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ASHLEY ASKS…… Brandon McReynolds

With a focus on conserving his tires through the first half of the event, Brandon McReynolds was able to walk away from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season opener at New Smyrna Speedway with a third-place finish.

The 27-year-old recently talked about the race, as well as the upcoming season and his career to date with POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts looking back on New Smyrna last week?

BRANDON MCREYNOLDS: New Smyrna went pretty well. We had a test day on Saturday down there, so I was pretty busy going back and forth with the ARCA race (at Daytona International Speedway), and obviously driving the K&N car for John Visconti at New Smyrna. So we had a really good test session and felt good about our car, and knew our The Reichert Group Chevrolet was pretty sporty for the race.

Really just going into the race on Monday, it was just going to be a matter of tire attrition and being there at the end. I felt like we did a really good job executing that with our team, and just came up a little bit short but definitely a step in the right direction for our team going into Bristol.

PS: With how things played out, what do you feel you could’ve done differently to end the race in victory lane?

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

BRANDON: It’s obviously easy to go back and pin point things we could’ve done differently. The biggest thing that stands out is probably not knowing how much the tire was going to wear out. I felt like maybe I was a little too conservative with conserving my tires. So I think that ultimately hurt us in the long run; I probably shouldn’t have rode as much as I did, or lost as much track position. If I had to change anything, I probably would’ve pushed a little harder or went a little sooner in our charge back to the front.

PS: So now with the first ARCA race of the year in the books, along with the K&N Pro Series opener, what are your plans looking like moving into the rest of this year?

BRANDON: There’s a lot going on. I’m very fortunate to drive for John Visconti and The Reichert Group. Our next race with that team will be at Bristol (Motor Speedway), so really excited to go up there and have a shot at trying to compete for a win in the K&N Pro Series East. I know last year we had a good run going there and it was our first top-five of the season. That’s my focus right now, and then I think I have three or four more scheduled in the K&N Pro Series with The Reichert Group and John Visconti, so really pumped about that.

Then on the ARCA side, we’ll just wait and see. Mike Bursley and the KBR Development guys have been working really hard trying to get me into more races, especially at the bigger tracks. So we’ll look towards Talladega (Superspeedway) and you may see me in that car down here in Alabama in a few months.

PS: Looking at both schedules, if there was one track that you could pick to run over the others, what would that be?

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

BRANDON: Well, I’ve always felt like I’ve exceeded and done a nice job on the bigger tracks. I don’t know if that’s a product of going to so many (Monster Energy NASCAR) Cup Series tracks a younger kid and just watching and paying attention to how these Cup guys gain momentum. I feel that’s been more of my strong suit as I’ve grown up. I’d really like to go back to places like Pocono (Raceway) and Michigan (International Speedway) and some of the bigger tracks that I’ve had experience on in the past and I’ve really enjoyed racing at. I just haven’t put the right program together to go back to those places.

I know I’m not answering your question clearly, but really excited to go back to some of the bigger race tracks. But first and foremost, I’m really pumped to go back to Bristol and have a shot to win up there with our K&N program.

PS: If you could get that win at Bristol in the next couple months, what would that mean to you personally?

BRANDON: That would be huge. I’ve always enjoyed succeeding at places where my dad (crew chief Larry McReynolds) has had a lot of success. I don’t know if he’s won there as a crew chief, but I know he’s always ran well there when he was crew chiefing for Mike Skinner, Dale Earnhardt, Davey Allison, and Ernie Irvan. Anytime I can go to those tracks where I have memories of watching my dad succeed in the Cup Series as a crew chief, if I can go in there as a driver and have success with my team, that means a lot to me.

First and foremost, I race because I enjoy it, but I really enjoy making my dad proud. There’s no better than feeling than winning the race and having your dad walk up to you and say that he’s proud of you. I’ve always had his and my family’s support, so any track is pretty cool to get a win at especially when he can be there. It’d be pretty cool to go win at the coliseum and have dad standing there with us in victory lane.

