Happy Birthday Bill Venturini: There is such thing as a happy birthday, especially for two-time ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards driving champion Bill Venturini, who turned 60 on Valentine's Day, February 14. Two days later, and after 31 years of trying, the patriarch of Venturini Motorsports finally got his long overdue win at Daytona Int'l Speedway in Saturday's 50th running of the Lucas Oil 200 presented by MAVTV American Real. It was the 27th career victory for the Venturini family, reaching all the way back to June 18, 1983 at Flat Rock Speedway where Bill won his career-first ARCA race on the tiny quarter-mile oval in Flat Rock, Michigan. Townley became the 10th different driver to win under the Venturini Motorsports banner. Other winners for Venturini Motorsports include Billy Venturini, Scott Lagasse, Jr., Joey Logano, Sean Caisse, Mikey Kile, Steve Arpin, Alex Bowman and Brennan Poole. "Big" Bill won the most of all his drivers with 12 victories from 1983 through 1992.
Venturini Motorsports, On The Other Hand: While the Venturini Motorsports team was celebrating its first win at Daytona, it was also contemplating the enormous work load ahead, getting ready for the next plate race at Talladega in early May. With four cars in the field overall at Daytona, including outside polesitter Milka Duno, who led the first 11 laps, rookies' Justin Boston (running full season) and Darrell Wallace (contracted for one race) tangled with one another early on, which left both cars badly damaged. It happened in the tri-oval when Wallace made contact with the rear of Boston's car, triggering a multi-car pile-up. Wallace, a development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) and a former participant in NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program, is slated to run the entire Truck schedule in 2013 for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Mean and Green Most of the Way: Despite just one pile-up involving eight machines, the 50th annual Lucas Oil 200 went green most of the way. Just three cautions for 19 laps slowed the 80 lap race that finished up with a respectable average speed of 135.900 mph. There were no injuries.
ARCA, Daytona Honors Past Winners: ARCA's 50th Anniversary race at Daytona got off to a great start when 11 past Daytona ARCA winners were honored and introduced on stage in pre-race ceremonies. Veteran and longtime ISC PA announcer Jim Mueller introduced each driver one by one beginning with the 1984 winner Rick Wilson on up through the 2008 winner Michael Annett. Wilson and Annett flanked past winners Glenn Sears (1985), Ralph Jones (1987), Mickey Gibbs (1988), Jimmy Horton (1990 & 1992), Andy Hillenburg (1995 & 1997), Bobby Gerhart (1999, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012), David Keith (2000), Ryan Newman (2001) and Kyle Busch (2004). Newman and Busch had to hustle to make it to the stage, both having just finished up with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, which ended just before pre-race ceremonies began. All 11 drivers paused on stage for the abundance of photographers and videographers who captured the magic moment.
Gerhart Comes Up Short; Turns Big TV Numbers: Gerhart looked like a shoe-in for what would have been his ninth win at Daytona until the fuel pump failed while leading just seven laps from the finish. Even so, the Lebanon, Pennsylvania veteran was all smiles after the race and grateful for his success there over the years. "I can't complain," said Gerhart. "Our MAVTV American Real Chevy was fast all day. We just came up a little short. I'm proud of all my guys who worked so hard on this deal. We come to win, and they know we have a shot every time we come through the gate, and you can't ask for much more than that." Despite his misfortune, Gerhart undoubtedly turned big TV numbers in exposure for his sponsors - MAVTV American Real and Lucas Oil - keeping his renowned No. 5 Chevy in the lead for 55 of the 80 laps during the live-televised race on SPEED.
Look Out; Strong Start for Kimmel; Championship Picture Already Shining Bright: Frank Kimmel again fell short of the goal at Daytona. Still in search of his first win at Daytona, the nine-time ARCA Racing Series champion, in the No. 44 Ansell-Menards Toyota, finished a solid fourth in his 22nd attempt at the "World Center of Racing". However, in the big picture, the 76-time winner is off to a great start in his quest to earn a record 10th series title, and what would be the first for ThorSport Motorsports in ARCA Racing Series competition. "It's a good start to the season," Kimmel said. "It ran good and battled all day -- I think I probably passed more cars than anybody out there, it seemed like, so it was a good day. We got a good finish out of what we had and that's all we can ask for. I was able to get up to the front of that second pack -- I drafted a lot with the 32 (Mason Mingus) and the 82 (Sean Corr) and that helped a lot. Once we got up there we was just able to hang on." The respect given to Kimmel was obvious as both youngsters sought out the veteran Kimmel post-race in the impound area to swap notes and bench-race.
