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

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Front Row Motorsports adds more Cup races to Zane Smith’s schedule

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Reigning Craftsman Truck Series champion Zane Smith, who seeks to qualify for the Daytona 500, will do six additional Cup races for Front Row Motorsports this season, the team announced Tuesday. Centene Corporation’s brands will sponsor Smith.

The 23-year-old Smith will drive the No. 36 car in his attempt to make the Daytona 500 for Front Row Motorsports. That car does not have a charter. Chris Lawson will be the crew chief. 

Smith’s remaining six Cup races will be in the No. 38 car for Front Row Motorsports, which has a charter. Todd Gilliland will drive the remaining 30 points races and All-Star Open in that car. Ryan Bergenty will be the crew chief for both drivers this year.

Smith’s races in the No. 38 car will be Phoenix (March 12), Talladega (April 23), Coca-Cola 600 (May 28), Sonoma (June 11), Texas (Sept. 24) and the Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8). 

He also will run the full Truck season. 

Centene’s Wellcare, which offers a range of Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans will be Smith’s sponsor for the Daytona 500, Phoenix, Talladega and Sonoma. Centene’s Ambetter, a provider of health insurance offerings on the Health Insurance Marketplace, will be Smith’s sponsor at Texas and the Charlotte Roval. 

Smith’s sponsor for the Coca-Cola 600 will be Boot Barn. 

The mix of tracks is something Smith said he is looking forward to this season.

“I wanted to run Phoenix just because the trucks only go to Phoenix once and it’s the biggest race of the year,” Smith told NBC Sports. “I wanted to get as much time and laps as I can at Phoenix even though it’s in a completely different car. I wanted to run road courses, as well, just because I felt road course racing suits me.”

Smith also will be back in the Truck Series. Ambetter Health will be the primary sponsor of Smith’s Truck at Homestead (Oct. 21). The partnership with Centene includes full season associate sponsorship of Smith’s Truck and full season associate sponsorship on the No. 38 Cup car. 

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150
Zane Smith holding the Truck series championship trophy last year at Phoenix. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Smith’s connection to Centene Corporation, a St. Louis-based company, goes back to last June’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis. Smith made his Cup debut that weekend, filling in for Chris Buescher, who was out with COVID-19. Smith finished 17th.

“It’s cool to see how into the sport they are,” Smith said of Centene Corporation. “It started out with an appearance I did for them (at World Wide Technology Raceway). I’ve gotten to know that group pretty well.”

Centene also is the healthcare partner of Speedway Motorsports and sponsors a Cup race at Atlanta and Xfinity race at New Hampshire. 

Smith’s opportunity to run select Cup races, including major events as the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600, is part of the fast trajectory he’s made.

In 2019, he made only 10 Xfinity starts with JR Motorsports and didn’t start racing full-time in NASCAR until the 2020 season. Since then, he’s won a Truck title, finished second two other times and scored seven Truck victories.

“I feel like I’ve lived about probably three lifetimes in these four years just with getting that part-time Xfinity schedule and running well and getting my name out there,” Smith said.

He was provided an extra Xfinity race at Phoenix in 2019 with JRM and that proved significant to his future.

“That happened to be probably one of my best runs,” he said of his fifth-place finish that day. “We ran top four, top five all day and (team owner) Maury Gallagher happened to be there. He watched that.”

He signed with Gallagher’s GMS Racing Truck truck.

“It was supposed to be a part-time Truck schedule and (then) I won at Michigan and it was like, ‘Oh man, we’re in the playoffs, we should probably be full-time racing.’ I won another one a couple of weeks later at Dover.”

His success led to second season with the team and he again finished second in the championship. That led to the drive to a title last year.

The championship trophy sits in his home office and serves as motivation every day.

“First thing you see is when you come through my front door is pretty much the trophy,” Smith said. “It drives me crazy now thinking I could have two more to go with it and how close I was. … Really just that much more hungrier to go capture more.”

IndyCar driver Conor Daly to attempt to qualify for Daytona 500

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Conor Daly, who competes full-time in the NTT IndyCar Series, will seek to make his first Daytona 500 this month with The Money Team Racing, the Cup program owned by boxing Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather.

