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“They Said What?” NASCAR Home Tracks Edition

Sometimes when you stick a microphone in front of a driver’s face, you have no clue what they may say and a couple of times you’ll hear something that surprises you or gives you a bit of a perspective.

Throughout the 2019 season, I had the opportunity to speak to a bunch of different competitors. During those interviews, there were some quotes that stood out. So it seems only fitting we take a glance back through the year at what was said.

RUSTY JARRETT | NKP

I think the biggest thing is – I don’t want to sound negative, but just be prepared that it might not work out. I think it’s easy for all of us, whether you’re a dad, you’re a friend of a racer or a competitor of a racer and look at people and say, “Oh, they’ll make it. They have plenty of talent. They’ll be in Cup one day, or they remind me of Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon.”

But there’s no model there anymore. So I think young guys that growing up in racing, whether quarter midgets, bandalero, late model, or even the K&N division, is just take advantage of every single opportunity that you can. Don’t waste it, because it cost way too much money to be out there and there’s jobs on the line for a lot of crew guys that are working on those cars. But don’t waste your opportunity, and be prepared that you can go out there and do everything right – you can win races, and you can win championships, and there’s still a really big chance that due to the business, you’re not going to make it on Sundays and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I work with Noah Gragson and I tell him this all the time – just don’t waste your opportunity because if you go out there and win five races over the year and do everything you can, and you’re prepared, and you’re preparing your body to battle, and you’re communicating with your team – if you come up short and you can’t make it to the Cup Series, then you can still lay your head down at night and say you gave it your all. But don’t be the kid that wastes the opportunity and doesn’t take advantage of it, because then you’re going to be feeling a lot of regrets.

So I think it’s about being mentally prepared of the challenge to work your way up through the sport in today’s atmosphere to where it’s not just about talent, but the funding you have in place and what you do with that and whether you take advantage of it.

Brandon McReynolds

BILL MCANALLY RACING

It’s a really cool position I’m being putting in this year. I’ve raced for the past 15 years and I’ve always kind of been one of the very few girls in the midwest for the up-and-coming drivers to admire and to learn off of. Now that you’re getting into the higher NASCAR series, your platform gets bigger and bigger.

 

My role for that is to go out there and do what I love; go out there and win and show that it really doesn’t matter, boy or girl, you can go out there and do whatever sport you want. So if they’re looking for inspiration to gout there and race against all the guys, that’s great; but if they can use what I am doing on the race track to help them pursue their dreams, whether racing or another sport, that’s a really cool spot for me to be  in and I hope to do that for them.

Brittney Zamora

JAGGER JONES RACING

It definitely helps being involved and having a racing family. I mean, my dad is always there and my grandpa – I can always go to them and ask. But it’s also what they know, their experience, in putting me in the right position and just being involved with a lot of other people in the NASCAR world has really been a help for us. It’s good to know that I can go to my dad and ask for advice, really, for anything about the cars, or anything really around racing.

Jagger Jones

RUSTY JARRETT | NKP

The K&N and ARCA car are really similar, so going back and forth between those two isn’t too drastic; it’s really just horsepower. But when we go super late model racing and TransAm Racing, that’s completely different and that’s just more or less for experience. So I don’t really take those for competitive, but rather just for learning, like road courses and stuff like that in the bigger cars. The Super Late Model is more so for the competitiveness of the series.

Sam Mayer

JOHN HARRELSON | NKP

Really, just how to race these cars. These cars have 650 horsepower, but they’re so heavy and really tall; it’s kind of like racing a school bus with a jet engine. It’s just a really big bulky car so you have to learn how to drive it, especially on these short tracks. It’s all about who has the most speed through the center; it’s a big long drag race down the straightaway with whoever can get the power down.

We ran several short track races and we qualified third at Thompson, but we ended up having a really loose car. I think just from everything I learned from that will help for New Smyrna. For the big tracks, I’ve been to the big tracks now so I can be able to use that knowledge with how the air works, how not to use much brake, and that stuff, and going to these tracks for the second time is going to help a lot.

First time I went to New Hampshire, we qualified 13th or something like that. But the next time we went, I qualified sixth, a tenth off the pole. So it definitely helps going to these tracks for a second time.

Colin Garrett

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Michael Self Rebounds from Daytona Disappointment with Five Flags Checkered Flag

After a short night in the season opener at Daytona, Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) rebounded in the second race of the ARCA Menards Series season with a dominant win in the ARCA Pensacola 200 presented by Inspectra Thermal Solutions at Five Flags Speedway.