PS: I was just going to ask. As you try to make your way up the racing ladder, what does it mean to have someone like him in your corner for support and advice?

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

BRANDON: It’s good. The sport has changed a lot since my dad was working his way up through as a competitor – obviously not driving, but as a crew chief. So I think sometimes it’s hard for my dad to understand some of the business and politics that goes into our sport now, just because there’s been a major culture change since his days when he was trying to grind it out and work his way up through the ladder.

But ultimately, one thing I always pull away from my dad and he’s second to none at, is his work ethic. I know a lot of people say this about their parents, but I’ve never in my life met anybody that works harder than that man. I’d put him up against anyone – from our president to anyone that is working on a mill somewhere. It’s just unbelievable to see the work ethic and passion that he puts into everything he does, and I feel like that I don’t quite live up that amount that he works but I definitely try everyday to figure out how to make things better, how to make myself better, and keep improving communication with our team so we can make our program better. That way we’re prepared and ready for the race track.

So to answer your question, it’s unbelievable to lean on Larry McReynolds the crew chief for first and foremost as my dad, but at the same time, at a professional level. He brings a lot of intensity to the race track, whether he’s commentating or whether he’s crew chiefing, or whatever he’s doing. That’s something I admire about him.

PS: I know you’ve been working hard at trying to make your way up the racing ladder. If you could get to the top-three NASCAR divisions one day, what would that mean to you?

BRANDON: It’d be huge. I’ve had opportunities to where I could go those things, and I’ve gone and tested Cup cars. I’ve done a lot of cool things. Sure, I’ve never competed at those levels at a full-time basis, but I’ve ran a (NASCAR Gander Outdoor) truck (Series) race and tested a lot of trucks for Chevrolet and Turner Motorsports when I had those days going with Steve Turner. It’s just all about funding and you have to have the right funding in place to move on.

So yeah, it would mean a lot to me, but I’m enjoying what I am doing. I am enjoying helping John Visconti and The Reichert Group build up their program. I’m enjoying working with Mike Bursley and KBR Development and being a small part of building that program. For me, if I am going to race, I am going to have a good time because I’ve been doing it long enough to where I’m not going to do it to ride around in 40th spot just to say I’m a (NASCAR) Xfinity (Series) driver. I want to be the guy winning races at a K&N or ARCA level, and performing at a high level, and building a program, and taking care of these owners and trying to do a good job for them.

So to answer your question, it’d mean the world to me, but ultimately, if I am going to do it, I want to do it right, but first and foremost, it’s this K&N program and ARCA program and trying to build those up as much as I can behind the scenes just based on my experience level from working with other teams.

PS: To other young racers who are trying to get into NASCAR, what is one piece of advice that you’d offer them?

BRANDON: 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.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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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OBSERVATIONS: Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona International Speedway

The first race of Daytona Speedweeks is officially in the books, and you could say it went as typically as you would predict.

The ARCA Menards Series event at Daytona has been about watching the future stars of NASCAR get behind the wheel of top-notch equipment, and show their experience. Ideally, it gets those entered in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series event some extra seat time. They certainly proved their worth on Saturday, with several at the top of the running order.

With a mix of different experience levels thrown together, restrictor plate races for ARCA can either be really exciting, or just plain out boring. Last year’s Lucas Oil 200 featured five straight green-white-checkered restarts due to ARCA’s “no race ends under the yellow flag rule,” prompting a rule change to have only one attempt for 2019 restrictor plate events.  On the flip side, the Talladega race saw them simply cruise to the finish.

As the laps began to trickle down in the Lucas Oil 200, it appeared as though we were going to watch them cruise single-file to the checkered flag as the top-seven rode in line together. With many lacking experience on the superspeedways, combined with drivers just wanting to come out with a car in one piece, you don’t see the big moves like we’ve become used to in other series.

However, an incident further back changed the complexion with a late-race caution.

