Cunningham Motorsports claims 3 of 5 fastest speeds to wrap ARCA Daytona test

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ARCA teams likely have a better handle of what to expect for next month’s season opener after two days of testing this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

Day 2 of the test was Saturday, with three of the five fastest drivers from the Cunningham Motorsports stable. The fastest Cunningham driver was Shane Lee, who was fastest of the 52 drivers in the test, with a speed of 188.608 mph. Third-fastest was Dalton Sargeant (188.111 mph) and fifth-fastest was Ty Majeski (188.013 mph).

Given how his car performed Saturday, Lee is ready to start the season, which begins at Daytona on Feb. 18 for the 54th Lucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200.

“We’re confident about our chances coming back in February,” Lee told ARCARacing.com. “This car was strong from the get-go. We put well over 100 laps down in testing. We were doing 15 to 20 laps at a time in the draft today. It’s a nice feeling knowing you’re with a winning team, and all I have to do is drive.”

In-between Lee and Sargeant with the second-fastest speed (188.363 mph) was Austin Theriault, driving the No. 52 Toyota for Ken Schrader Racing.

“I might have been able to do a faster lap, but we were being cautious,” Theriault told ARCARacing.com. “We want to bring this car back for the race. I learned a little more about how these cars draft. We’ll go over the changes we made back at the shop, and decide what package to come back with.”

Rounding out the top-five cars was fourth-fastest Kaz Grala (188.103 mph) of Mason Mitchell Motorsports.

Just one female took part in the two-day test, Leilani Munter, who recorded the 16th fastest speed of the field (186.100 mph) in her Toyota on Saturday.

“It was good to knock the cobwebs out this weekend, and be back in a car before the race,” Munter said. “I’ll be in driving shape, 100 percent focused on racing for the next month and I’m looking forward to February.”

While Lee was fastest Saturday, overall he was the third-fastest of the two-day test. Venturini Motorsports rookies Noah Gragson (189.143 mph) and Spencer Davis (189.092 mph) were fastest with their speeds from Friday’a first day of the test.

Saturday’s overall session was both shortened and its start delayed due to the track having to be dried following early morning showers. Still, teams managed to get a full five hours of track time in before the test concluded.

 

ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards
Daytona Int’l Speedway (Day 2)
Open Testing, Overall Speeds (1-14-17)
POS NO DRIVER/HOMETOWN CAR TIME SPEED
1 22 Shane Lee/Newton NC Ford 47.718 188.608
2 52 Austin Theriault/Fort Kent ME Chevrolet 47.780 188.363
3 77 s Dalton Sargeant/Boca Raton FL Ford 47.844 188.111
4 78 g Kaz Grala/Westborough MA Chevrolet 47.846 188.103
5 77 m Ty Majeski/Seymour WI Ford 47.869 188.013
6 23 Bret Holmes/Munford AL Chevrolet 47.884 187.954
7 83 Derrick Lancaster/Christiansburg VA Dodge 48.047 187.317
8 25 Spencer Davis/Dawsonville GA Toyota 48.142 186.947
9 32 Gus Dean/Bluffton SC Toyota 48.155 186.896
10 34 m Willie Mullins/Fredricksburg VA Ford 48.159 186.881
11 55 s Zane Smith/Huntington Beach CA Toyota 48.167 186.850
12 33 Justin Fontaine/Fletcher NC Toyota 48.214 186.668
13 8 h Justin Haley/Winamac IN Toyota 48.255 186.509
14 01 Travis Braden/Wheeling WV Ford 48.330 186.220
15 7 Codie Rohrbaugh/Petersburg WV Chevrolet 48.358 186.112
16 15 Leilani Munter/Rochester MN Toyota 48.361 186.100
17 80 b Caesar Bacarella/Parklna FL Chevrolet 48.365 186.085
18 02 Andy Seuss/Hampstead NH Chevrolet 48.440 185.797
19 16 John Ferrier/Middletown NY Chevrolet 48.470 185.682
20 98 Quin Houff/Mount Sidney VA Chevrolet 48.482 185.636
21 37 l David LeBeau/Daytona Beach FL Ford 48.564 185.322
22 5 Bobby Gerhart/Lebanon PA Chevrolet 48.655 184.976
23 72 h Tyler Hill/Port Tobacco MD Chevrolet 48.707 184.778
24 42 Bo LeMastus/Louisville KY Dodge 48.735 184.672
25 57 d Bryan Dauzat/Concord NC Chevrolet 48.748 184.623
26 8 m Travis Miller/Chesapeake VA Toyota 48.748 184.623
27 38 Ray Cicarelli/Ellicott City MD Chevrolet 49.027 183.572
28 9 Thomas Praytor/Mobile AL Ford 49.355 182.352
29 72 m Tony Mrakovich/Elizabethtown PA Chevrolet 49.585 181.507
30 7 l Verlin Larry Berg/Petersburg WV Chevrolet 49.587 181.499
31 34 b Robert Bruce/Fredricksburg VA Ford 49.717 181.025
32 72 s Stan Mullis/Las Vegas NV Chevrolet 49.780 180.796
33 16 f Steve Fox/Hawley PA Chevrolet 49.784 180.781
34 37 c Wendell Chavous/Hephzbah GA Ford 49.862 180.498
35 34 a Wyatt Alexander/Ellsworth ME Ford 49.876 180.448
36 34 Jeff MacZink/Rockwood MI Ford 49.926 180.267
37 0 h Richard Hauck/Howell MI Chevrolet 49.985 180.054
38 0 n Con Nicolopoulos/Columbus, MI Chevrolet 49.995 180.018
39 2 Eric Caudell/ Piedmont OK Chevrolet 50.023 179.917
40 0 m Dale Matchett/Cherry Hill NJ Chevrolet 50.265 179.051
41 10 r Zach Ralston/Springville IA Chevrolet 50.333 178.809
42 10 p Ed Pompa/Ballston Spa NY Chevrolet 50.431 178.462
43 10 b Bryant Barnhill/Supply NC Chevrolet 50.780 177.235
44 0 t Don Thompson/Carlisle PA Chevrolet 50.997 176.481
45 69 Trey Hutchens/Lexington MC Ford 51.468 174.866
46 3 Mike Senica/Doylestown PA Chevrolet 51.672 174.176
47 69 Cody Lane/Port Richey FL Ford 51.799 173.749
48 3 e Scott Edwards/Ormand Beach FL Chevrolet 52.333 171.976
49 11 D.L. Wilson/Waco TX Chevrolet 53.713 167.557
50 3 Mike Senica/Doylestown PA Chevrolet 52.123 172.668
51 0n Con Nicolopoulos/Columbus, MI Chevrolet 53.951 166.818
52 37b Mike Brown/Iuka MS Ford 60.540 148.662