Self led 39 laps midway through the race and retook the lead from Kaden Honeycutt (No. 38 Kaden Honeycutt Racing Ford) with 29 laps remaining to score his fourth career series win and his first ever series short track victory.

“This is a big deal for me,” Self said. “A short track in ARCA has eluded me. Even though I don’t think I am a great short track racer, I have had some success in the K&N Series on short tracks. For some reason is just hasn’t translated over here. Maybe this will kick start it.

“I had a lot of confidence in our car. The Venturini Motorsports team as a whole is really good. Whenever we go to one of these short tracks the rest of the year we should be in good shape. I wouldn’t want to be racing against them right now because I am not sure I would be able to beat them.”

Self finished ahead of Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers/Advance Auto Parts Toyota), who finished second in his ARCA Menards Series debut. He passed Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) for the second position in the final turn of the final lap.

“I am really happy with finishing second in my first race, but I really think we had the car to beat,” Gibbs said. “I let the car roll off the jack a little on the last stop and it cost us a little time on pit road. I think that cost us the race, but we learned a lot and I am ready to get to the next race at Salem.”

Eckes held on for third, albeit with damage to the nose of his racecar.

“It happened early in the race and I didn’t think it really effected the way the car ran then, but looking at it now I am not so sure,” Eckes said. “It would have been nice to hold Ty off for second but we’ll take third. I think we come out of here with the points lead so it’s a great night for the Venturini team.”

Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman/828 Logistics Toyota) led the first 38 laps after starting from the General Tire Pole. He crossed the line in fourth, just in front of Corey Heim (No. 22 Speedway Children’s Charities Ford) who finished fifth in his series debut.

The race was only slowed twice by caution flags, each for debris. The race took just one hour, 12 minutes, and 23 seconds and was completed at an average speed of 82.802 miles per hour, a record pace for a 200-lap race at Five Flags. The previous record, 75.205 miles per hour, was set by Gary Bradberry in 1994.

Self’s official margin of victory was 1.506 seconds over Gibbs.

Unoffically, Eckes leads the ARCA Menards Series championship standings with 435 points. Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Healthcare/Liberty Village Ford), who finished tenth, sits second at 370, sixth place finisher Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation/Southern States Bank Chevrolet) is third with 340, Self is fourth with 315, and eleventh-place finisher Joe Graf, Jr. (No. 77 EatSleepRace.com Ford) is fifth with 300.

The next race for the ARCA Menards Series is the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA 200 at Salem Speedway on April 14. The race will be televised live on MAVTV starting at 2 pm Eastern. ARCARacing.com will have free live timing & scoring, track updates, and user chat for ARCA for Me members; new members can register at ARCARacing.com/login.

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Home Tracks News

Sarah Cornett-Ching Making Racing Comeback After Concussion

Sarah Cornett-Ching, a popular driver who has been competing in the ARCA Racing Series, is ready to get back to racing after being sidelined with a concussion back in September.

Cornett-Ching, 25, from the British Columbia province in Canada, was involved in an accident on Lap 22 in the Crosley 150 ARCA Racing Series event at Kentucky Speedway last September.  The symptoms of her concussion caused her to remain sidelined, but now she has been cleared to compete again.

Cornett-Ching was set to make her return in a Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Model race at Dillon Motor Speedway in South Carolina earlier this month, but mechanical problems in practice forced her and car owner Tony Blanchard to pack up.  Since then, she’s tested a Super Late Model at Southern National Motorsports Park in preparation for a PASS race on March 4th.

“We didn’t get to race at Dillon which was unfortunate because I was looking forward to seeing how I felt in a group of cars where you have to make quick reactions and things like that which is different than just practicing,” Cornett-Ching remarked.  “Obviously, a longer race, it was going to be 200 laps.  Bummed we didn’t get to run that race but I’m better every day.”

The journey back has been a long one and sometimes frustrating for the 25-year-old who feels she’s mentally ready to race again.

“It’s been pretty frustrating,” Cornett-Ching said.  “Just a long process, really, really slow, little bit better every day but never really noticeably better.  It was just frustrating.  I mean, it’s good to be back testing now.  We’ve tested a few times now.  The most frustrating part is that, when you’re trying to make progress and build as a driver and then you have to take so much time off, it’s just heartbreaking.”

