On Thursday afternoon, ARCA held their first official practice session of the season at Daytona International Speedway ahead of Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200 presented by AutoZone. With group qualifying on tap for Friday, outright speed was not necessarily the main goal of practice. Being able to pick up those ahead of you was more important. That said, the fastest man in town is not necessarily a surprise.
Eight-time Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart turned in the fastest lap in practice with a time of 47.633 seconds (188.945 mph) in his No. 5 Lucas Oil/MavTV Chevrolet. Matt Kurzejewski, who has competed part-time in the Camping World Truck Series, was second quickest in his No. 54 Chevrolet. Kurzejewski also turned in the fastest lap in the session by a driver using the new ARCA Ilmor 396, a new powerplant designed to cut costs in the series that will make its racing debut on Saturday. Bo Lemastus was third, followed by Blake Jones and Derrick Lancaster.
Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell was sixth quickest, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Daniel Suarez, who is driving for Venturini Motorsports this weekend. Ten-time ARCA Racing Series champion Frank Kimmel, now racing part-time for Venturini Motorsports, was eighth quickest, followed by Tom Hessert and Will Kimmel.
Other notables include K&N Pro Series East regular Austin Hill in 11th, Patrick Starapoli in 13th, Camping World Truck Series regular Daniel Hemric in 17th, defending series champion Mason Mitchell in 18th. Grant Enfinger was 21st in the GMS Racing No. 23 while Austin Wayne Self was 29th in the second Mason Mitchell Motorsports entry.
46 of the 49 teams entered took laps in Thursday’s session. Final practice is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Friday morning, while qualifying is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Friday afternoon.