NEWTON, Iowa (July 8, 2017) -- You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone even remotely surprised that Kyle Weatherman was atop the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards leader board in practice Saturday afternoon at Iowa Speedway.
The Wentzville, Missouri driver has twice finished second at Iowa, and led a bunch of laps here last year before he cut down a tire. His bossman Mason Mitchell passed him on the last lap in 2015, and in 2013 it was Grant Enfinger who tracked him down in the final laps. That said, perhaps no driver has been closer to Victory Lane at Iowa without getting there than Weatherman…but possibly tonight. At any rate, he's off to a good start with the fastest lap in practice with an average speed of 128.315 mph around the 7/8th-mile short track in Newton, Iowa.
"Our guys have been really thrashing," said Weatherman. "I feel like we made a lot of gains."
Weatherman, in the No. 78 Turn One Condos-Mason Mitchell Motorsports Chevrolet, was hovering around seventh on the board and then shot to the top with a mock-qualifying run in the final moments.
"We're obviously good in qualifying trim. We've got a really good race car…we've got a few more changes going in now. We qualify first…not too crazy about that…probably be when the track's the hottest but that's okay. We just need a handful of changes…after that we should be in good shape."
Weatherman has one career ARCA victory at the New Jersey Motorsports Park road course in 2015.
Sixteen-year-old Christian Eckes was second in the No. 15 New York Bus Sales Toyota.
"Thought we were good," said Eckes. "There's some tire fall-off here and we ran our fastest lap late in the run. Feel like we got a lot of long run speed compared to everyone else. We qualified second last year, but we had a plug wire come off in the race. Love this track…probably the most diverse track we run anywhere…you can run anywhere from the bottom right up to the fence."
Eckes' career-best ARCA finish was second at Elko Speedway in early June.
Cunningham Motorsports was third and fifth on the board with Dalton Sargeant (No. 77 Performance Plus Ford) and Shane Lee (No. 22 Big Tine Ford), respectively.
Venturini Motorsports' Spencer Davis was fourth fastest in the No. 25 Pinty's Toyota. Davis has already driven twice at Iowa in the NASCAR K&N tour.
"Feel like I know this place well enough," said Davis. "We unloaded decent…we just needed a little more speed. Dave (Leiner/crew chief) and I worked all the way through practice and got the car suitable for long runs…we'll see what the race brings. This track seems to change a little each year. In the race, you instinctively go high…seems to be where the car works best. But at some point, you're all over this track till you find out what the car needs. It's a lot of fun to figure out…always a good race."
Current ARCA championship leader Austin Theriault missed the first part of practice because of an engine change. Still, the Fort Kent, Maine driver ended up 10th overall on the board in Ken Schrader's No. 52 Ford.
Hometown favorite Mason Mitchell (West Des Moines, Iowa) had his share of struggles during practice, changing driveshafts in his No. 88 Karl Chevrolet-Champion Power Equipment Chevy. Mitchell won here in 2015. Mitchell is fielding three cars here at Iowa, for Weatherman, himself and Michael Self.
General Tire Pole Qualifying is next at 4:15 p.m. Eastern. Tonight's Fans With Benefits 150 gets the green flag at 9:18 Eastern. Look for Live audio, timing, scoring and chat at arcaracing.com.