Statistics courtesy ARCARacing.com

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Kaz Grala returning to Richard Childress Racing for select Xfinity races

Kaz Grala
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Kaz Grala will return to compete for Richard Childress Racing in the Xfinity Series this year in select races, the team announced Friday.

Grala, 21, will be one of three drivers to pilot the No. 21 Chevrolet during the full season, joining Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo.

Grala made five starts in the No. 21 in 2019, earning a best result of fifth at Road America.

“I learned a lot as a driver working with RCR last year, so I feel confident that our existing chemistry as a team will lead to even better results in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season,” Grala said in a press release. “RCR’s Xfinity Series program is top-notch, and with the No. 21 car running all year, I am excited to be a part of the team chasing yet another owner’s championship. I’m very grateful to Richard Childress for giving me this opportunity to further my career.”

No sponsors were part of the announcement.

“Kaz showed quite a bit of speed and promise in the No. 21 car last year for RCR,” Richard Childress said in a press release. “I’m confident the results will show in 2020, especially after a year under his belt in our proven Xfinity program.”

A ‘crucial’ year for Hailie Deegan’s career begins today at Daytona

David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Hailie Deegan will be racing a sports car today at Daytona International Speedway with an eye toward her future in stock cars.

Signed by Ford Performance to a developmental deal that will put her in a full-time ARCA car (and possibly a truck race or two) this season, Deegan was surprised when the manufacturer also expressed a desire to put her in a few IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge events.

The first will be Friday’s season-opening BMW Endurance Challenge, a four-hour warmup race at Daytona International Speedway ahead of Saturday’s Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

Deegan and Xfinity Series veteran Chase Briscoe will start 20th in the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4.

MEET HAILIE DEEGAN: ‘I put my helmet on the same way as everyone else’

“I originally never planned on this, but (Ford) came to me and were like ‘we want to get you on our IMSA program,’” Deegan said. “’That’s what we did with Briscoe, (Cole) Custer, (Austin) Cindric. All the guys that came through the ranks with Ford.’

“When they told me that, I was excited because more road courses will be in the NASCAR world, and there already are quite a few. I think what makes an all-around good driver are the ones that are good at every single type of track.”

There’s been much talk of adding road and street races to the Cup schedule in the next few years, and the Xfinity Series schedule just expanded to five road courses with the move from the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4 that will be driven by Hailie Deegan and Chase Briscoe.

