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Exciting debut for Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA Series

by Dave Grayson
Monday, February 9, 2009


A lot of ARCA equipment was torn up on Saturday
When the speedy dry settled over the Daytona International Raceway last Saturday evening there was one major factor that was absolute: the ARCA RE/MAX Series is going to have one highly competitive and extremely exciting 2009 season. They proved that point with the February 7th running of the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 which is the series' annual debut at Daytona.

James Buescher also proved that he will be a force to be reckoned with this year after parking his Toyota Camry in victory lane. The 18 year old Texas driver led the final 44 laps and did an outstanding job of avoiding all of the on track collisions that plagued the race. Buescher's performance at Daytona was particularly impressive in light of the fact that officials moved his car to the rear of the field following what was termed unapproved adjustments prior to the race.  NASCAR's Joey Logano was second and ARCA RE/MAX series regular Justin Lofton, who set the fast time in qualifying and led the first 35 laps, finished third to give Toyota Racing Development a one two three finish. 

The Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 was 80 very intense laps around Daytona's two and a half mile high banked oval that was filled with wheel to wheel action as well as some thrilling high speed bump drafting down the straightaways. It was also filled with wrecks. The race had six caution flags that chewed up 47 laps. Two of those cautions featured multi car crashes so common with racing at Daytona. The final caution came with approximately six laps left in the race when drivers Patrick Sheltra, Larry Hollenbeck and nine time series champion Frank Kimmel collected each other. The result was a 19 minute red flag while emergency officials carefully removed Sheltra and Hollenback from their badly damaged race cars. Both drivers were transported, conscious and alert, to a local hospital where they were held overnight for observation. The following day the drivers were reported to be doing fine and in good spirits.

That red flag period led to a shootout for the finish. ARCA's long time policy states that they do not run extra laps past the scheduled length of their races. By the time the track was cleared for a restart there was only one lap left in the race. The field roared to the start finish line under both the green and white flag. Buescher staged an outstanding restart and bought himself enough space to fend off the final lap challenge from Logano. 

Joey Logano was driving a Toyota prepared by Venturini Motorsports with the complete backing from Joe Gibbs Racing, and sponsor Home Depot, his NASCAR Sprint Cup team. Logano's presence in this race was all about seat time. He joins the NASCAR Sprint Cup ranks full time this year and the seat time he received in the ARCA race will be a tremendous confidence booster in next weekend's Daytona 500.

But a major obstacle presented itself near the halfway point of the race. Following a caution flag, Logano came down pit road where the Gibbs Sprint Cup pit crew was waiting to perform a routine four tire stop. First off Logano overshot his pit box and had to back up. The required seven man crew went to work but were accidentally joined by an eighth man who was trying to catch a used tire. This eighth man accidentally slipped over the wall and both feet landed on pit road. Making the situation of an eighth man on pit road even worse was the fact this man wasn't wearing a mandatory safety helmet. Logano was held on pit road by ARCA officials for a one lap penalty while Gibbs Racing President, J D Gibbs, stood there watching with a stunned expression on his face.

Ironically enough that one lap penalty turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Shortly after the field had returned to green flag racing, a multicar accident occurred at the front of the lead pack. Had Logano not been penalized, and sent to the rear of the field, he would have been at the front and possibly found himself caught up in the middle of that wreck. The other good side of this was the fact that he was awarded the lucky dog pass and got back on the lead lap. He made quick work of working his way through the field which led to his participation in the final lap shootout and his second place finish.

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