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Daytona to Pit ARCA Veterans Against Rising NASCAR Stars

The ARCA Racing Series remains the cult classic of professional stock car racing and its future appears even brighter on the eve of the 2016 season.

That future is on full display within the entry list for the season-opening Lucas Oil 200 on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway — featuring an eclectic mix of ARCA veterans and NASCAR hopefuls, needing to complete this race before moving on to Trucks or XFINITY.

This is also the second year ARCA will utilize a cost-cutting spec motor and car counts are expected to rise as a result. For Daytona alone, 50 teams have entered and will compete for 40 starting positions, making it the one race during Speedweeks where qualifying has a substantial amount of consequence.

The entry list is headlined by eight-time Daytona winner, Bobby Gerhart, who is also attempting to make the grid for the NASCAR Trucks and XFINITY events next weekend as well. This will be his record 29th consecutive ARCA attempt at Daytona, and should he win, he would surpass Iggy Katona as the oldest superspeedway winner in motorsports history.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, 10-time ARCA champion is entering what he expects to be his final full-time season on the tour and he’s still looking to win for the first time at the World Center of Racing. Kimmel has done virtually everything there is to do in ARCA and the 53-year-old has stated that Daytona is the last-remaining bucket list item on his agenda.

Defending champion Grant Enfinger has graduated to the NASCAR Truck Series, leaving talented characters like Matt Kurzejewski, Tommy Hessert and Josh Williams to carry the torch and compete for the championship — a mission that starts in earnest in Central Florida.

Rising to meet the challenge of both the veterans and full-time teams is a subset of contenders participating in the Lucas Oil 200 as a one-off.

That includes Gray Gaulding, who turns 18 just three days before the race, making him potentially the youngest winner in superspeedway history – a stark contrast to Gerhart. Other rookies entered in the event include K&N East champion William Byron, Shane Lee, Kevin Thomas and Chase Briscoe.

The ARCA schedule is the most diverse in motorsports as it will compete on eight superspeedways, eight short tracks, two dirt tracks and a single road course. All told, ARCA will provide something for every type of motorsports aficionado in 2016.

But first comes Daytona and a chance at Speedweeks glory.

The 53rd Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona is live on Fox Sports 1 on Saturday, February 13 and precedes NASCAR’s Sprint Unlimited. ARCA takes to the track for practice on Thursday from 4-6 p.m. Pole Day is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Friday after final practice on the same day from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

The complete entry list for the event can be found below.

  • Cory Howard
  • Sarah Cornett-Ching
  • Steve Fox
  • Bobby Hamilton Jr.
  • John Wes Townley
  • Bobby Gerhart
  • Josh Williams
  • Tim Viens
  • Thomas Praytor
  • Ed Pompa
  • Tyler Audie
  • J.J. Pack
  • Brett Hudson
  • Gene Paul
  • Kevin Thomas, Jr.
  • Brad Smith
  • Tom Hessert
  • Dick Doheny
  • Terry Jones
  • Shane Lee
  • Austin Wayne Self
  • Willie Mullins
  • Brandon Lynn
  • Gray Gaulding
  • Bo LeMastus
  • John Ferrier
  • Frank Kimmel
  • Matt Kurzejewski
  • Cole Custer
  • William Byron
  • Bryan Dauzat
  • Kyle Weatherman
  • JA Avila
  • Ray Ciccarelli
  • Eric Caudell
  • Mark Thompson
  • Dale Shearer
  • Will Kimmel
  • Andy Seuss
  • Chase Briscoe
  • Cole Powell
  • Russ Dugger
  • Dylan Lupton
  • Derrick Lancaster
  • Gus Dean
  • TBA
  • TBA

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By Matt Weaver

Matt Weaver is the Executive Editor of POPULAR SPEED. He has covered NASCAR since 2011 and full-time since 2013. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He has been published all across the country and routinely makes radio appearances on Sirius XM Satellite radio and NBC Sports Radio Network.