News and notes from the ARCA Menards Series Pre-Race Practice leading into the season-opening Daytona ARCA 200 at Daytona International Speedway:
- Venturini Motorsports led with way with four of its five entries on top of the leaderboard on Friday, with Panama City, Fla. native Jake Finch leading the way with what would be the fastest lap of the weekend. Finch’s father James was the winning car owner of the Daytona ARCA 200 in 1993 and 1996 with Jeff Purvis at the wheel. Finch’s fast lap was 184.132 miles per hour. Finch was followed by Toni Breidinger, Kris Wright, and Gus Dean at the top of the weekend’s overall results.
- Reigning ARCA Menards Series East champion William Sawalich led the way on Saturday after he and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tanner Gray hooked up in a tight draft. Sawalich, who is not eligible to compete at Daytona due to age restrictions, turned in a lap at 182.489 miles per hour which was good for fifth overall.
- Marco Andretti paced the field for most of the day on Friday in the Bruce Cook-prepared No. 17 Chevrolet. Andretti timed in at 182.371 miles per hour, good for fifth in Friday’s session and eighth overall.
- Defending race winner Greg Van Alst returned to the ARCA Menards Series driving his familiar No. 35 Chevrolet. He was joined throughout the weekend by fellow Indiana native Isaac Johnson who drove the team’s No. 34 entry. Van Alst, who never set a lap in the draft, wound up 24th on the charts at 179.469 mph, while Johnson was 30th at 178.518 mph.
- Amber Balcaen announced a full-season run for the ARCA Menards Series championship just before the Pre-Race Practice at Daytona. Balcaen’s Venturini Motorsports team will be led by two-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship-winning crew chief Dave Fuge.
- Chicago Street Race winner Shane Van Gisbergen made his first laps around the 2.5-mile superspeedway at Daytona, but it was not his first time ever in a racecar at DIS. He’s made five starts in the Rolex 24 with a best finish of second in the GTD class in 2015. Van Gisbergen was 12th overall with a best lap of 182.149 miles per hour. Van Ginsbergen shared the No. 28 Chevrolet with Landon Huffman, son of crew chief Shane Huffman, and 2023 Kansas winner Connor Mosack.
- Long-time spotter and driver development consultant Lorin Ranier was at the two-day session assisting Van Ginsberg and the Performance Racing Group team. Ranier’s father Harry Ranier owned Bobby Watson’s winning cars in the ARCA Menards Series in the 1960s and won the Daytona 500 three times with Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough driving.
- Sean Corr, last year’s third-place finisher and the 2012 Daytona ARCA 200 pole winner, broke an oil line entering turn one on Friday, sending the No. 8 on a wild slide through the banking. He didn’t make contact with the wall but the car was damaged enough that he was unable to return to the track for the remainder of the weekend.
- Blaine Donahue, son of former ARCA Cometic Crew Chief of the Year Patrick Donahue, made his first laps at Daytona in one of Andy Hillenburg’s cars. The younger Donahue was 49th overall at 175.022 miles per hour.
- Leland Honeyman, Jr. made the announcement he will race in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Youngs Motorsports earlier in the week, with a sprinkling of ARCA Menards Series races on his schedule as well. Honeyman, the 2022 ARCA Menards Series East Bounty Rookie of the Year, was 17th overall with a lap of 181.631 mph.
- Scott Melton tested two Kimmel Racing-prepared Fords: the car he raced last year, with a Mustang body, which was involved in an accident in the race and since repaired, and the car Todd Gilliland drove to victory at Talladega Superspeedway in 2019 with a Fusion body. Melton is leaning towards coming to race with the Fusion. The team also had Gil Linster testing a third car; Linster, from Luxembourg, is a regular competitor in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
- Former ARCA winner Brian Keselowski was at the track working with team owner Jeff McClure and driver Thomas Annunziata. Keselowski, a three-time ARCA Menards Series winner and the son of 1990 series champion Bob Keselowski, works with Annunziata at Nitro Racing in the Trans-Am TA2 series. Nitro Racing owner Nick Tucker, another former series driver, was also in the Jeff McClure Racing garage area working on the No. 44 Chevrolet Annunziata was driving.
- Floridians Brian and Wally Finney were at the track assisting the efforts of Jeff Scofield, who was making his ARCA Menards Series debut in the No. 07 Chevrolet. The team showed speed, with Scofield timing in 18th quickest before being involved in a spin in turn four that left the left side of the car heavily damaged. The team started repairs at the track with the entire left side of the body removed before they left the track.
- Mark Harmon, who made 122 ARCA Menards Series starts as a driver, was in the garage helping the No. 66 team and drivers Becca Monopoli and Michael Contarino. Harmon was spotted with another former ARCA Menards Series driver Drew White.
- A total of 52 drivers made laps in Friday’s abbreviated session and 53 drivers made laps on Saturday. A total of 76 drivers made at least one run throughout the weekend.
- The ARCA Menards Series will return to Daytona International Speedway for the 61st Annual Daytona ARCA 200 on Saturday, February 17. The week’s activities will open on Thursday, February 15 when the teams take to the track for practice; the 40-car starting field will be set in General Tire Pole Qualifying on Friday, February 16, and the 80-lap, 200-mile race is set for 1:30 pm ET on Saturday. The race will be televised live on FS1 and broadcast on select affiliates of the MRN Radio Network nationwide. ARCARacing.com will have live Timing & Scoring throughout all on-track activity.