Cornett-Ching recalled the Kentucky accident and how she felt in the days after.

“It sucked,” she commented.  “I mean, we were going around a couple lapped cars and the spotter just didn’t key up quick enough to say the leader was on the outside.  The leader did not decide to lift so he turned us around.  It was a hard hit.  Hit the outside wall and then the inside wall.  I don’t remember too much about the wreck and that.  I was pretty sick for a while, just out of it.  Sleeping, headaches, nausea, just really sick.  Memory and all that stuff was really affected.”

Now, a little over four months later, Cornett-Ching has been cleared to compete, but she still isn’t back to where she was physically before the accident.

“It’s been a long time getting back and it’s still not, I still don’t feel like I am as a driver where I was before it happened,” Cornett-Ching explained.  “I’ve been cleared though by the doctor and everything else with all the tests they do to get back in the racecar and be racing again so I’d like to run some Super Late Model races, get out there and see how I feel in those situations.”

Concussions in sports have been a hot topic in recent years, and auto racing has not been exempt.  Last July, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. stepped out of the car with concussion-like symptoms before a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Loudon, New Hampshire – the second time NASCAR’s most popular driver has had to do so due to concussion symptoms.  He has not been in the car since but is set to return at Daytona Speedweeks.

While there has been more talk about concussions since Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s abrupt decision to step aside, Cornett-Ching says his decision had no influence on her decision.

“For me, I was so sick that it wasn’t even a choice,” Cornett-Ching elaborated.  “Everybody brings that up because Dale Jr had a concussion at the same time and they ask.  You can say that it was, I don’t know, whatever.  It definitely did not make my decision.  My decision was made purely on how I felt, which was terrible.  It was around the same time and I’m glad he’s back and hopefully we can be back soon too.”

While Cornett-Ching isn’t where she was before, she feels she is ready to return and at least compete in a Super Late Model event.  The main issue for her has been recurring headaches later in the day, something that hydration plays a role in.

“Most times, when we run laps like this, right now I feel fine,” Cornett-Ching said.  “Towards the end of the day, I get a headache just as things are winding down and the doctor says hydration plays a role in that so I try to stay hydrated.  I feel fine.  Like I said, when you’re testing, it’s one thing but I do want to get back into a race situation where you make split second decisions and have to react to things happening on the track and that’s something we haven’t really been able to do yet.”

Cornett-Ching had planned to compete in the ARCA Racing Series event at Daytona International Speedway on February 18th, but is still unsure of her plans after the setback at Dillon Motor Speedway.  While her plans for the season have not been finalized, she intends to compete in more short track races this year – something she enjoys doing.

“The short track stuff is so much fun.  I guess it’s just more exciting.  The big tracks are so cool when you first go there but it’s really hard to do any door-to-door racing and it’s all just about running the perfect lap every time and trying to be as fast as you can be so you’re not losing time to the leaders.  Out here on the short tracks, you’re just beating and banging and really racing so it’s definitely a lot of fun.  I’m glad to be back at it and hopefully we can run more big races too.

“We haven’t set our schedule as far as that goes and I don’t want to rule anything out but I am excited to get back to the short track scene.”

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Leilani Munter Looks to Put Veganism at the Front at Daytona

A couple years ago while waiting out a rain delay at Kansas Speedway, Leilani Munter offered to go get her race team chicken wings for a snack. However, it wasn’t the chicken wings that you’d be thinking of, but rather vegan chicken wings.

Upon hearing they were vegan wings, she got some intriguing responses and worried glances from the team. However, after putting some in each of Venturini Motorsports’ four haulers, she returned to them all being gone, and those same team members giving her compliments in how well they tasted and how they couldn’t tell the difference between chicken wings and vegan chicken wings.

It seems only fitting that this year when she returns behind the wheel at Daytona International Speedway, she’ll have the vegan message on the hood of her racecar. Munter will race in the ARCA Racing Series season opener, driving the No. 15 VeganPowered Toyota for Venturini Motorsports.

“I’m excited,” she told POPULAR SPEED. “It’s going to be great to be back in a racecar. It’s been two years since I’ve raced so I’ve missed being in a racecar. So it’s fun to be back at the track again, and seeing the guys at Venturini again, and back working with Jeff McClure. He’s been my crew chief for the past four Venturini races, so it’s great to be back and I’m really looking forward to the race.”