While Harrison Burton controlled the restart ahead of Christian Eckes, it was Todd Gilliland making the move with Brandon McReynolds. Using his experience in bump drafting, Gilliland was set to push McReynolds up the high line to the front and challenge for the win. It would’ve been interesting to see whether the charge actually worked out, and the high line was viable. However, instead, a bump the wrong way and McReynolds went spinning across the backstretch. As we said – inexperience vs. experience; this was a lesson of how to make sure bumpers are aligned when drafting.

Placing both Burton and Gilliland on the bottom together for the restart was all she wrote, as Gilliland easily pushed Burton out and away from the other challengers. Although a charge was mounted coming off turn four by Gilliland, it proved to not be enough to power by Burton.

Beginning Friday, Burton and Gilliland will begin their full truck series campaign as teammates for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Earning experience with their first laps on the 2.5-mile oval, it should help boost confidence for them to hang with series veterans.

Although the Lucas Oil 150 may not have started off in the most exciting fashion for ARCA, it shouldn’t diminish the future for the series this year. With a couple new tracks to their already diverse schedule, combined with a variety of talent, it’s going to be another great year of competition.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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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Harrison Burton Wins ARCA Menards Series Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire at Daytona

Harrison Burton (No. 20 DEX Imaging Toyota) drove to victory in Saturday’s ARCA Menards Series Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire at Daytona International Speedway. It was Burton’s first start of any type at Daytona.

Burton held off Todd Gilliland (No. 4 Frontline Enterprises Toyota) on a one-lap overtime dash to the checkered.

“It means so much to come here and win at a track my dad won at before me,” Burton said. “I can’t thank my guys at Venturini Motorsports enough, they busted their butts on this car for the last month to get it so we can come here and compete to win.

“We had some debris on the grille over the last run and I think it actually helped. The temperatures went up but they weren’t too high. I got the jump on the restart and I knew Todd was on a run. We were up high next to the wall and I looked up and saw no one had a run. I knew that any time something bad could happen, and I was just waiting for it. It never did and then when I crossed the line I started screaming my head off.”

“I could go wherever I wanted with this car,” Gilliland said. “No matter what line I was in, we could go to the front and help the whole line. It was a shame I couldn’t get up there and beat my Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate for the win, but we learned a lot for next week.

Gilliland planned on riding at the back in the early stages of the race then charging to the front at the end. He was able to team up with Brandon McReynolds (No. 28 US Work Boats Toyota) but McReyolds was involved in a crash that sent the race into overtime. From there, it was a one lap dash to the finish, and Gilliland tried to outduel Burton, but couldn’t make it stick on the final lap around.

“There’s still a lot to be learned,” Gilliland said. “I think I learned a lot for next week. It would have been great to get up there and race Harrison tonight but I think what I learned will be a huge help when we get back here in the Truck next week.”

Grant Quinlan (No. 30 Jones Demolition & Abatement Ford) finished third. Quinlan’s team owner, Terry Jones, finished second here in 2017, and Quinlan, a former ARCA/CRA Super Series late model champion also capitalized in a rare superspeedway start.

“I don’t do a lot of superspeedway racing,” he said. “It’s a lot different than what I am used to. We hooked up with Todd (Gilliland) and went to the front late in the race. We had some debris on the grille and had to make a second pit stop but thankfully he was back there too and we could work our way up to the front together.”

Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota), the General Tire Pole Award winner, lined up second on the final restart and ended up fourth.

“I thought we had a little bit better car than Harrison did but that’s speedway racing,” Eckes said. “We just weren’t in the right line on the restart. As far as the points are concerned it was a good day. It would have been good to win here but we’re happy to get a good start on the championship.”

There were five cautions for incidents which consumed 30 laps, the final one of which sent the race into overtime. The first accident of the night involved defending race winner Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) and last year’s runner-up finisher Willie Mullins (No. 3 County Waste Systems Ford) tangled on the back stretch, cutting their day short.

Other incidents involved Eric Caudell (No. 2 Caudell Consulting & Marketing Ford), Thad Moffitt (No. 46 Performance Plus Oil Chevrolet), Paul Williamson (No. 36 Vizion Motorsports Toyota), J.J. Pack (No. 61 IceBoxx Customs Toyota), Brandon McReynolds, and Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet). There were no injuries in any of the incidents.