The team also announced Tuesday plans for Daly to race in up to six additional Cup races this year as his schedule allows. Daly’s No. 50 car at Daytona will be sponsored by BITNILE.com, a digital marketplace launching March 1. Among the Cup races Daly is scheduled to run: Circuit of the Americas (March 26) and the Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13, a day after the IndyCar race there).

“The Money Team Racing shocked the world by making the Daytona 500 last year, and I believe in this team and know we will prepare a great car for this year’s race,” Mayweather said in a statement. “Like a fighter who’s always ready to face the best, Conor has the courage to buckle into this beast without any practice and put that car into the field. Conor is like a hungry fighter and my kind of guy. I sure wouldn’t bet against him.”

Daly will be among at least six drivers vying for four spots in the Daytona 500 for cars without charters. Others seeking to make the Daytona 500 will be seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (Legacy Motor Club), Travis Pastrana (23XI Racing), Zane Smith (Front Row Motorsports), Chandler Smith (Kaulig Racing) and Austin Hill (Beard Motorsports).

“I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to attempt to run in the Daytona 500,” Daly said in a statement. “It is the most prestigious race in NASCAR and to have the chance to compete in it is truly an honor. I am also excited to be running the entire IndyCar Series season and select NASCAR Cup events. I am looking forward to the challenge and can’t wait to get behind the wheel of whatever BITNILE.com race car, boat, dune buggy or vehicle they ask me to drive. Bring it on.”

Daly has made 97 IndyCar starts, dating back to 2013. He made his Cup debut at the Charlotte Roval last year, placing 34th for The Money Team Racing. He has one Xfinity start and two Craftsman Truck Series starts.

 

Will driver clashes carry beyond Coliseum race?

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LOS ANGELES — Tempers started the day before the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum when AJ Allmendinger, upset at an aggressive move Chase Briscoe made in practice, “sent (Briscoe) into the fence.”

The action gained notice in the garage. It was quite a change in attitude from last year’s inaugural Clash when drivers were more cautious because teams didn’t have as many spare parts for the new car at the time.

But seeing the aggression in practice made one wonder what the races would be like. Such actions carried over to Sunday night’s exhibition race, which featured 16 cautions and many reasons for drivers to be upset. 

Kyle Busch made it clear where he stood with Joey Logano running into his car and spinning him as Busch ran sixth with 65 laps to go.

“It’s really unfortunate to be raced by guys that are so two-faced,” Busch said of Logano to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio after the race. “We were in the TV booth earlier tonight together and when we were all done with that, just like ‘Hey man, good luck tonight.’ ‘OK, great, thanks, yea, whatever.’

“Then, lo and behold, there you go, he wrecks me. Don’t even talk to me if you’re going to be that kind of an (expletive deleted) on the racetrack.”

Logano said of the contact with Busch: “I just overdrove it. I screwed up. It was my mistake. It’s still kind of a mystery to me because I re-fired and I came off of (Turn) 2 with no grip and I went down into (Turn 3) and I still had no grip and I slid down into (Busch’s car). Thankfully, he was fast enough to get all the back up there. I felt pretty bad. I was glad he was able to get up there (finishing third).”

Austin Dillon, who finished second, got by Bubba Wallace by hitting him and sending Wallace into the wall in the final laps. Wallace showed his displeasure by driving down into Dillon’s car when the field came by under caution.

“I hate it for Bubba,” Dillon said. “He had a good car and a good run, but you can’t tell who’s either pushing him or getting pushed. I just know he sent me through the corner and I saved it three times through there … and then when I got down, I was going to give the game. Probably a little too hard.”

Said Wallace of the incident with Dillon: “(He) just never tried to make a corner. He just always ran into my left rear. It is what it is. I got run into the fence by him down the straightaway on that restart, so I gave him a shot and then we get dumped.”

Among the reasons for the beating and banging, Briscoe said, was just the level of competition.

“Everyone was so close time-wise, nobody was going to make a mistake because their car was so stuck,” he said. “The only way you could even pass them is hitting them and moving them out of the way. … It was definitely wild in that front to mid-pack area.”

Denny Hamlin, who spun after contact by Ross Chastain, aptly summed up the night by saying: “I could be mad at Ross, I could be mad at five other guys and about seven other could be mad at me. It’s hard to really point fingers. Certainly I’m not happy but what can you do? We’re all just jammed up there.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

After going winless last year for the first time in eight seasons, Martin Truex Jr. was different this offseason. Asked how, he simply said: “Mad.

