Rolex Series, ARCA shake down new Daytona racing surface
Following the tire tracks of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 and the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards got their first taste of the new racing surface of Daytona International Speedway on Friday.
Two Rolex Series teams participated in the morning session turning laps on the 3.56-mile road course. Five-time Rolex 24 champion Hurley Haywood and Andrew Davis were behind the wheel of the No. 59 Brumos Porsche GT3 while Paul Edwards drove the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Chevrolet Coyote.
“It felt great,” Haywood said. “I’ve been battering around these bankings for over 40 years. You get use to every single bump and ripple out there. It’s now completely free of bumps. It’s absolutely smooth as silk. There’s no bump in (Turn) 4. There are no bumps out of (Turn) 2. It’s really nice.
“A big plus is that they made the transitions going from the infield back out to the banking really smooth so there’s not an abruptness in doing that. It’s a huge improvement.”
After announcing that the 2010 Rolex 24 would be his final one, Haywood is coming out of retirement and will compete in the twice-around-the-clock challenge on Jan. 29-30. He will share driving duties on the Porsche with Davis and Leh Keen as Brumos Racing makes its return to the GT class.
“It just wouldn’t be right with a GT car painted in the Brumos colors without the Haywood (name) on the roof,” Haywood said. “I’m going to sneak out for a couple of stints in the car for the (Rolex) 24. We’ve got a strong team.”
In the afternoon session, the course changed for stock cars as Steve Arpin and Hal Martin tested for Venturini Motorsports.
“For me, it was an honor to be one of the first stock cars on the track since the repaving,” Martin said. “The track is nice, it’s smooth out there. I’m glad to be able to get out there and get some time on the track and get a better understanding of what it’s going to be like when we come back to race.”
Martin, who will race with Venturini Motorsports in the 2011 Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 on Saturday, Feb. 12, competed in the 2010 Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 with Mark Gibson Racing and finished 35th. He was amazed by the difference between the old and new surfaces.
“It’s a night day and difference,” Martin said. “The old surface, you had the big bump in (Turns) 1 and 2 and you had the big bump in (Turn) 4 that really upset the cars. Right now, this surface is smooth as ice. There are no bumps out there. The grip level is up and it’s going to lend for some nice racing come February. We’re going to be three wide most of the race.”
Arpin, who has two Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 starts and a 10th-place finish in the 2010 event, echoed Martin’s comments.
“I’ve been pumped just to be here all day,” Arpin said. “We were talking on the radio that it’s cool to be sitting here and it’s almost Christmas and we’re cruising around Daytona on a perfect Friday afternoon.
“(The race track) is fast, there’s a lot more grip. It’s going to be interesting to see how it races when we get 40 cars out there. I think you’re going to see a lot more three-wide racing here than what you have seen in the past.”
Arpin, who competed for JR Motorsports in the July NASCAR Nationwide Series race and finished 10th, enjoyed the unique test where stock cars and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series shared the “World Center of Racing” for the day.
“I wanted to go over there and try and swap out with those guys and give them a couple of laps in an ARCA car,” Arpin said. “Those GRAND-AM cars get going. It’s pretty cool to be here testing the same day with a series that’s as distinguished as them. For us just to be here, it’s pretty cool.”