Going into the event, Munter expects to “qualify well, stay up front, stay out of trouble, and be there for the end of the race”. While she hasn’t had the best of luck at Daytona in the past with a best finish 28th, she has three to-15 finishes in ARCA competition.

Photo Courtesy of ARCA
Photo Courtesy of ARCA

Notably, this is her first race in a racecar since running Daytona in 2015. She admits going into the test last month at Daytona she was “a little rusty” but she was able to work out the kinks quickly, timing in 16th quickest overall through the two days of testing.

“We were working on different set-ups for the car so it felt good,” she said. “So I’m happy and think that we’re going to do well. I’m going with a great race team whose given me a great racecar – they always have – and so I know Daytona pretty well. I’ve been there several times, turned plenty of laps there.”

As noted, she’s carrying a unique message on her car with VeganPowered across the hood, featured on the blue and green paint scheme. The opportunity comes thanks to sponsorship from Well Fed World, a non-profit organization out of D.C. Their campaign titled “Plants for Hunger” is about going into areas of the world suffering from hunger, and giving them plant-based vegan food.

“I’ve been wanting to race this car for five years since I went to Vegan, but never was able to put together the funding. But veganism has grown so much in the past five years and it’s so easy to get vegan food,” she said. “It’s a movement that’s growing and I’m sort of honored to be able to take it to race fans for the first time. I don’t think there’s ever been a Vegan sponsored car ever before. It’s kind of historic. I felt really proud having the vegan message on my car and taking laps at Daytona.”

Munter made the choice to go vegetarian decades ago for animal rights and environmental reasons. However, after learning more about the dairy industry, she made the decision to go vegan about five and a half years ago.

“Many people are unaware that more gas emissions go into raising animals for food than all of the other sectors combined,” she said. “Currently one third of the air-able land on the planet is used to grow livestock when we could feed many more people if we could feed the plants directly to people instead of animals.

“My reasons are more on the ethical side for going vegan, but of course there are many people that go vegan for health reasons. And I know many of my friends that I do it for the moral side of it – the impact on hunger, impact on our planet. Then there are people who do it for the health impacts. For me at the end of the day, I’m happy for whatever reason people do it because as the end of the day if they’re doing it for their health, they’re also helping the animals. Kind of just a win-win all the way around.”

While it may seem the veganism is new to the racing garage with Munter’s message, that isn’t the case as notable drivers Andy Lally and Landon Cassill are vegan.

Photo Courtesy of VeganPowered.org
Photo Courtesy of VeganPowered.org

Outside of Daytona, Munter does not have any other races on her schedule as of right now. However, she hasn’t closed the door to possibly running more events this season.

“If you would’ve asked me a few months ago if I was going to be racing at Daytona, I would’ve had to say I didn’t think I was. But I got a good partnership with Well Fed World, which is a non-profit and sponsoring the racecar,” she said. “These things often come unexpected. I’m always working to find partners to get back in a car and you just never know when it will happen, and not happen. There’s definitely the possibility of me getting back in the car and I hope that I will.

“But right now, all I have in place is Daytona. So my plans are to make the most of it and hope it’s not my last race and that I’ll be able to find more partners to continue to stay in the car.”

Knowing her situation, she adds she’s making sure to savor every bit of Daytona Speedweeks in case it is her last chance to jump behind the wheel.

“You never know if you’ll get another chance,” she said. “I think that’s why whenever I am in the car, I take pictures of everything and video taping everything. I really try and record everything so I can savor everything because it’s always in the back of my head that this could be my last.”

When she’s not behind the wheel, Munter is keeping herself very busy, continuing to spread awareness about environmental issues, electric cars and the dolphin captivity. After watching “The Cove” in 2010, she felt absolutely changed by the images she saw that wanted to go to Japan and help Ric O’Barry, and spread awareness about dolphin captivity. Munter says one of the things many people don’t realize is how many dolphin slaughters happen in Japan, and the connection it has to sea animal parks like SeaWorld, and dolphin shows.

“There’s people going out, driving the dolphins in and trainers will come from dolphin parks all over the world and pick out the dolphins that they want for captivity,” she said. “They can get a couple $100,000 a piece for a dolphin, and that’ll make them money in the industry. The dolphins that don’t get picked are slaughter because here they’ve spent all this time, and fuel and people going out to drive them in, and can get $600 for the meat of the dead dolphins. So it’s really the captivity industry that’s behind the dolphin slaughter.”