“Just determined. Just have a lot of fire in my belly to go out and change what we did last year.”

Sunday was a start. After a season where Truex was in position to win multiple races but didn’t, he won the Clash at the Coliseum, giving him his first Cup victory since Sept. 2021 at Richmond. 

The 42-year-old driver pondered if he wanted to continue racing last season. He had never examined the question before.

“I’m not really good at big decisions,” Truex told NBC Sports in the offseason. “I didn’t really have to do that last year. This sport … to do this job, it takes a lot of commitment, takes a lot of drive, it takes everything that you have to be as good as I want to be and to be a champion.

“I guess it was time for me to just ask myself, ‘Do I want to keep doing this? Am I committed? Am I doing the right things? Can I get this done still? I guess I really didn’t have to do that. I just felt like it was kind of time and it was the way I wanted to do it.”

As he examined things, Truex found no reason to leave the sport.

“I came up with basically I’m too good, I’ve got to keep going,” he said. “That’s how I felt about it honestly. I feel like I can win every race and win a championship again.”

Things went his way Sunday. He took the lead from Ryan Preece with 25 laps to go. Truex led the rest of the way. 

“Hopefully we can do a lot more of that,” Truex said, the gold medal given to the event’s race winner draped around his neck Sunday night. 

“We’ve got a lot going on good in our camp, at Toyota. I’ve got a great team, and I knew they were great last year, and we’ll just see how far we can go, but I feel really good about things. Fired up and excited, and it’s just a good feeling to be able to win a race, and even though it’s not points or anything, it’s just good momentum.”

Asked if this was a statement victory, Truex demurred.

“I just think for us it reminds us that we’re doing the right stuff and we can still go out and win any given weekend,” he said. “We felt that way last year, but it never happened.

“You always get those questions, right, like are we fooling ourselves or whatever, but it’s just always nice when you finish the deal.

“And racing is funny. We didn’t really change anything, the way we do stuff. We just tried to focus and buckle down and say, okay, these are things we’ve got to look at and work on, and that’s what we did, and we had a little fortune tonight.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

While the tire marks, dented fenders and bruised bumpers showed how much beating and banging took place in Sunday night’s Clash at the Coliseum, it wasn’t until after the race one could understand how much drivers were jostled.

Kyle Larson, who finished fifth, said the restarts were where he felt the impacts the most. 

I only had like one moment last year that I remember where it was like, ‘Wow, like that was a hard hit,’” Larson said. “I think we stacked up on a restart at like Sonoma or something, and (Sunday’s Clash) was like every restart you would check up with the guy in front of you and just get clobbered from behind and your head whipping around and slamming off the back of the seat.

“I don’t have a headache, but I could see how if others do. It’s no surprise because it was very violent for the majority of the race. We had so many restarts, and like I said, every restart you’re getting just clobbered and then you’re clobbering the guy in front of you. You feel it a lot.”

After the race, Bubba Wallace said: “Back still hurts. Head still hurts.”

Kyle Busch apologizes for violating Mexican firearm law

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Kyle Busch issued a statement Monday apologizing “for my mistake” of carrying a firearm without a license in Mexico.

The incident happened Jan. 27 at a terminal for private flights at Airport Cancun International as Busch returned with his wife from vacation to the U.S.

The Public Ministry of the Attorney General of the Republic in Quintana Roo obtained a conviction of three years and six months in prison and a fine of 20,748 pesos ($1,082 U.S. dollars) against Busch for the charge. Busch had a .380-caliber gun in his bag, along with six hollow point cartridges, according to Mexican authorities.

Busch’s case was presented in court Jan. 29.

Busch issued a statement Monday on social media. He stated he has “a valid concealed carry permit from my local authority and adhere to all handgun laws, but I made a mistake by forgetting it was in my bag.

“Discovery of the handgun led to my detainment while the situation was resolved. I was not aware of Mexican law and had no intention of bringing a handgun into Mexico.

“When it was discovered, I fully cooperated with the authorities, accepted the penalties, and returned to North Carolina.

“I apologize for my mistake and appreciate the respect shown by all parties as we resolved the matter. My family and I consider this issue closed.”

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports on Monday that Busch does not face any NASCAR penalty for last month’s incident.