Burton led three times for 48 laps. Other leaders included Eckes, who led 9 laps from pole, Gus Dean (No. 32 CAB Installers Chevrolet), who led 29 laps. There were five lead changes among three drivers.

The next race for the ARCA Menards Series is the ARCA Pensacola 200 at Five Flags Speedway, scheduled for Saturday, March 9. The race will be live on MAVTV at 8 pm ET; ARCARacing.com will have live timing & scoring, live chat, and live track updates free for registered users.

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ARCA and Menards Announce Partnership Expansion

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb.9, 2019) – ARCA and Menards announced today a multi-year extension that elevates the home improvement chain from presenting sponsor to the series entitlement sponsor. Effective immediately, the series is titled the ARCA Menards Series.

 “For the past decade Menards has played a tremendous role in growing our series and we couldn’t be happier to continue this journey during this historic time for ARCA,” said Ron Drager, President, ARCA. “Menard’s is a growing company and a committed supporter of motorsports, we are honored to have their brand along-side ours as title sponsor of the series.”

 This newly signed agreement underscores the significance of family for ARCA, Menards and NASCAR, with all three companies being family-owned. Menard’s opened for business in 1958 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and now has more than 300 home improvement stores located throughout the Midwest, many of which are in markets on the ARCA Menards Series schedule.

 “We are really glad we can help out!” said John Menard, Menards President/CEO.  “We are a family-owned and family-run business and share similar Midwestern family-values with ARCA.  Both of our organizations are focused on the overall Guest experience and doing things the right way. Many of the ARCA races are in locations where we have Menards stores which provides an opportunity to further connect with our customers. We appreciate that our customers recognized us with the 2018 JD Power Award for Customer Satisfaction and believe this translates well with the hard-working philosophy of the ARCA organization.” 

 The ARCA and Menards partnership dates to 2009 when Menards came aboard as a joint presenting partner. A year later, Menards became the sole presenting partner of the series. The ARCA Menards Series was founded in 1953 and is a regional touring series concentrated in the Midwest. It’s the premier division of the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) and is considered an important ladder series for the NASCAR national series platforms.

 “This multi-year agreement is a great victory for racing fans,” said Mike Helton, vice chairman, NASCAR. “Our sport thrives on great partnerships and Menards stands out as one of the best in motorsports. We appreciate their commitment to growing this series for years to come.”

 NASCAR announced the acquisition of ARCA in April 2018 and closed on December 31 in a move designed to strengthen a relationship that dates back more than 60 years. ARCA founder John Marcum raced against Bill France Sr. and worked as a NASCAR official. In the past few years, the ARCA Menards Series has provided a regional touring series for short-track veterans and a platform for talented drivers with aspirations to compete in one of NASCAR’s three national series.

 ARCA Menards Series will kick off its 2019 season at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 9 for the Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire. Members can access live timing and scoring, live chat and live track updates exclusively at ARCARacing.com.

About ARCA

The ARCA Menards Series features 20 events at 18 tracks on its 2019 schedule. The series has crowned an ARCA national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953 and has toured over 200 racetracks in 28 states since its inception. The series tests the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, annually visiting tracks ranging from 0.4 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as left- and right-turn road courses.

 Founded by John and Mildred Marcum in 1953 in Toledo, Ohio, the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is recognized among the leading sanctioning bodies in the country. ARCA administers nearly 100 race events each season in three professional touring series and local weekly events.

About NASCAR

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for the No. 1 form of motorsports in the United States. NASCAR consists of three national series (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series™, NASCAR Xfinity Series™, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series™), three regional series, one local grassroots series, three international series and the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA). The International Motor Sports Association™ (IMSA®) governs the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship™, the premier U.S. sports car series. Based in Daytona Beach, Fla., with offices in eight cities across North America, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. For more information visit www.NASCAR.com and www.IMSA.com, and follow NASCAR on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Snapchat (‘NASCAR’).

