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ARCA: ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series Notes - Pre Charlotte

8 May 1998

With 59 stout entries, the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series will ignite another big night under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday night with the EasyCare Certified 100 scheduled to roll off at 6:30 PM just prior to the running of the NASCAR Winston Open and the Winston. The 59 teams entered represent 13 states and would be a record number of entries for an ARCA event at Charlotte. Last year's event drew well over 100,000 fans to witness the best of ARCA and NASCAR shine under the lights.

Curtis Turner won the inaugural ARCA race at Charlotte in 1964 but there would be a 32 year hiatus before the series would return in 1996. Three-time ARCA champion Tim Steele is the all-time ARCA winner at Charlotte with 4 victories. Mark Thompson and Gary Laton are the only other drivers who have visited victory lane at Charlotte having done so in May of last year scoring their first career ARCA victories there.

Frank Kimmel, whose best finish at Charlotte was 3rd last year, comes with a vengeance as the current point leader with a 65 point margin over Mark Gibson. Kimmel's team is truly riding high after winning the most recent ARCA event at Salem. Gibson will attempt to make his 144th career ARCA start at Charlotte, which would be more starts than any other driver entered followed by Bob Strait with 137 and Glenn Brewer with 132. Thirteen-time ARCA winner Strait, currently 3rd in points, has more ARCA wins than any other driver on the entry list, however, like Kimmel, Strait has never won on a superspeedway. Of the 59 teams entered, only Ron Barfield, 1995 ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series champion Andy Hillenburg, Gary Laton, Mark Gibson and Kirk Shelmerdine have won ARCA events on superspeedways. Barfield owns the ARCA qualifying record at Charlotte with a speed of 180.536 mph established in 1996.

The AC Delco Pole Win Bonus award will be worth an additional $4,500 to any driver who can win the race from the pole. In his first career ARCA start in May of last year, Laton impressed all when the Albemarle, North Carolina driver put his Tampico Citrus Punch Monte Carlo on the pole at Charlotte and finished 3rd in the race. In only his 2nd career ARCA start, Laton won the 2nd ARCA race at Charlotte last year from the outside front row starting position.

1998 Daytona ARCA 200 polesitter Bill Baird posted the quickest lap time in an April 28th ARCA practice session at Charlotte with a speed of 178.330 mph ahead of Gary Laton at 176.888, Lance Hooper, a former NASCAR Winston West Series champion, at 175.441, Mike Ciochetti at 175.212 and Mike Swaim Jr., a former NASCAR Goody's Dash Series champion, at 174.360.

Second generation driver Billy Venturini, currently 7th in points, recorded his best ARCA superspeedway finish aboard an Ed Rensi Chevrolet in last year's October race at Charlotte finishing 5th on the lead lap behind race winner Steele, Gibson, Shelmerdine and Ed Berrier. Venturini's father Bill, who serves as team consultant, is a two-time ARCA Champion. After a miserable start to the 1998 season, '97 ARCA STP-Prestone Rookie of the Year Josh Baltes has turned things around in a big way after finishing 3rd at Salem in April of this year recording his best career ARCA finish.