Deegan, 18, still remains a long way from the top two national series, but they are her goal, which makes 2020 critical for earning results.

“This is the year that’s very important and crucial to my career because it decides contracts for years out with sponsors getting behind you for the higher levels,” said Deegan, who had three K&N Series victories in 2018-19. “If we can do good this year, I feel I can get more people behind me so we can go in the top three level series (of NASCAR), and have sponsors that want to stay with me full time while I’m there.

“My goal is to win a few races in the ARCA Series, which is going to be hard. There are a lot of good guys, good cars this year.”

Aside from running full time in ARCA for DGR-Crosley, Deegan would “love to do a truck race” if the sponsorship materializes, “but funding right now is all focused on ARCA so we can try to work toward those championships and winning races. I know I want to be in a good car with good people behind me. If we can focus on that, hopefully everything else will come along.”

Click here to read the full version of this story from NBC Sports’ MotorSportsTalk.

2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Start time, TV schedule, lineup and more

Speedy Cash expands deal with Front Row Motorsports, John Hunter Nemechek

John Hunter Nemechek
Front Row Motorsports
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After sponsoring John Hunter Nemechek in two of his first three Cup Series starts last year, Speed Cash has expanded its backing of Nemechek for the 2020 season, Front Row Motorsports announced Friday.

Speedy Cash, an omni-channel financial services provider specializing in short-term loans, will be on Nemechek’s No. 38 Ford for multiple races, including events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

It will serve as an associate sponsor throughout the year for both Nemechek and Michael McDowell and his No. 34 Ford Mustang team.

Speedy Cash sponsored Nemechek last November in his Cup debut at Texas Motor Speedway and in the season finale at Miami. Nemechek finished 21st at Texas, the best of his three starts filling in for Matt Tifft in the No. 36 Ford after he stepped out of the car due to suffering a seizure.

Nemechek will be part of a deep rookie class in Cup this year after he raced full-time for GMS Racing in the Xfinity Series in 2019.

“As a driver, partnerships like this one with Speedy Cash are so important to our entire team,” Nemechek said in a press release. “It’s always great to see partners expanding their involvement in the sport. For me, Speedy Cash is pretty cool. If you need cash, there are so many easy ways you can get it using their services. I enjoyed getting to know them in the last few races of the 2019 season and we’re going to work hard to make them proud in 2020.”

 

Friday 5: As season nears, a bigger deadline looms for NASCAR

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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While the Cup garage opens in two weeks at Daytona International Speedway to begin the 2020 season, a bigger deadline is looming.

It is less than 10 weeks from NASCAR President Steve Phelps’ self-imposed deadline of announcing the 2021 schedule around April 1.

Phelps made it clear in November what will be key elements to the upcoming schedule.

“We’re looking at where we’re going to have the most competitive racing that we can have, where we’re going to have full grandstands, and what does that market look like, is it a new market that we can service,” Phelps said the morning of last season’s finale in Miami.

Tracks that host Cup races — now mostly owned by NASCAR — were put on notice by Phelps’ comments.

“The two things that teams need: We need butts in seats and eyeballs on the TV,” said Steve Newmark, Roush Fenway Racing president, this week.

He stated how important attendance is for teams by noting the growth at Watkins Glen International, which had its fifth consecutive sellout of grandstand seating last year.

Fans at Watkins Glen in 2019. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“When I started in 2010, we didn’t take a lot of partners to Watkins Glen,” Newmark said of sponsors. “Now you take a partner to Watkins Glen in a heartbeat. It is sold out, the energy there. I understand the capacity at Watkins Glen is not the same but it has this feeling, and I think really what we’re trying from a team perspective, from a Roush Fenway perspective, that’s the most important thing.

“I want to go to areas that embrace having the race, that people show up in the stands, that there is a lot of energy. That’s where I want to take my partners. I want them to see their brand in that type of setting.

“Some venues can do that with two races. Other venues it’s been more of a struggle. I would love to see us try these new venues. There will be an energy around that.”

Among Newmark’s suggestions of where NASCAR should consider racing at some point: “Mexico, Canada, street courses, different road courses, different short tracks, look at it all.”

Ryan Newman, who enters his second year at Roush Fenway Racing, said that NASCAR should consider running a Cup race on dirt.

“I’m not trying to bash anybody, we just can’t keep doing the same things we’ve been doing,” he said this week. “We just can’t. We’ve got to mix it up as a sport. We’re working on doing that and I know that.