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ASHLEY ASKS…… Sheldon Creed

With four wins and 18 top-10’s in 20 races, Sheldon Creed was able to take home the ARCA Racing Series Championship for the 2018 season. The success has brought forth a new opportunity, racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with GMS Racing. 

The California native recently spoke about his success to date, as well as the future moving forward. 

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts on the ARCA Championship?

SHELDON CREED: Pretty stoked about it. It didn’t really come easy. It started off slow, and got better as the season went on. Overall pretty happy with how it went.

PS: What was the most memorable moment of the season for you?

RUSSELL LABOUNTY | NKP

SHELDON: I would say probably winning the first race at Michigan was pretty memorable, or our last win at Kansas was a cool one.

PS: With that championship, you’ve got the opportunity to run some truck races. What are your thoughts on how your first couple starts have gone so far?

SHELDON: Not as well as I expected myself, but I think our next truck will be good for us so I’m looking forward to it.

PS: What are your goals as you close out this truck series season with running these events?

SHELDON: My goals are to run top-five every week, but if that doesn’t happen, then top-10, and if we’re not there, then we got work to do. So our goals are top-five for sure.

PS: Is it possible next time to see you full-time in the truck series?

SHELDON: That’s the goal; that’s the plan right now. We just have to work with partners and put something together for next year.

PS: Now, your background is a little different than some of the recent graduates we’ve seen. How much do you feel your dirt experience has helped you now in asphalt stock cars?

SHELDON: I think it helped in a lot of ways in car control and getting up to speed, but it also gave me a lot of bad habits too. I think that’s what took the longest to learn and slow down a bit. But for sure, there were pluses and minuses.

PS: Looking five years down the road, perhaps longer, what would it mean for you to race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series?

RUSSELL LABOUNTY | NKP

SHELDON: That’s the goal is to be in a full-time Cup car with a competitive team. I think if I go to that point, I’d look back with no regrets.

PS: Who is your racing hero?

SHELDON: Probably Jeremy McGrath, Travis Pastrana, Jimmie Johnson, and maybe a Rob MacCachren.

PS: How did you get your start in racing?

SHELDON: It all started when I was three and a half, four racing on BMX bikes. I went to dirt bikes when I was six or seven, and did that for a few years. Then started in off-road in trophy karts and raced that until a couple years ago.

PS: What would be your advice to someone looking to get into racing?

SHELDON: I feel like the hardest thing is having the funding to do it. Anybody can go race, but having sponsors and funding is the hard part. So you need to find that, and have a never give up attitude.  

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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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NASCAR Acquires ARCA

Daytona Beach, Fla. (April 27, 2018) – In a move designed to strengthen a relationship that dates back more than 60 years, NASCAR announced today the acquisition of the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA).

Both NASCAR and ARCA, a Midwest-based sanctioning body for stock car auto racing, share a long history: ARCA founder John Marcum raced against Bill France Sr. and worked as a NASCAR official. More recently, the series has provided a valuable platform for talented drivers looking to make it to NASCAR’s national series.

“Our NASCAR family has long had a special connection with our friends at ARCA, and this is a logical step in demonstrating our commitment to the next generation of racers,” said Jim France, NASCAR vice chairman, executive vice president and member of the sport’s founding family. “This continues the legacy our sport was built upon and will deliver the great racing our fans expect.”

France was the driving force behind the merger of GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series in 2012, creating the modernized International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) in 2014.

ARCA began racing at Daytona International Speedway in 1964 at the behest of Bill France Sr. It kicked off its 66th season with 20-year-old Natalie Decker becoming the third female in the series to win a pole at Daytona and NASCAR Next alumnus Michael Self winning.

The ARCA Racing Series will continue to operate under its current structure through the 2019 season. This year’s schedule of 20 races includes nine events at NASCAR national series venues, and three others at NASCAR Whelen All-American Series tracks – illustrating the bond between the two sanctioning bodies.

“We are proud of the history and tradition of the ARCA Racing Series and the relationship we’ve built over six decades with NASCAR,” said Ron Drager, ARCA president and grandson of John Marcum. “We look forward to the opportunity to be more fully integrated with NASCAR and help shape the future of our sport.”