Career-best for 4 of the top 5; Townley, Larson, Ehrgott, Corr Perform: Four of the top-five finishers in Saturday's Lucas Oil 200 earned career-best finishes, including race winner John Wes Townley. Townley's prior career-best was third at Daytona in 2010. Rookie Kyle Larson finished a career-best second in the No. 4 Cessna-sponsored Turner Scott Motorsports Chevy with rookie Ricky Ehrgott, in the No. 16 Coulter Motorsports Chevrolet, trailing in third, also a career-best. ARCA veteran Sean Corr finished a career-best fifth in his No. 82 family-run Warriors in the Workplace Ford. Matt Kurzejewski, with an assist from crew chief Bob Keselowski, finished a career-best ninth in his second career ARCA start.
Hylton's Final Hoorah at Daytona: It's been quite a ride for 78-year-old James Hylton, and part of his journey is coming to a close. As reported in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Hylton announced his retirement from driving race cars. The 2013 season will mark his farewell tour behind the wheel of his famous No. 48. "I've been thinking about this for quite a while," Hylton said. "I'm 78, and the time has come." Hylton made 602 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts since 1964, winning twice at Talladega and Richmond. Since 1997, Hylton has made 144 ARCA starts, including Saturday at Daytona where the Inman, South Carolina driver finished a respectable 26th,
Mason Mingus Looks Like a Pro in First Superspeedway Go: Mason Mingus had to wait until he was 18 before he could compete on the superspeedways. It was worth the wait. Mingus, in his career-first superspeedway start, battled back from a skirmish during a restart, wisely drafted with veteran Frank Kimmel for much of the race, and finished seventh in the No. 32 811 Call Before You Dig-Diamond Equipment Toyota for Win Tron Racing. "We had a pretty solid run overall," said Mingus. "I think we had a much better car but we had some damage when the field stacked up on a restart. The guys on pit road did a great job getting it repaired and we were able to come back from 27th to seventh after it was all said and done. It was definitely a learning experience and I'm excited for Talladega. I think we would have ended up a lot better if not for the damage, but still not a bad way to start the season."
Nice Rebound for Tom Hessert, Cunningham Motorsports: What started out poorly for Tom Hessert, ended up strong for the Cherry Hill, New Jersey driver. Hessert, in the No. 77 Cunningham Motorsports-Barbera's Autoland Dodge, battled back from a tire issue inside the first five laps during which the ARCA veteran driver went a lap down, only to get it back later and go on to a 12th place finish on the lead lap. Hessert's teammate at Cunningham Motorsports, Frenchman Michel Disdier, also turned in a solid performance, finishing 11th, just ahead of his teammate.
Up and down Day for Roulo Brothers Racing: Defending series champion Chris Buescher had one of the fastest cars in the field; unfortunately he was six laps down in the end resulting from mechanical issues that plagued the would-be contender early on. Fortunately for Roulo Brothers Racing, there was a brighter spot in the line-up for its second entry - the No. 99 BeavEx-Reliance Tool-Gary Yeomans Ford driven by rookie Mason Mitchell, who came home 13th on the lead lap in his career-first superspeedway start.
Bo Lemastus Gets Assist from Daytona 500 Champion Geoff Bodine: Rookie Bo Lemastus got an assist from NASCAR veteran and Daytona 500 winner Geoff Bodine, who spotted for Lemastus all week at Daytona. Lemastus, making his series debut, received valuable instruction from his spotter and ended up finishing 16th, the last car on the lead lap. Lemastus is CEO of Crosley Radio, which manufacturers vintage electronics under the Crosley brand. Lemastus recently purchased the complete inventory from Mark Gibson Racing for the 2013 ARCA Racing Series season. Lemastus's racing background includes 20 years in AMA motorcycle racing and five years of SCCA road course racing.
Sponsor Spotlight Shines Bright at Daytona: Series officials made two key announcements during Speedweeks 2013 regarding longtime partner Hoosier Racing Tire and new partner SCOTT® Brand. Officials from ARCA and Hoosier Racing Tire Corporation jointly announced in a media conference that they have executed a contract extension that will position Hoosier as the Official Tire of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards through the 2015 season. Officials from ARCA and Kimberly-Clark also announced that SCOTT® Brand products will sponsor the 2013 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, Rookie of the Year awards program.
From Superspeedway to Short Track, Series on the March: The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards is off to a great start in 2013, and it will not pause long. With Daytona in the rear view mirror, series officials have already steered their transporters to the half-mile Mobile Int'l Speedway in Irvington, Alabama for the second of 21 races on the 2013 tour. The second annual ARCA Mobile 200 is set for Saturday, March 9. The event will feature live timing and scoring and live audio flag-to-flag coverage at ARCAracing.com.