NASCAR Trucks at Eldora Speedway in 2019. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

“But we’ve got to mix it up and make the fans want to see something different, want to see something new. A different driver. A different venue. A different type of anything. Not just a Next Gen car, that’s a part of it. … Going dirt racing can be done with the Next Gen car. If Junior Johnson was here, he’d tell you, ‘Let’s go race dirt.’ I’m telling you.”

Only the Truck series races on dirt, competing at Eldora Speedway. Cup last raced on a dirt track Sept. 30, 1970 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina. Richard Petty won that race.

As the sport continues to evolve — adding a night race at Martinsville, a doubleheader weekend at Pocono, and the debut of the Next Gen car next season — the makeup of the schedule in the coming years will be among the biggest tasks for NASCAR officials.

2. A big deal

After winning the Chili Bowl for the first time in 13 attempts, Kyle Larson said moments after the triumph on the MavTV broadcast: “Its a pretty different range of emotions 365 days later. I feel like I’m going to pass out. I’m sorry NASCAR, I’m sorry Daytona, but this is the biggest (expletive) race I’ve ever won. I hope to win Daytona in a few weeks but this is bad ass.”

Larson, who lost the Chili Bowl the previous year on the last lap, later explained his comment in his press conference.

“It will be fun to watch the dirt fans and the NASCAR fans go at it and maybe get a text from (NASCAR’s Steve) O’Donnell and probably (Chip Ganassi Racing chief operating officer) Doug Duchardt,” Larson said.

“I think they understand the energy that this race brings to me and how much I want to win and have wanted to win it. Obviously, I’ve said in the past that the Chili Bowl, to me, is bigger than the Daytona 500. Obviously, it’s not just because of the size of the crowd and the purse of the Daytona 500, nothing compares with that I’ve raced in.

“On a personal level, just how close I’ve been to winning this race, I think that’s where I think this race has meant more to me. But now maybe after winning the Chili Bowl, the Daytona 500 will be that next race that’s going to mean the most to me that I want to win. It’s just been a great little run and hopefully we can turn this into some good momentum into the NASCAR season.”

Ryan Newman, who competed at the Chili Bowl Nationals for the first time, defended Larson’s excitement with winning that event.

“There’s 360 drivers, 360 teams going for one trophy. That’s spectacular,” Newman said. “I raced midgets races before where I won and there were 16 cars that entered and I felt really good about it. Going back to the Kyle Larson (comment), when there’s 360 (drivers) and you have been working … your whole life to get that trophy, it makes it special. It makes it more special than anybody who is out of his shoes to understand.”

3. Memorable win

NASCAR’s test this week on the Indy road course for the Xfinity Series will give those drivers a chance to accomplish a first — be the first Xfinity driver to win on that circuit.

Brad Keselowski after winning the 2012 Nationwide race at Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Brad Keselowski won the first Xfinity race at Indy (it was known as the Nationwide Series at the time) in 2012. That remains a special accomplishment.

“It sticks with you,” he told NBC Sports. “I’m proud of it. … It makes me … a little sad because I don’t get to compete in that series anymore with all the rules, it’s not feasible. So there is a little bit of sorrow I have with that question (of winning there) but it certainly was a defining moment for my career.”

Keselowski also won the final Xfinity race at Lucas Oil Raceway — where the series competed from 1982-2011 before moving to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

4. 15 and counting …

Call it a good sign for some, an omen for others or one crazy coincidence but each of the past 15 Cup champions have had an even-number car number.

The last driver to win the championship with an odd number on the car was Kurt Busch. He won the 2004 title (the inaugural Chase) driving the No. 97 car.

So, if one believes in signs, the even-number streak could be a bad sign this season for drivers with odd numbers, such as Busch (No. 1), Chase Elliott (No. 9), Denny Hamlin (No. 11) and Martin Truex Jr. (No. 19) among others.

5. NASCAR at Rolex

Kyle Busch is the only active Cup driver competing in this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway (coverage will be on NBC, NBCSN and NBC Gold: Track Pass), today’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge will have some additional NASCAR flavor.

MORE: A “crucial” year for Hailie Deegan’s career begins today at Daytona

MORE: Full Rolex 24 Hours coverage at MotorSportsTalk

The four-hour endurance race begins at 1:10 pm. ET (and will be streamed on the NBC Gold: Track Pass) and includes Xfinity drivers Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric. Also competing will be Hailie Deegan, who moved from Toyota’s development program to Ford’s in the offseason. She’ll spend most of her time this season running in the ARCA Series. Deegan and Briscoe will co-drive the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4.