DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Two-time Daytona 500 winning crew chief Larry McReynolds, who serves as an analyst on the NASCAR broadcast team for FOX Sports, watched over his son Brandon as the annual three-day ARCA Racing Series test session kicked off on Friday at Daytona International Speedway.
Approximately 60 drivers are participating in the test session in advance of the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season opener on Saturday, Feb. 18, the kick-off event to the stock car portion of Speedweeks 2012.
The 20-year-old McReynolds is turning laps at the “World Center of Racing” in the No. 4 Chevrolet for Turner Motorsports as he prepares for his first start on the 31-degree high banks of Daytona International Speedway.
McReynolds participated in the ARCA test two years ago with Eddie Sharp Racing, but didn’t have plans at the time to compete at Daytona. This year’s test is different. He knows he’s preparing for his Daytona debut in the upcoming 80-lap, 200-mile event.
“It’s a little more serious,” McReynolds said. “We’re always looking for speed. I think you got some guys out here laying down some PR laps. That’s not what Turner Motorsports is about. We’re down here for a legit test to see how fast we can go with what we’re going to be racing. I think we got a good piece.”
In background of the test is Brandon’s father Larry McReynolds, who won the Daytona 500 serving as the crew chief for Davey Allison in 1992 and Dale Earnhardt in 1998.
“When we won the 500 here with Davey in 1992, Brandon was not even a year old,” Larry McReynolds said. “He was Davey’s godson. I’ve got pictures of him in Victory Lane wrapped up in a baby’s blanket. It’s pretty cool to see him make laps here.”
During this week’s test, McReynolds stays at a distance but is always ready to offer advice to his son.
“He’s been racing since he was seven,” McReynolds said. “I’ve always played a huge role in his racing whether it was paying the bills or running the race team. We did that for a number of years with our own stuff. But Steve Turner and Turner Motorsports are giving him a great opportunity with great people.
“It’s actually kind of neat just being down here and being dad and just listening on the radio. At the end of the day, I can look at him and tell him things that I heard or saw or this is something you might want to think about. I do not want to be a meddling dad. I want to be here and support him and the race team and enjoy watching his career grow.”
Brandon McReynolds is unsure of his 2012 plans but hopes it will be at Turner Motorsports.
“We’re still working on it. I hope to be over at Turner Motorsports. I really enjoy working with those guys. They’ve let me do some testing over the offseason and I ran Talladega with those guys. I feel like I’ve got a really good home over there. We’re working away on it. It takes sponsorship to make race cars go around these days and we’re working on it. We’ll see what happens.”
Owens returns to the track as a mom: Daytona Beach native Alli Owens had a one of the biggest smiles in the garage during the first day of testing.
The 23-year-old Owens, who attempted to qualify for the February NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at DIS, sat out the majority of the 2011 season to have a baby. After giving birth to a daughter in October, Owens is ready to return to the track.
“It’s huge,” Owens said. “I just had a baby a couple of months ago. To be able to come back out here after everybody pretty much wrote me off . . . it seems like if you’re a mom, you’re done.”
During the test, Owens is driving the No. 1 Ford for Andy Belmont Racing and is planning on making her fourth career start in the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200.
Her husband Paul Chodora, who works for a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team, is serving as her crew chief for the test.
Owens, with sponsorship from Baby Jock, is only scheduled to compete in the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 but is exploring opportunities in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series for 2012.
“I was nervous,” Owens said of having a baby and then returning to racing. “It’s never been done before. You never see females who decide to have a family come back and be successful in the sport. We’re trying to do something that hasn’t been done before.
“To be back out here this year, it’s been even more special because I am a mom and now I’m getting the respect of being a parent and a driver.”
ARCA testing continues on Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A section of the Oldfield Grandstands will be open free to the public with access available through the lobby of the Daytona International Speedway ticket office.
Tickets for the 54th running of the Daytona 500 and other Speedweeks 2012 events are available online to www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.