DAYTONA BEACH, FL (12-28-09) - The recent open test at Daytona Int'l Speedway created a great deal of interest in the ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards.
Not only was the national and international media there to cover Danica Patrick's much anticipated stock car debut, NASCAR President Mike Helton also stopped by to check things out.
Helton not only made an appearance, the revered leader of the world's most successful and popular stock car tour, spent time with the ARCA participants, including Leilani Münter, who tested with Mark Gibson Racing (MGR) in the no. 59 NextEra Energy Resources Dodge.
"I was very honored that he came by to talk to me," said Munter. "That means a lot to drivers like me trying to make it to the next level.
"Throughout the weekend we tried a lot of different set ups for the car and by Sunday afternoon, Mark Gibson and the team had really figured out what package we needed under the car," added Munter. "They are great guys and they gave me a great car to drive. It's so much fun being out there in quality equipment. I had a lot of fun drafting with Danica Patrick and Bobby Gerhart, and that's a pretty good crowd to be hanging with out there. We are really happy with our test and very hopeful we can come back for the race in February.
"I can't thank NextEra Energy Resources enough for giving us the opportunity to test Daytona. It was incredibly valuable to us as a team to kick off the 2010 racing season with a successful test."
The team, under the leadership of car owner Mark Gibson, focused on different suspension packages throughout Saturday and Sunday and finally found a set-up they liked on Sunday afternoon. And when that set up clicked, Munter shot to seventh overall on the board Sunday afternoon with a top speed in the draft of 181.774 mph.
"I was happy with the test overall," said Mark Gibson. "We were able to make a lot of changes to the car; some worked; others did not. But that's why we go to the test.
"We still have a lot of work to do before the race to close the gap on the Toyotas. I feel the engine program is our strong point. Now we just have to get the aero package worked out on our Dodges. After seeing the bodies on some of the top ten cars I realized we have some work to do. As a team, I thought we worked very well together. We had some new crew members along with people who have worked for MGR for years. Everyone fit together as if they had worked with each other all along.
"Leilani did a great job. She gave great feedback and could feel the changes we made to the car. Her enthusiasm was great and she kept the team pumped up all weekend. Parker (Kligerman) was the same way; he was just glad to have the opportunity to drive the car and that outlook carries over to the team," Gibson continued.
"Having NextEra Energy on board for the test was great. We learned so much about what their company is doing and also the things that we all need to do to not only save energy but to help our environment. Leilani is a great ambassador for Nextera and the green movement. Hopefully we can help educate the race fans about what we need to do to help save our environment."
Life is short. Race hard. Live Green.