ARCA Racing Series To Celebrate 50 Years At Daytona With Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200
By Dave Grayson
The ARCA Racing Series, presented by Menards, will officially kick off their 61st racing season this Saturday, February 16th, at the Daytona International Speedway. The running of the Lucas Oil 200, presented by MAV TV-American Real, is going to be extra special this year. That’s because it will be ARCA’s 50th anniversary of racing at Daytona.
Traditionally, ARCA’s annual season opener at the all American center of speed is always an exciting event. However, this 50th anniversary event appears to have the making of something extra special. The Lucas 200 has 45 entries that features a mix of distinguished veterans combined with talented youngsters who are looking to launch a racing career at the national level.
Topping the list of those veteran drivers is Lebanon, Pennsylvania’s Bobby Gerhart, the driver of the #5 MAV TV Chevrolet. When it comes to ARCA racing at Daytona, Gerhart is on top of every major category you can name. He has the most series’ starts at Daytona-25, the most wins-8, the most top five finishes-10 and the most top tens-14. Gerhart also rules the ARCA qualifying sessions at Daytona as well. He has a series’ high four pole positions, the most starts from the front row at 6 and the most wins from the pole position at three. Another major plus here is the presence of crew chief Bill Gerhart. The Gerharts are regarded as the most effective racing brother duos in Daytona ARCA history.
Also topping the ARCA veterans list is Frank Kimmel. The Clarksville, Indiana native will be driving the #44 Ansel-Menards Toyota in Saturday’s race. Kimmel is a nine time ARCA champion with 76 series wins which places him second on the all time winner’s list just behind Iggy Katona’s 79 wins. Kimmel will be making his 22nd, consecutive, start in the Lucas Oil 200 and will be looking to rectify a long over due situation: he has never won at Daytona.
Keeping it in the family, while also representing the young guns of ARCA racing, is Will Kimmel, Frank Kimmel’s nephew, who will be behind the wheel of the #68 Gary Yeomans Ford driving for his father-team owner-crew chief Bill Kimmel Jr. This young driver finished third in last year’s Daytona event and should be regarded as someone to keep an eye on this Saturday.
Reigning ARCA series champion Chris Buescher will also be looking for checkers in the Lucas Oil 200. Buescher returns with his championship team from last year and will be driving the #17 Raulo Brothers Racing Ford. However, the Prosper, Texas native will not be defending his title this year. Buescher will be driving a partial ARCA schedule while dividing his time in some selected NASCAR Nationwide Series events for Roush Fenway Racing.
When it comes to prominent young guns in Saturday’s race, Turner-Scott Motorsports may have the definitive answer: Kyle Larson. The 20 year old Elk Grove, California resident will be driving the #4 Cessna Chevrolet. There are many racing observers who are pointing at this young driver and saying “real deal.” His on track accomplishments in just the last two seasons alone are nothing short of amazing. He has been successful in both NASCAR stock cars and USAC open wheel cars. For Larson, the Lucas Oil 200 will be an opportunity for extra seat time. He will be driving for Turner-Scott Racing full time this season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. This arrangement is with the blessing and support of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing who has a driver development deal with Larson. There are many observers saying that this talented young man will be behind the wheel of an EGR Sprint Cup ride much sooner than later.
Never to be overlooked is the presence of Venturini Motorsports, one of the true veteran organizations in ARCA racing. The Venturinis will be fielding four teams in Saturday’s race. Topping that list is Mobile, Alabama’s Darrell Wallace who is yet another young driver who has garnered a lot of attention with the term “real deal” also attached to his name. Wallace will be making his Daytona Debut this Saturday in the #55 Toyota Manufacturing Toyota Camry. His presence in the Lucas Oil 200 is also additional seat time. Wallace was recently signed to drive full time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports with the support of Joe Gibbs Racing who has a driver development deal with him.
Also in Saturday’s race for Venturini Motorsports will be John Wes Townley. Already driving in NASCAR’s Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, the Watkinsville, Georgia driver will be behind the wheel of the #15 Zaxby’s Toyota. Former Indy Car driver Milka Duno returns to the ARCA series this year on a full time basis with VMS. The Caracas, Venezuela driver will campaign the #35 CAN TV-Milka Way Toyota. Rounding out the Venturini effort will be ARCA newcomer Justin Boston, from Baltimore, Maryland, in the #25 ZLoop Computer and Electronics Recycling Centers Toyota. Boston will also be competing for the ARCA Rookie of the Year title.
With that diverse mix of series veterans combined with all that young talent, the Lucas Oil 200, presented by MAV TV-American Real, has the makings of a very exciting race. You can catch the action on the SPEED Channel this Saturday beginning at 4pm eastern time. A replay of the race will be aired by SPEED on Sunday morning at 1am eastern.