DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – official series release – ARCA photo —
If the annual ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards open test at Daytona Int’l Speedway is an indicator of which teams will be top contenders in the 52nd running of the Lucas Oil 200 in February, then Empire Racing is in a really good place.
In fact, the team took the top three spots on the charts among the 49 drivers who posted time and speed over the two-day test Friday and Saturday at the “World Center of Racing.”
Sean Corr, in the No. 48 Empire Racing-Hylton Motorsports Ford, led the way around the 2.5-mile superspeedway in 47.743 seconds, an average speed of 188.509 mph. His teammate, rookie Patrick Staropoli, was second and third on the charts with speeds of 188.478 mph in the No. 8 Empire Racing Ford, and 188.344 mph after he hopped in the 48 car for a few rounds.
Corr was in a familiar car, the same one that the Goshen, N.Y. driver earned the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell in at Daytona in 2012. Corr also finished fifth at Daytona in 2013 and 10th in 2014 in the same machine. Corr is utilizing the new ARCA Ilmor 396 engine.
“We’ve been running the new Ilmor motor; it’s an amazing powerplant,” Corr said. “The pull off the corners is incredible; it just wants to go. I’d fall behind them down the backstretch just to see what would happen and they’d pull away in (turn) three, but coming off four it’d power right back up to the pack. It’s an amazing motor. This is also my first time with fuel injection…everything I’ve ever raced before was with a carburetor, but this entire package is making a believer out of me.”
Staropoli, considering his story, got his share of headlines too over the weekend.
“This wasn’t exactly supposed to happen,” said Staropoli, a Harvard graduate. “One of Empire’s drivers got really sick so we got a call Thursday night to see if I’d be interested. So l left Charlotte right away, drove all night and got here at four in the morning, slept for about an hour, and came out to the track. It’s more than I could have hoped for. I still can’t believe it. I just want to thank Richard Hardin of American RF…he found out that Sean Corr was looking for a driver, and got in touch with me. This is amazing. The biggest track I had ever been on before was Iowa.”
“I had no idea what to expect. The only race I’ve ever run here was on the backstretch in a K&N car so I had no idea what I was getting into. I’ve never drafted before, but it’s the coolest thing…to feel how the wind moves and shoves the car around. Hopefully I’ve turned some heads and opened some doors. I’m so hoping I get to come back here and race. This place is amazing,” added the 25-year-old Plantation, Fla. driver.
Staropoli was utilizing a Roush Yates engine in the 8 car.
Corr is planning to return for more ARCA testing at Daytona in January.
“We still have one more complete car at the shop…the vin number is just one off this car,” Corr said. “We’re going to bring the sister car back for the January test to see how it goes with the Ilmor, but I’m not getting out of my primary car for the race…I’m too attached to it.”
Austin Cindric, in his first superspeedway attempt, turned heads earning the fourth fastest speed overall at 187.758 mph. Cindric, in a Cunningham Motorsports Dodge, is the son of Penske Racing headman Tim Cindric.
“I learned a lot this weekend,” said Cindric, who also posted the fastest speed overall in the afternoon session Saturday. “This is the first time I have been in a stock car. I went from knowing nothing to knowing something. I certainly can’t say that I know a lot, but I sure did learn a ton this weekend. From Crew Chief Paul Andrews to teammate Tom Hessert and spotter Richard Coleman…all of them worked with me and taught me a lot. This was the first time that I have ever drafted. Lots of credit goes to Richard (spotter) for talking me through all of the specifics that go into drafting. We probably ran five draft sessions today with, at most, six cars in the draft. This was a great weekend, a great first experience with Cunningham Motorsports.”
Cindric’s Cunningham Motorsports teammate Tom Hessert turned the fifth fastest lap.
Eight-time Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart was sixth fastest in his own Bobby Gerhart Racing Chevrolet, one spot ahead of Venturini Motorsports’ Leilani Munter in seventh. Her teammate Cody Coughlin was eighth quickest overall and fastest in the first session Friday. Rookie David Levine was ninth behind the wheel of a Lira Motorsports Ford. SCOTT Rookie of the Year Austin Wayne Self climbed the charts late in the session Saturday, posting the 10th fastest speed in a Mason Mitchell Motorsports Ford.
The ARCA Racing Series will return to Daytona Int’l Speedway on January 16 for a one-day open test ahead of the Lucas Oil 200 February 14, 2015.