Photo Courtesy of Venturini Motorsports
Photo Courtesy of Venturini Motorsports

She has taken the movement to the race track on a pair of occasions, featuring “The Cove” on a car at Daytona, followed by featuring “Blackfish”, a documentary about captive orcas, on a racecar at Talladega Superspeedway.

“It’s been something that as people become more aware of what goes on and these animals in the wild could live a longer life and be with their families, that it’s not right to put them in a pool and make them do tricks for food,” she added. “More and more of the world is waking up, as seen with the great news the Ringling Brothers Circus is shutting down. They actually cited the changing public opinion about using animals as entertainment for people is something the general public is starting to reject. They’re starting to see that it is cruel.

“So I have a lot of hope that things are changing. When Blackfish aired for the first time on CNN, SeaWorld lost about $3 billion in market shares in one day, and their attendance has dropped. So awareness is spreading, and I feel really good that I’m on the right side of history in fighting for animal rights, justice and the environment. These are things that are all great. We are moving towards a kinder world, and where humans aren’t destroying the world around us but instead living in a more symbiotic sustainable way not just with the plants and the ecosystem, but the animals we share the world with.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Riley Herbst Looks to Continue Gibbs Winning Trend in ARCA

Despite experience at each level of NASCAR and being known for their development program, Joe Gibbs Racing has yet to enter a full effort into the ARCA Racing Series. That’s all set to change in 2017 as the organization announced in December they’d be fielding a full-time entry in the series.

17-year-old Riley Herbst will be the full-time driver behind the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota Camry.

“I am just very blessed and thankful for the opportunity that I’ve been given, and very excited to make the most out of it,” Herbst told POPULAR SPEED. “Joe Gibbs and his whole team have had a lot of success at every level of racing they’ve been in, and I’m looking forward to partnering with them and being with them.”

In the past 25 years, Joe Gibbs Racing has built a reputation on success, scoring 140 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories, including 12 this past season. They’ve also scored 131 XFINITY victories, along with six top-fives and 21 top-10s in 65 Camping World Truck Series. The multi-time champion team isn’t new to ARCA, but the last of their five previous starts came in 2005. The pair of races their drivers finished, they were able to post a pair of top-fives, to go along with the three other DNFs due to a pair of crashes and mechanical failure.

Going into the year, Herbst says he wants to continue the success the organization has had, claiming some wins of his own to add to their collection.

Herbst knows success himself, as this past season in the NASCAR K&N Pro East & West Series, he scored seven top-fives and 13 top-10s in 17 starts with Billy McAnally Racing. He also spent time competing in a super late model with Fury Racing, with crew chief Jeff Fultz and the guidance of Tony Eury Sr./Jr. He also did double duty as a rookie at the California Speedway in 2015, winning the track championship in the Irwindale Speed Trucks.

“I feel like our season went alright,” he said. “It could’ve gotten better as it was disappointing that we never got to victory lane with the Bill McAnally Crew. But overall, it was pretty good.”

Looking back on the experience, Herbst says the biggest thing he learned was “to take it one race a time and just be smart”. He also noted of the memorable moments in his career to date, there’s not a single one in which he could pick over the other.

“There’s a bunch of them,” he said. “Probably just going to the track with my family and hanging out. That’s what racing is all about.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Trucks

Enfinger Makes His Mark in NASCAR With Talladega Win

Long-time ARCA Racing Series driver Grant Enfinger reached a new milestone on Saturday by winning the Fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The victory with GMS Racing’s No. 24 Chevrolet was the first of the Fairhope, Ala. native’s NASCAR career.

Talladega was the track Enfinger attended to watch races as a fan growing up, so winning at his hometown speedway made his first win all the more special.

“My racing career started as a fan up here with my old man,” Enfinger said. “Pretty special and a pretty unbelievable feeling here. A lot of emotions and a lot of friends and family here at this race.”

Enfinger started second at the 2.66-mile track and led 45 of 94 laps in the 250-mile event. He stayed in the top-10 all race long and avoided the “Big Ones,” which collected many of the series regulars in the championship hunt.

When the race came down to the wire with a green-white-checkered restart on Lap 93, the 31-year-old had help retaining the lead from GMS teammate Spencer Gallagher, who finished second, pushing the No. 24’s rear bumper.

