DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 16, 2007) – Scott Speed’s first visit to historic Daytona International Speedway was “very cool.”
“I’ve never been here before so it’s very cool to see the home of stock car racing,” said the former Formula 1 driver in town over the weekend for a three-day ARCA RE/MAX Series test session in preparation for the ARCA 200 ARCA RE/MAX Series race on Feb. 9. “It’s cool to see how close the track is to population. Most tracks are in the middle of nowhere. Not this one. That’s pretty cool.”
Speed, who back in 2002 won the Red Bull Driver Search, a program aimed at putting an American talent into Formula One, is behind the wheel of the Red Bull Toyota Camry with Eddie Sharp Racing this weekend in preparation for February’s ARCA 200. In October, Speed tackled Talladega Superspeedway – his debut in a stock car as well as his first ever race on an oval track. He qualified seventh and finished in the same position.
“Daytona is quite a bit more difficult to drive than Talladega especially in the draft because the track is a bit more bumpy, especially where the 2 tunnels are,” the 24-year-old pointed out. “I think in February you’re going to see more of the guys that can drive better in the front of the pack as opposed to Talladega where they hang out in the back.”
Either way, Speed is happy to get his time on the high banks in preparation for the 2008 ARCA RE/MAX Series season-opener.
“Overall I’m happy and definitely excited to finally see Daytona and hold my own on the track,” the California native said. “It’ll be cool to come back here in a couple of months and race.”
Kimmel’s secret: After the second day of testing, nine-time defending ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Frank Kimmel unveiled the secret of going fast here at Daytona: “Get behind a Hendrick car and the car runs real fast. But they won’t let me qualify like that so we’ve got to get it better than that. We’re still tweaking and we’ll be ready come February. We’ve had a lot of success in the ARCA Series but it would be a thrill to win here. You almost need to put a ‘Daytona Win” on your resume and what a thrill it would be to do that this year.”
Gerhart feeling good: Bobby Gerhart, who owns a record five ARCA 200 victories, gave a thumbs-up on his health during the final day of ARCA 200 testing.
Gerhart was diagnosed with a left brachial plexus injury and a T6 compression fracture after an accident at Pocono Raceway in early August. The injury cut short his season and he has been rehabbing with the goal of getting back in the driver’s seat for this weekend’s three-day test.
“I feel great,” Gerhart said. “It’s probably the best
therapy that I could have. I’m in real good shape. I got a clean bill of health and I’m all healed up. I’ve been exercising. I’ve hired a trainer for about a month and a half. By February, I’ll be better than I have in about 10 years. It just feels good to be back at Daytona and I’m looking forward to coming back for another good Speedweeks.”
Gerhart will be shooting for his fourth straight ARCA 200 victory in February and says he plans to run the same Chevrolet that he used in the 2007 race.
“It’s been a good test,” Gerhart said. “The speeds haven’t been up due to the weather we’ve got. That’s always a little disheartening to everybody. It is what it is. You got to look at the big picture and just work within yourself.”
Sunday’s Top 10 Speeds:
- James Buescher, Dodge, 182.960 mph
- Donna Lia, Toyota, 182.678
- John Towney, Ford, 182.615
- Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford, 182.367
- Eric Darnell, Ford, 186.168
- Chase Austin, Chevy, 182.124
- Dexter Bean, Chevy, 181.998
- JR Heffner, Chevy, 181.829
- Tayler Malsam, Dodge, 180.988
- Patrick Sheltra, 180.981
Scott Speed, Toyota, 179.072
Frank Kimmel, Dodge, 178.010
Next up: The WKA’s Elite Karting Championships will take place on the Speedway’s tri-oval while the Margay Sprint Championships will take place on the Daytona International Speedway Sprint Track located in the infield in turns 3 and 4 during Daytona KartWeek by Cometic Gaskets on December 28-30. NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray is scheduled to compete in the weekend events.
Following the WKA’s annual visit, it’s Rolex testing Jan. 4-6 and the Roar before the Rolex 24 FanFest on Jan. 5. Then NASCAR roars into town with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, first session testing (Jan. 7-9); NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series testing (Jan. 11-13); NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, second session testing (Jan. 14-16); and NASCAR Nationwide Series testing (Jan. 18-22). NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fests are also on tap for the new year with NASCAR Sprint Cup Preseason Thunder Fan Fest (Jan.8); NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Preseason Thunder Fan Fest (Jan. 12); NASCAR Sprint Cup Preseason Thunder Fan Fest (Jan. 15); and NASCAR Nationwide Series Preseason Thunder Fan Fest (Jan. 19).
DIRECTV Speedweeks Tickets:
Tickets for the ARCA 200 ARCA RE/MAX Series race on Saturday, Feb. 9, other DIRECTV Speedweeks events as well as Preseason Thunder testing and FanFest information, visit www.daytonainternationalsspeedway.com
href="http://www.racetickets.com/">www.racetickets.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.