Veteran Hessert fastest overall in Daytona testing
Posted January 15, 2018
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 13, 2018) -- ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards veteran Tom Hessert was the fastest among 62 drivers who turned laps in open testing Friday and Saturday at Daytona Int'l Speedway, all in preparation for next month's 55th running of the Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire.

Hessert, in a Venturini Motorsports-prepared No. 55 Toyota, posted a top speed of 185.258 mph.

“The car handled the same during the run, whether we were towards the front, in the middle, or out back," said the Cherry Hill, N.J. driver. "I’m really looking forward to next month.”

Mason Mitchell Motorsports rookies/teammates Quin Houff and Blaine Perkins paired-up for the second and third fastest runs. Houff, of Weyers Cave, Va., circled the 2.5-mile track with a speed of 185.189 mph.

“I love the superspeedways, and pack racing," said Houff. "Every time I get back into the car here I learn something. The car felt pretty good in the draft. We’re hungry for a win.”

Houff drove the No. 98 Chevrolet with Perkins in the 78 Chevy.

“I was just trying to follow the tire tracks of my teammate Quin Houff," said Perkins. "Quin has really helped me learn how to draft. It’s a whole different experience driving at this place," the Bakersfield, Calif. driver added.

Gus Dean, of Bluffton, S.C., gave Win-Tron Racing a good lap, coming in fourth fastest at 183.772 mph in the No. 32 Chevrolet.

“These cars break through the air bubble between cars easier than the old cars," said Dean. "You really have to watch your closing speeds on these cars.”

Veteran Dave Mader III, who last competed in ARCA competition in the mid-90s, returned with a vengeance. The Maylene, Ala. driver was fifth fastest (183.352 mph) in the No. 63 Jeff Spraker Racing Chevrolet.

“The last time I was here was in 1991 racing in the Twin 125s trying to qualify for the Daytona 500…we ended up wrecking," said Mader. “Jeff Spraker and I started putting this deal together a couple of months ago. I was at the back of the pack and we sucked up really well to put that lap up on the board." 

Fredericksburg, Va. driver Willie Mullins, in his own Mullins Racing Ford, was next on the chart at 182.382 mph. 

"We gathered a lot of data yesterday, then worked last night at the hotel on a plan for today," said Mullins. "The changes we made were minute, but made a big difference on the track. We were leading the pack when we put that number up. We’ve improved our superspeedway program over the past few years. With the composite body, we weren’t sure what to expect. We’re pretty happy with the results.”

A pair of No. 52 Ken Schrader Racing Fords were seventh and eighth fastest with teammates/newcomers Will Rodgers and Brandon Grosso driving. Rodgers, from Maui, Hawaii, turned his first laps at Daytona.

"This is the first time I’ve drafted on a superspeedway," said Rodgers. "I’ve drafted in a simulator, but not on the track for real. Trying to figure out where the yellow line on the bottom of the track is, is hard when you’re in the middle of the pack. You have to guess what the driver in front of you is going to do to arc into the turn, and you have to trust him. You have to predict where the driver in front of you is going to turn, and it's different from car to car. Overall, it’s pretty cool.” 

Grosso, of Belle Mead, N.J., also took his first laps at Daytona. Austin Theriault, the 2017 ARCA national champion, assisted. 

"Austin Theriault was spotting for me and gave me plenty of information in the draft," said Grosso. "The track is choppy in the draft, and it’s hard to see through the car in front of you. The corners come up on you faster in the draft. You have to anticipate what the car in front of you is going to do. It was fun.” 

Andy Seuss (02 Our Motorsports Chevrolet) and Ryan Repko (Mason Mitchell Motorsports Chevrolet) were ninth and 10th. 

“This was my first time in the draft," said Repko. "It was pretty awesome. I’ve never felt anything like that before in any race car. It was cool.”

Repko nearly wrecked Friday.

“Yesterday, I had a tire go down off of turn 4. Somehow I managed to save it, and not wreck. At that speed, it definitely got my attention.”

Eight-time Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart was 11th in his own Chevrolet.

“I still think we have a lot of work to do to make these cars stable in a big pack," said Gerhart. "The old cars had years of development. The new cars still have some work to do to get to that point.”

"The new cars" that Gerhart referred to are the flange-fit composite body cars. The Lucas Oil 200 will mark the first race in which all the cars in the field will be made up entirely of composite bodies.

Don Radebaugh


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