ARCA Testing Begins at Daytona
Forty-one teams kicked off a three-day ARCA RE/MAX Series test session on Friday at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the ARCA 200 ARCA RE/MAX Series race scheduled for Feb. 9.
Among the drivers in attendance include 2007 Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Champion Dario Franchitti, five-time ARCA 200 At Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart, Formula One driver turned stock car rookie Scott Speed and nine-time ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Frank Kimmel.
Erik Darnell, driving a Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, was the fastest after the first day of testing with a speed of 179.935 mph. Rounding out the top five were Dominick Casola (179.569), Matt Carter (179.269), Richard Childress Racing’s Alex Yontz (179.269) and Chad Blount (179.023).
Darnell, who competes for Roush Fenway Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, is spending the three-day ARCA RE/MAX Series test session assisting new Roush Fenway Racing driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse joins Roush Fenway Racing from the United States Auto Club, where he ran and won in the Silver Crown, Sprint and Midget divisions with Tony Stewart Racing. He plans to compete in a full season of ARCA RE/MAX Series competition including the 80-lap, 200-mile season opener on Saturday, Feb. 9
“I’ve been down here and watched once or twice and I’ve watched on TV,” Stenhouse said. “This is always what I wanted to do – to come down here and run stock cars and go everywhere else and run stock cars. But to come Daytona and run, it’s going to be pretty exciting the first few laps out there.”
Darnell knows what it’s like to work through the Roush Fenway Racing developmental process. He worked his way through the famous Roush Fenway tryout process and in 2007 finished 12th in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings with one win, three top-five finishes and eight top-10 runs.
“For me, it’s weird to be in this position,” Darnell said. “I was in this same spot two years ago having some of the elder Roush guys help me out. It’s kind of cool to be able to help a new guy coming in. Ricky has shown a lot of potential already and I think he is going to be pretty good next year.”
New era begins for Frank Kimmel
For Kimmel, the three-day test kicks off a new era in his racing career. After 10 seasons driving Larry Clement’s Tri-State Motorsports, the nine-time defending ARCA RE/MAX Series champion has formed a new team with his brother and crew chief Bill Kimmel called Kimmel Racing with Cunningham Motorsports.
During this weekend’s test, Frank Kimmel isn’t driving his traditional No. 46 Ford, but instead a white unsponsored No. 44 Dodge.
“It’s a pretty important day for us, the whole weekend really,” said Kimmel, a 45-year-old native of Clarksville, Ind. “A new manufacturer in Dodge, we’ve never been in one of these cars before, we’re looking forward to seeing what we got.”
His decision to form his own operation has a lot to do with his 17-year-old-son Frank Kimmel II and Will Kimmel, the 19-year-old son of Bill Kimmel. Both Frank and Will are aspiring racers.
“Bill and I went on our own trying to build something for ourselves,” Frank Kimmel said. “My nephew Will wants to race, my son Frankie wants to race. We felt like while our stock is still pretty good, we ought to try to do it on our own.”
While Kimmel has plenty of ARCA RE/MAX Series championships under his belt, he is still searching for his first victory at Daytona International Speedway. In his last seven ARCA 200 At Daytona starts, Kimmel has finished fifth or better six times including two runner-up finishes in 2004 and 2005.
Kimmel says the 2008 ARCA 200 isn’t going to be a cake walk. His new team hasn’t secured a sponsor and the field of ARCA RE/MAX Series competitors is going to be stout.
“This is not a year to come in not sponsored as you can tell by the quality of cars here this weekend,” Kimmel said. “It’s going to be tough. We’ve got to get ourselves together. Hopefully we can sign that sponsor and get going. We’re here testing and hopefully we can come out of here with some good knowledge and make this car run pretty well.”
Test open to the public
The ARCA RE/MAX Series test continues on Saturday and Sunday and is free and open to the public with access to the Oldfield Grandstand through the lobby of Daytona 500 Experience.