Enfinger, the 2015 ARCA champion, only had 12 career NASCAR starts entering Saturday’s race — all in the Truck Series.

After racing several seasons in ARCA, he said his rise in stock car racing’s ranks is a testament to his “stubbornness” to be a successful racecar driver.

Now a part-time truck racer, he is thankful for GMS team owner Maurice Gallagher Jr. giving him the opportunity in both ARCA and NASCAR’s third-tier level.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Mason Mitchell Confident About Chances in Kansas

Going into the ARCA Racing Series finale at Kansas Speedway, there is a field full of drivers who look to lay claim on the last race of the season. One of those is Mason Mitchell, who enters this weekend as the defending race winner.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “Last year, we had a good car and a good team and won the event, led a bunch of laps. It’s close to home, only three hours away, so lots of friends and family and sponsors that are supporting me are there. Looking forward to it. It’ll be my first time in a composite car at a mile and a half, but I don’t think that’ll be a challenge, so hope to end the season off on a high note.”

Throughout his career, Mitchell has always run well at Kansas Speedway, posting a top-seven finish in each of his four career starts. Last season, he led 39 laps en route to scoring the victory. Mitchell says he’s always enjoyed mile and a half tracks, and Kansas was one of the tracks he was quickly able to adapt to.

“With the progressive banking, I can move around a lot,” he said. “It’s not strictly one-groove related so you can branch around a little bit and allows yourself to not have the perfect car, but move around a lot and make other lines work.”

This weekend marks his third start of the season, following an eighth place finish at Iowa Speedway and a sixth place finish at DuQoin on the dirt.

“The two events I’ve raced – I’ve finished in the top-10, but I feel we haven’t had a fair shot as we’ve had freak mechanical issues both times in both events,” he said. “At Iowa, an alternator quit working and then the dirt race, we had engine issues after halfway. I feel confident we have our Is dotted, and Ts crossed, and we can have a fair shot at it and win it. I am confident entering this weekend.”

Even though he hasn’t raced much, he’s certainly one of the drivers to watch as a past champion, having picked up the crown in 2014 with a win, 12 top-fives and 18 top-10s in 20 races. Since then, he has run eight races with two wins and seven top-10s.

“That was a huge accomplishment not only for myself but for my whole team, family, and sponsors,” he said. “It’s something I will take with me forever. A lot of people can win races, but championships are hard to come by as you have to put the whole season together as ARCA doesn’t run a Chase format. The whole year matters; you can’t have one good race and then not the next race. You have to be consistent, and that’s what we did.”

While he hasn’t been behind the wheel much this year, he has been focused on the ownership side of his organization, running 11 drivers behind the wheel of his entries this season, scoring two wins (Gus Dean at Talladega; Justin Haley at Springfield), six top-fives and 13 top-10s in 23 races. Mitchell admits it can be tough at times to balance driving and the team.

“There’s a lot of stress involved in the ownership side in lining up the drivers and getting everything lined up logistically speaking to make things work for each weekend,” he said. “It’s a heck of a balancing act, but been able to work it out so far.”

He is looking forward to possibly getting back behind the wheel more in 2017, currently in the midst of working on a couple of different things right now.

“I’m working on a lot of stuff with my own team – different drivers, but trying to also focus on myself as well,” he said. “I’m at a point in my career where I’m going to keep moving up the ladder, so been going to meetings and trying to put myself in a position where I’m behind the wheel more moving up the ladder. It’s about finding a place I belong and can showcase my ability.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Home Tracks

Roulo Bros. Quietly Developing Winners

Ty Majeski makes his first left turn tomorrow in the ARCA Racing Series’ Montgomery Ward 200, at the Madison (WI) Speedway. It is expected to set a path towards a successful career in NASCAR’s major leagues

The Midwest Late Model standout, recently selected as member of the NASCAR Next class for budding stars, has two key components in his corner. He’s Roush Fenway Racing’s newest development driver and he’s got the competition support of Roulo Bros. Racing.

You may not be familiar with the team — who has a history and track record of creating champions in stock car racing.

In 1979, Gary Roulo and his brother, Rusty, formed Roulo Brothers Racing. Together, they established a brand associated with winning and have had some of the nation’s best talents behind the wheel.

Among the drivers that have competed for RBR are Alan Kulwicki, Darrell Waltrip, Ken Schrader, Dick Trickle, Joe Ruttman, and more recently the likes of Kyle Benjamin, David Ragan, and reigning XFINITY Series champion, Chris Buescher — who also won the ARCA title with the Roulo Bros. in 2012.

