TOLEDO, Ohio (May 20, 2016) – The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards has sanctioned numerous open tests at Michigan International Speedway over the years, but perhaps none as important as the one that took place yesterday.
More than 20 teams participated in the ARCA-sanctioned open test at Michigan Thursday, May 19. The practice day served as the first open test on a superspeedway for the composite body cars at a track larger than one mile in length.
“Overall, I’m really impressed with the composite bodies,” said 2015 ARCA Racing Series national champion Grant Enfinger. “The composite cars are holding up extremely well with these speeds we have here.”
Third-generation ARCA racer Will Kimmel added even more.
“I think with the Five Star composite body you could not ask for anything better,” Kimmel said. “They look awesome. I think it really brought the series (ARCA) up to date. With the Ilmor engine and all its success, the series has a lot of good things going for it right now. The car’s going to be better in the long run and more affordable for a smaller team like ours.
”I’ve been coming (to Michigan) for 10 years and have seen a lot of changes. These are the best changes I’ve seen yet. ARCA’s got a good deal going with the composite cars and the Ilmor engine. Both really help level the playing field. Everyone’s on more of an even keel. I feel like with the experience I have behind me with my dad and Frank (Kimmel) that we can gain advantage now…being on a level playing field.”
ARCA veteran Tom Hessert liked the feel he got with the composite car.
“The first impression is that the car drives great and it has a ton of grip so that is the most important thing,” Hessert said. “It looks awesome and it will be more in-line with the other cars when we come back.”
Current ARCA Racing Series point leader Chase Briscoe also liked the performance of the composite.
“I only got less than 10 laps in, but the car’s got a ton of grip as far as the new body goes,” Briscoe said. “I think we’re going to be able to move around in the race and use all the grooves this place has. I’ve never been on this track before but I already feel really comfortable in the car…feel very confident.”
Series newcomer Dalton Sargeant took his first laps at Michigan during the test.
“I love it…this place is awesome,” Sargeant said. “The composite cars are driving really nice, smooth and fast. We’re a little tight in the center…we’re still trying to figure out everything the car wants. This is my first time on an intermediate track, but from what I can tell, the car is really stable and smooth. We just need a little more through the center, but we’ve make really good progression all day. We’ll keep gaining on it and when we come back we’ll be even better.”
Matt Kurzejewski, driver of the No. 52 Ansell-Menards Toyota, said, “My first impression with the composite is that they handle very well. At first, I thought it was going to be harder to drive without all the side force, but it’s got grip and seems very stable.”
The composite body cars will again test at Pocono Raceway on Tuesday, May 31, prior to the Five Star manufactured flange-fit body’s official debut in competition at the General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 at Pocono June 3, and the Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan June 10. The composite body car has already conducted private superspeedway tests at Daytona and Chicagoland, and has had several hours in wind tunnels. Composite bodies have been eligible on all short tracks since 2015.
“This test was crucial to the continued evolution of the composite body for the future in ARCA,” commented Grayling Call, ARCA Director of Competition and Race Car Technology. “A lot of what we learned here, and what we learn at Pocono, will be used as we chart the course for the future of our series superspeedway race package.”
In addition to the introduction of the composite bodies, the ARCA Ilmor 396 has been well received.
“We’ve had a couple really major changes…first with the ARCA Ilmor 396 engine and second, with the Five Star composite body,” ARCA President Ron Drager said. “Both have given the series the opportunity to improve the product and serve as cost savings measures, which is what they were intended to be. We’ve been able to increase the number of cars competing and have increased the level of competition.”
Champion crew chief Paul Andrews oversaw both of Cunningham Motorsports’ cars at the Michigan test.
“Seem to be really, really good,” Andrews said. “We only ran one steel car all day. If I had to say right now, we’re going to bring back the composite car for the race. The composite has more grip. It’s easier to drive and more stable. Both my drivers (Chase Briscoe and Myatt Snider) said the same thing. We still have some issues to sort through…we’re dragging a little bit…we’re going to have to raise the car up, but I believe we’ll be racing the composite when we come back.”
Longtime Ken Schrader Racing crew chief Donnie Richeson shared a similar sentiment.
“I’m really impressed with the product; I think we all are,” Richeson said. “The speed comes easier with the composite car. Even compared to the steel car we won with here last year, this composite car comes out of the box quicker. You don’t have to work as hard to get speed. We’ve pretty much already decided on which car we’re all coming back with…now it’s just a matter of finding out how much more speed is left in the composite car. If we can just figure out how to squeeze a little more speed out of it, we’ll be in fine shape for the race.”
Longtime car owner/crew chief Bill Kimmel is another who really likes the composite car.
“I really like it, of course,” Kimmel said. “It’ll take a little time to figure out what it wants compared to the steel car. I’m very satisfied with the car. I think the series should be satisfied…it’s a really neat deal. I think it’s brought ARCA to a new level...a new era so to speak. This Michigan car is the same car we raced at Salem (short track) last year. We just put a composite body on it…neat deal.”
Venturini Motorsports team manager Billy Venturini has already decided that he’ll be racing the composite cars for the race events at Pocono and Michigan.
“It’s got more speed than the steel car,” Venturini said. “I think it’ll race better than the steel car. The steel car is more aero-sensitive. The composite car’s got more grip…more stable all the way around. All good here.”
John Robinson, Sr. Media & Partnerships Analyst for General Tire, was also on hand for the open test.
“Anytime we get the chance to get on track is a valuable opportunity to get data, especially with the different body styles we have here today,” Robinson said. “We haven’t seen the cars in competition on the track together yet, but we can take the data we got here today, take it back and get what we can out of it.”
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards is headed back to Michigan Int’l Speedway for the 35th running of the Corrigan Oil 200 Friday, June 10. The Corrigan Oil 200, live on FS1, serves as the weekend show-opener for the Sunday afternoon grand finale – the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400.
Located in the Irish Hills of Brooklyn, Michigan, the renowned two-mile superspeedway is about an hour away from ARCA’s Temperance, Michigan-based home office, and has long been considered the tour’s hometown superspeedway. The ARCA brand, originally born just south of the border in Toledo, Ohio, is well known and established in the area.
ARCA’s relationship with Michigan reaches back to 1980 when Joe Ruttman won the inaugural ARCA race event from the pole. Other former Michigan ARCA winners over the decades include Bob Keselowski, Jeff Purvis, Tim Steele, Kerry Earnhardt, Casey Mears, Reed Sorenson, Steve Wallace, Parker Kligerman, Ty Dillon, Chris Buescher and Ross Kenseth to name a few. There hasn’t been a repeat ARCA winner at Michigan since Steele pulled off the feat in 1996 and 1997.
Two practice sessions get things going for this year’s Corrigan Oil 200 Thursday afternoon, June 9 from 1:00 p.m. to 1:55 p.m., followed by final practice from 2:05 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell is scheduled for Friday raceday morning at 1:40 p.m. The Friday afternoon, June 10 Corrigan Oil 200 gets the green flag at approximately 5:45 p.m.