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Trucks

Win-Tron Racing, AM Racing Announce New Partnership

ARCA Championship team Win-Tron Racing and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team AM Racing announced Tuesday they are joining forces for the remainder of the 2016 season through next year.

The newly formed co-branded operation will be based out of Mooresville, N.C., at Win-Tron’s existing motorsports complex there.

Not only with the consolidated entity provide full-time racing programs, but it will also provide support services for race teams such as logistics, transportation, set up and a pull-down rig.

The joint effort, along with the knowledge and expertise of principle members Kevin Cywinski and Tim Self, will deliver cost efficient quality racing programs to selected drivers in both the NCWTS and the ARCA Series while leveraging the cost efficiencies associated with shared assets and resources.

“Tim’s experience in business administration is outstanding albeit apparent, but his ability to build high-value partnerships and bring new partners to the table is very exciting,” said Cywinski, who is the owner of Win-Tron Racing. “The foundation and team he has assembled in 2016 for their first, seven months is incredible, given that they started this season from scratch in December… We are going to do some really great things together, both on and off the track, before the season is over.”

Self, who owns AM Racing along with Central Texas Speedway located in Kyle, T.X., shared a similar sentiment, stating that, “Kevin has a proven track record in the racing business as evidenced by his multiple wins and Championships. I bring efficient business processes and cost models along with a sales and marketing component that coalesces the Driver/Team/Sponsorship/Activation Model and delivers the best value for all partners.”

In preparation for the 2017 season, Win-Tron is currently assembling a two-car program for the 2017 ARCA Series, with one full-time driver in the No. 32 Toyota and multiple developmental drivers in the No. 33 Toyota. AM Racing, on the other hand, will field the No. 22 Toyota Tundra full-time next season, with a second truck running a partial season.

Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.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 staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Dalton Sargeant Joins Venturini Motorsports for 2016 ARCA Season

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Dalton Sargeant and Billy Venturini expect to smack around the competition this season in the ARCA Racing Series.

Sargeant announced on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway that he will compete in 15 ARCA events this season with Venturini Motorsports with support from Toyota Racing Development and Microsoft Windows.

His campaign starts at The Salem Speedway next month and includes most of the events he’s eligible for while still 17 years old.

Venturini will serve as the crew chief on the No. 55 entry when Sargeant is behind the wheel, and the driver expects to their pairing to produce immediate dividends at the track.

“Billy has given me some high expectations this season,” Sargeant said. “Billy told me that the worst this Salem car has finished was second, so that’s gives me a ton of confidence for the year ahead.”

Sargeant will also drive his Toyota Camry at Talladega, Toledo, New Jersey Motorsports Park, both Pocono dates, Michigan, Winchester, Iowa, Lucas Oil Raceway, Berlin, Salem, Chicago, Kentucky and the ARCA finale at Kansas.

For his part, the always brash Venturini made no secret of his own personal goals for his tenure alongside Sargeant.

“As far as I’m concerned, they’re going to have to worry about beating us because the way I see it, I’m the best guy out here.

“We’re going to smash their asses this year.”

Venturini knows he’s providing the rest of the ARCA garage bulletin board material, but he wasn’t going to take it back because he knows he’s got a prized talent in Sargeant, a former European open-wheel prospect, who finished second in his first Snowball Derby attempt back in 2014.

“I think he has a lot of potential,” Venturini said. “He was my K&N Pro East championship pick last year so I’m surprised they didn’t have more success. I think he’s really good and I know we’re going to do a lot of good things together.”

He competed full-time in the K&N Pro Series East last season for HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks, where he finished fourth in the standings with nine top 10s in 14 starts. Sargeant also made four Camping World Truck Series starts for Wauters Motorsports, where he posted a single top 10 at New Hampshire in September.

Sargeant says he wants to make a handful of Truck Series starts in 2016 but noted that nothing has yet been finalized.

20160218_140219

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

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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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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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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