This weekend, Majeski will join the list.

The 21-year-old, the Seymour, Wisconsin driver already has many accolades. A two-time ARCA Midwest Touring champion, Majeski has scored wins in some of the most prestigious late model races in the country.

He has taken the checkers home at New Smyrna in the 2015 Governor’s Cup and the 2016 World Series of Asphalt Championship and he’s no stranger to Victory Lane at Madison International Speedway, where he makes his ARCA debut, having won both the 4oth Annual Rattler 250 and Joe Shear Classic earlier this year.

Originally, RBR set out to go racing in the American Speed Association (ASA) with their first race at the Milwaukee Mile in 1979, but they have since made a name for themselves in the ARCA Racing Series as a developmental team for Roush Fenway Racing.

RBR started winning races in the ‘80s and they haven’t stopped since.

It was 2005 when the Roulo Bros. and Roush Fenway Racing formed an collaborated to groom talent in the ARCA Racing Series, before they got to RFR at the NASCAR level.

David Ragan served as the first true development driver for the team. Ragan went on to win XFINITY and Sprint Cup Series races for RFR.

2016 will mark the 30th consecutive season competing in at least one ARCA event for Roulo Brothers Racing, yet they don’t wave their own flags very high.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time,” Gary said, “but that’s because we’re dedicated to grooming talent for the NASCAR ranks. I feel we’ve been successful at doing that and it’s what drives us to work hard.”

In the driver development world, Roulo Bros. Racing isn’t the first name to come to mind.

Said Roulo, “Yeah, we don’t really make a big deal out of it. We don’t do any marketing and we’re kind of under the radar. But at the end of the day, when you have a team like Roush Fenway sending drivers your way, that’s probably enough of an endorsement for us.”

The team doesn’t just provide competitive equipment.

“You can give a kid the best stuff, throw him the keys and hope for the best — knowing that you’ve done your job,” he continued, “but we also serve as driver coaches and mentors. We’ve been to all the tracks so we can offer a lot of advice.”

Gary and his team aren’t the only ones who help develop drivers, but they’ve been one of the most successful.

“A lot of teams offer ‘driver development’ programs, but that’s not really an accurate definition,” Roulo said, “that’s more of a driver opportunity program. Kids and their families bring money to get fast cars. But we offer a lot more because we’ve seen just about every scenario in the development process.”

Ty Majeski, who led both practices and starts 7th on the grid, could be another success story for Roulo Bros. Racing and Roush Fenway. It all begins tomorrow at 2:00 PM Central.

Part Two will be published here on Tuesday.

 

Shane Carlson is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL SHANE AT shane.carlson@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ShaneCarlson4

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Willie Mullins Emerges as Daytona Darkhorse

Few people in racing have heard the name Willie Mullins, but if things go as he plans, everyone will know it when the checkered flag falls in the Lucas Oil 200 ARCA race on Saturday at Daytona.

The Lucas Oil 200 is the season-opener for the ARCA Racing Series and is the second superspeedway attempt for the Mullins Racing team — a group that traditionally competes in SCCA racing across the East Coast. Mullins, an accomplished racer in his own right, is making his Daytona debut on Saturday after qualifying 26th on Friday.

While the qualifying result wasn’t what he expected, Mullins, 35, from Fredericksburg, Virginia, is confident about his chances in Saturday’s race and has good company around him in 10-time ARCA Racing Series champion Frank Kimmel.

“We had a very good run on Thursday,” Mullins said. “We got up front yesterday and that car stuck up really good. Today, we didn’t get put in such a great pack. We’re happy, we’re in the race, we’re back with Frank Kimmel and he’ll get us close to the front. He’s a legend. We’re excited for tomorrow. Everyone did hard work at the shop and we can’t wait.”

Mullins Racing made the field for last year’s Lucas Oil 200 with J.J. Pack driving the car – but there was a big difference. Last year, the team raced with a legacy motor. This year, they’re running with the ARCA Ilmor 396 spec motor.

“This new engine, we have a lot more horsepower than we had last year and I’m an aggressive driver, I want to run up front,” Mullins remarked. “With our determination and hard work, we got in the field. We’ll have to see the results tomorrow and see how it works. I think we can get to the front if we have a little racing luck on our side.”

