The ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards is a lot of things to a lot of people.
To some, it's not much more than a stepping stone to the next level, and the fame and fortune of NASCAR. To others, it represents the opportunity to see if they have what it takes to get to the next level. And to yet another group of racers, it's home. It's the place where they will race as a career.
It's also place where the next pitch may be a high-speed curve ball, like the next event on the schedule at Palm Beach Int'l Raceway (PBIR) in Jupiter, Florida where drivers will spend more time turning right rather than will left.
And for the 2010 title contenders, a quirky left- and right-turn road course on the heels of a superspeedway classic at Daytona is, to put it mildly, challenging.
ARCA is the self-proclaimed "most diverse stock car touring series in the world". The tour races on tracks ranging in size from the 2.66 mile superspeedway at Talladega, AL to the .438 mile bullring that is Berlin Raceway. In addition, a pair of mile dirt tracks at Springfield and DuQuoin, and road course racing for good measure.
For the first time in the 58-year history of series, ARCA will run at two road courses in 2010. The first left- and right-turn run is this Saturday at PBIR, with the second scheduled for August 15 at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
With the season opening at the 2.5 mile "restrictor plate" Daytona International Speedway immediately followed up by PBIR, many drivers feel that survival is the key to getting through February, and not digging too large of a hole in the chase for the 2010 championship. Here's what some of the drivers had to say about going to PBIR for the first time.......
FRANK KIMMEL: "I really enjoy road courses, they're always fun. I don't feel like I'm a very accomplished road racer because I don't get to do it enough. Sometimes, I have a hard time telling Bill (brother/crew chief) and the team the adjustments the car needs to be better, since I'm out on the track just trying to get comfortable. But, it's a good confidence booster knowing that we've had some good success with road racing. It's a race where you have to be smart, be there at the end of the day and take what your car has to give you. That's what we've done well over the years, and I'm glad we've got a couple of road races on the 2010 schedule. Overall, I'm really happy that we got to test, and I expect to go into Palm Beach and be competitive. We had a great test (at PBIR) on the Monday after Daytona and we believe that we can get a good finish thatÂ will position ourselves for a run at the championship."
PATRICK SHELTRA: "You can earn just as many points at Palm Beach as you do Daytona. On that level, each track is equally important. And if you put all your focus on Daytona because it's the biggest race of the year, that's fine, but if you're running for a championship, then you need to put just as much focus on Palm Beach. I'm not a road course specialist, but I want to be leading the points when we leave (Palm Beach). I don't want to be digging out of hole this early in the season. We've got to be prepared at Palm Beach. The test went well for us. The track is really fast with some extremely tight and slow corners, so it's going to be crucial for someone like me who doesn't have a lot of road course experience to stay focused and stay on track. If we can do that and I know we can - we should be in the hunt with a couple laps to go. There won't be a dull moment this weekend."
JOEY COULTER: "Going into the 2010 race season, I knew I needed to be prepared as possible and the road courses proved to be my biggest challenge. I went out to Bondurant in January, knowing they would help me learn the intricacies of the left and right handed turns. It proved very useful, as we tested very well here (PBIR) just a few weeks ago."
ROBB BRENT: "I'm excited. ARCA is really throwing a curve at us this year by going to a superspeedway like Daytona and then two weeks later a road course, but we're ready for it. I cut my teeth in road course racing, so I really feel like I have an opportunity to get ahead on the championship points. Palm Beach is a nice place. The track has some impressive speed with some super tight corners but that should make the race very exciting. We truly have a legitimate chance at winning Saturday's race. Road course racing is a lot of fun. It throws some different techniques at you from a team and driver standpoint. While you are focused on staying on the track - you're also looking at who you are racing with, pit strategy and even weather."
CRAIG GOESS: "It should be a cool experience. Being in a new element and taking to a new place, the race should be exciting. I'm interested to see how we all make the best of the situation when we are not used to the track. Like anybody, anytime you put yourself in a situation that you're not completely familiar with, it adds to the challenge. But I remember something Eddie (Sharp/car owner) told me last year; he said just 'go out and have some fun'. It sounds simple enough, but I find that if do that ...... just have fun ....... I tend to be a little more relaxed in the car, which makes me perform better, and guess what ...... have more fun as a result. "Seems like if you let yourself get too aggravated, you start missing your marks; then you have to compensate. Sounds simple, but it's true. If set myself up for having fun, that's usually what happens. I'm sure it'll take me longer to get up to speed than a lot of the guys, but I'm confident that with the right attitude I'll be able to pick it up."
BRYAN SILAS: "The best case scenario at Palm Beach would obviously be a win," added Silas. "But, I'm not an experienced road racer. I go into every race now thinking I can win, but realistically, if we could come out with the car in one piece and a top-10 finish, I'd be ecstatic. Unlike New Jersey (Motorsports Park road course), this track's hard on brakes. You're reaching speeds of 150 mph-plus and then down to 35, 40 mph for some of these corners. The person who still has his equipment under him at the end is going to win. If there's anything that I learned in the test, it's that this is a very challenging course. There's absolutely no runoff. If you spin off here, you're gunna hit something. Attrition is definitely going to play a role."
JUSTIN MARKS: "Palm Beach Int'l Raceway is a good example of what a lot of new tracks are going to these days," said Marks. "The track itself is very smooth and was paved with the right aggregate to create a surface that's very raceable and seems to take rubber down and grip up. There's a lot of grip. The layout is great because it has a few technical sections that can be approached differently depending on the type of car and how your car is handling. Also, and most importantly, it has a few good passing zones and a few places that you can really set someone up and make a pass. It's important to have technical corners that lead to passing zones and they've done a good job of that."
The Tire Kingdom 150 presented by ModSpace at Palm Beach Int'l Raceway is scheduled to roll off at 1:00 PM Saturday afternoon, February 27th. On-track activity begins on Friday, February 26th with practice from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM followed by Menards Pole Award Qualifying presented by Ansell at 4:00 PM.
LIVE TIMING & SCORING at ARCAracing.com PLUS LIVE STREAMING AUDIO OF RACE
In addition to Live Timing & Scoring of all on-track activity at ARCAracing.com, the race will also be featured in live streaming audio at ARCAracing.com.
-Courtesy ARCA Public Relations