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ARCA: Firstplus Financial ARCA 200 Test Session Notes

22 December 1998

Firstplus Financial ARCA 200 Test Session
Daytona Intl Speedway, Dec. 18-20, 1998

A record 39 ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series teams took to Daytona Intl Speedways 2.5 mile highbanks in preparation for the Feb. 7 Firstplus Financial 200 over the Dec. 18-19-20 weekend. The previous high number of teams involved in the initial activity of the new season was 28. Drivers residing in 15 different states logged lap speeds.

Female driver Shawna Robinson cranked off the fastest speed of the 3-day test at just over 189 mph. Robinson, the first woman to win a NASCAR Touring Series race event, in the Goodys Dash Series in the 1980s, was driving a Chevrolet Monte Carlo owned by James Finch with veteran crew chief Marc Reno lending a hand. Finch fielded cars driven to victory lane in the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series season-opening Firstplus Financial 200 in 1993 and 1996 by Jeff Purvis and in 1997 by Andy Hillenburg. Should Robinson be fastest come February, it would not be the first female ARCA superspeedway pole, as Patty Moise turned the trick at both Daytona and Talladega in 1988-89. Patty Simko-Schacht holds the ARCA female qualifying mark at over 199 mph in the final pre-restrictor plate season of 1987.

ARCA regulars Mark Gibson, Bill Baird and Josh Baltes were 2nd, 4th and 5th quick respectively all posting speeds faster than Bairds pole speed in 98. Interestingly enough, 98 ARCA champ Frank Kimmel and veteran Bob Strait were not on hand for the test session, and concurrent with that, there has been major shake-ups in both camps. Jeff Lemons, the 98 ARCA Clevite Engine Parts Mechanic of the Year for Kimmel, has resigned from the Larry Clement owned Advance Auto Parts team and has signed on as 50% partner with the Jack Bowsher Ford stable. "My goal is to turn this team around," said Lemons. "With Jacks experience and unlimited knowledge, and with Strait back as the driver, I know we can do it." Kimmel, along with car owner Clement, have signed Bill Kimmel, Jr. as their new crew chief. Bill is the younger brother of Frank and a 4-time and defending Louisville Speedway late model champion and part time NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro driver. "We were sorry to see Jeff go," said F. Kimmel. "He did a great job for us, but it was his decision to leave so we had to make a move. We think Bill is going to be the perfect fit. Hell crew chief for us on the ARCA tour, then when we have a weekend off, well change hats and Ill help him at the All Pro shows. Were really excited about the new year. Weve got Advance Auto Parts back, Riteway Industrial and Green Oak Farms as sponsors, and possibly more."

Winston Cup drivers Bobby Hamilton and Dave Marcis were on hand. Hamilton was working with his son Bobby Hamilton Jr. on the Sadler Brothers Chevrolet entry, which young Bobby drove to 4 top-5 finishes in 5 ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series starts in 1998. Marcis fields cars for Dwayne Leik, his Winston Cup team manager, who had his best career series finish of 4th at Pocono last July.

Rookie Shane Yoder, who qualified 3rd and finished 11th at Michigan last June, tested 8th quick in Mark Thompsons Thunderbird. Yoder had to hustle home to northern Ohio to catch a flight to Australia to participate in dirt late model racing there over the holidays.

1997 STP-Prestone ARCA Rookie of the Year Josh Baltes drove a Chevrolet crew chiefed by Tom Sokoloski, former ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series champion crew chief for Tim Steele. Sokoloski was the 1996 Clevite Engine Parts ARCA Mechanic of the Year and had a hand in all 3 of Steeles series championships.

Dill Whittymore, the 95 series rookie of the year, was working out of the 1998 Elliott-Marino Winston Cup team transporter, which still carried the Firstplus Financial colors. Whittymore will make a full runat the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series championship in 1999.

Another team stepping up to a full season championship run in 99 is that of driver Mike Ciochetti. With a new car owner, former major league baseball pitcher Bill Gullickson, and sponsorship from The Winners Circle in addition to Hughes Supply, Ciochetti will run Fords in every race in the upcoming season.

NASCAR Goodys Dash Series veterans Donnie Neuenberger and Donny Duchesne both took part in the test with teams they plan to debut in February.

Scott Baker of Holland Michigan was the only casualty of the weekend, cutting a right front tire down on his MC Sports Chevrolet and finding the turn 3 retaining wall. Baker rode the wall through turns 3-4 and drove the car to pit road before exiting the car to be examined for a possible knee injury.

NASCAR Winston West and Featherlite Southwest Tour veteran John Metcalf represented the Re/Max team and did well, testing in the top 1/3 of the field in his first Daytona visit.

Matt Hutter, who finished 2nd to Tim Steele at Talladega in October in the most recent ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series restrictor plate race, drove Ed Rensis Chevrolet in the test, as Rensi and driver Jeff Finley explore their NASCAR Busch Grand National options.

An interested pitsider in the Dale Kreider garage was longtime midwest stock car owner Jim Stovall, who fielded cars driven to the ASA Series championship in 1975 by Moose Myers, to the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series in 1977 by Myers and to the ARCA crown in 1982 by his son Scott Stovall. The younger Stovall has plans to unveil a new team, likely sometime during the 1999 ARCA campaign.