Another thing going for Willie Mullins and his team is an alliance with ARCA Racing Series veteran Darrell Basham. Basham is a veteran of the series who has been competing in ARCA since 1972.

“Good people helping us,” Mullins commented. “Andy Belmont as a crew chief, Darrell Basham as the car owner. Who would’ve thought with their combined expertise they’d give us help and they have. We can’t wait to get this thing in and make them proud. I remember being a little kid and watching him finish 10th. That tells you how long that man’s been doing it.”

Along with Daytona, Mullins plans to compete in one of the Illinois dirt races in the summer as well as, possibly, at Talladega in April and New Jersey Motorsports Park in May. Mullins will also race at road courses throughout the season all throughout the season.

Right now, however, Mullins has his sights set on victory lane at the World Center of Speed. And, a small group of crew members have gotten him this far at Daytona.

“Everybody back at the shop has worked hard — Bugs Mullins, Darrell Ferre, Donny Thompson and Dinah Thompson. Being my first time here driving, this is pretty exciting. I can’t wait to see what happens.”

The Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona can be seen Saturday afternoon at 4pm live on FS1.

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Kyle Weatherman Earns Pole for ARCA Iowa 150

NEWTON, Iowa — Kyle Weatherman won his second ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards pole award of the season Friday, setting the fastest time for tonight’s #ThisIsMySpeedway150 at Iowa Speedway.

Weatherman, 18, turned his fastest qualifying lap in 130.106 mph in winning his second pole of the season, and first since taking the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell honor at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville April 11. He finished that race in fifth. He’s hoping for more at the .875-mile Iowa Speedway.

“I believe we will be in good shape for all 150 laps tonight,” said Weatherman, driver of the No. 22 Cunningham Motorsports Dodge.

Weatherman tested at Iowa Speedway a couple of weeks ago. The car is much better now, he said.

“To be honest, we were really bad at the test,” Weatherman said. “We went back to the shop and worked pretty hard and we threw everything we had at it. Obviously, it worked. I’m proud of everyone at the shop for all of their hard work.”

His Cunningham Motorsports teammates Austin Cindric, in the No. 99 AutoZone Ford, will start fourth and Tom Hessert, in the No. 77 Barbera’s Autoland Dodge, will start eighth. Cindric is making his first career ARCA start and was also part of that test session.

Next up for the ARCA Racing Series is the race, which will start just after 8 p.m. CT. It will be live on Fox Sports 1.

Weatherman topped Matt Kurzejewski by 0.037 seconds in Friday’s afternoon qualifying. Kurzejewski, in the No. 54 Elmira Heat Treating Ford, was fastest in the 90-minute practice session held Friday morning. Brandon Jones qualified third in the No. 25 Ansell-Menards Toyota before spinning on his second lap while series point leader Grant Enfinger qualified fifth in the No. 23 Allegiant Travel Chevrolet.

Others with a top 10 starting position include sixth-place Matt Tifft, Mason Mitchell in seventh, Austin Wayne Self in ninth and Sarah Cornett-Ching in 10th.

Todd Gilliland, driving for Venturini Motorsports, qualified 11th in the No. 55 Renton Coil Springs Toyota.

The heat index at Iowa Speedway is more than 100 degrees. Weatherman said he feels since the race starts later in the day, it will not affect the cars.

“We’re going to have to pay attention to the overheating, but I think we will be good,” he said. “Since it is an 8 p.m. race, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

The race will air live on Fox Sports 1 at 8 p.m. CT. It will re-air at 3 a.m. ET, July 18 on Fox Sports 1 and at 3 p.m. ET on July 19 on Fox Sports 2.

  1. Kyle Weatherman
  2. Matt Kurzejewski
  3. Brandon Jones
  4. Austin Cindric
  5. Grant Enfinger
  6. Matt Tifft
  7. Mason Mitchell
  8. Tom Hessert
  9. Austin Wayne Self
  10. Sarah Cornett-Ching
  11. Todd Gilliland
  12. Josh Williams
  13. Blake Jones
  14. Bo LeMastus
  15. J. Fike
  16. Michael Lira
  17. David Levine
  18. Bobby Gerhart
  19. Tom Berte
  20. James Swanson
  21. David Sear
  22. Thomas Praytor
  23. Con Nicolopoulos
  24. Rick Clifton
  25. Richard Altman
  26. Josh White