pretty good car for the race.  When we hit the
wall, it was just mainly sheet metal and crush panel damage.  The only thing we had to change was the lower control arm.  I still think we have a pretty good car.”
Brandon Knupp (#1) hit the wall in practice after coming up on the very slow moving #87.
Ryan Thigpen was impressing a lot of people Wednesday... until a Happy Hour accident ruined it all.  (51 Photos)

Local North Carolina driver Ryan Thigpen was pretty impressive on Wednesday, qualifying his independent #62 in the ninth position and running in the top-10 in both practice sessions.  Thigpen, a former regular at Concord Motorsport Park, was competing right up there with the like of the Ganassi, Braun and Hendrick supported teams.  Things were looking good.
different.  You might think the car is a little tight, but it is just the forces of the car.

“We are a little behind because we have our short track guys here working on this car and don’t really have anyone helping us that has too much big track experience, so we ae trying to learn on our own.  I’d say we are doing pretty good thus far.  This is a better car than where it is starting, but considering where we are as a team, I’d say things are right on track.”

SAD NEWS FROM THE GERHART CAMP would like to send our condolences to team owner and part-time driver Bobby Gerhart, whose father was killed in an automobile accident on Wednesday afternoon.  Despite the bad news, Gerhart stayed at the track and continued to work with his team and driver Blake Feese before heading out quickly after Happy Hour.

Ken Weaver was listed 11th on the practice speed charts, but failed to make the field for Thursday’s event.  That is because Weaver backed his car hard into the turn two wall midway through practice, totaling his #75 machine.

Without a backup car, Weaver withdrew from the event.

In the aftermath of Weaver’s accident, ARCA veteran Mark Gibson was hit and spun by the #4 of Tom Berte, causing extensive sheet metal damage to the left rear quarterpanel of the car. 

Gibson’s team worked long and hard to get the car repaired for him to qualifying it 18th.
Ken Weaver flattened the back of his #75 after posting a top 10 time in the practice session.
With the influx of youngsters in racing today, and the graduation time of the year, it isn’t surprising that several drivers are juggling their graduations with racing.

One such individual is that of David Ragan.  Ragan’s schedule over the next two days looks like this.  On Wednesday, Ragan took his final exams at JM Robinson High School in Concord (NC) before heading to the track.  On Thursday, he will participate in graduation rehearsal at the school before heading out to Lowe’s Motor Speedway to start his #88 car from the sixth position. 

Could he win the race, it might be an early graduation present for the senior, who goes through commencement on Saturday.
Two of  the youngsters in the field... David Ragan (left) and Reed Sorenson (right).

Johnny Leonard and his team haven’t know what the word “sleep” has meant over the last week.

The car Leonard qualified 26th was just purchased last weekend from Hermie Sadler.  Since then, the team has been staying in Donnie Allison’s home working on the car non-stop. Trying to get it ready for the Lowe’s event.

“We got this car from Hermie on Sunday night,” said Leonard.  “We drove up from Florida and have been staying with Donnie Allison.  We spent all of Monday, all of Tuesday and pretty much all day today getting it ready. 

“It is running pretty good right now.  It is pretty different from my other car, but ever car is different, you know.  The only thing we didn't have to do to this car was paint it.  We did everything else imaginable to it.”

Not to anyone's surprise, the fastest cars all day long where those belonging to Cup or Busch affiliated teams.

Ryan Hemphill (Braun Racing), Reed Soreneson (Ganassi Racing) and Kelly Bires (Fritz Bradshaw Racing) were consistently on the top of the charts all afternoon and captured spots at the top of the qualifying results.

Blake Feese, driving the Hendrick affiliated car for Bobby Gerhart Racing, struggled all afternoon and will start 19th on Thursday.

Brent Sherman was one of the more impressive "independent" racers in the field, locking in the second quickest time.  Sherman was the fastest in testing at Lowe's a couple of weeks ago.

Sunoco Super Series superstar Chuck Barnes Jr. was seen hanging around the ARCA pits at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Wednesday.  Barnes, a winner already this year in SSS competition, is working with the Kimmels (Frank and crew chief Bill) trying to gain experience with the ARCA style cars. will have more on Barnes and his relationship with the Kimmels in the near future, so stay tuned.

Ryan Hemphill is on the pole for Thursday's race at Lowe's driving a Braun Racing Dodge.