Leilani Munter

Grant Enfinger dominates to win second straight ARCA season opener at Daytona

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Grant Enfinger earned his second consecutive ARCA Series season-opening race, dominating en route to victory in Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona International Speedway.

Enfinger led at the halfway point of the 80-lap race around the 2.5-mile high-banked racetrack.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Enfinger told FoxSports1 after the race. “A few weeks ago there was a lot of uncertainty. I didn’t know when I was going to get back in a car. … I can’t say enough about GMS racing and this opportunity they gave me. We’re going to savor this one for a while.“

Xfinity Series rookie Daniel Suarez, who will compete for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished a strong second.

“A few days ago, I was thinking where do I need to be have to be to win this race and normally that would be second place,” Suarez said. “Ten laps to go, I said, ‘Well, here we are, second place, let’s try to win this thing.’

“I was trying to pass the 23 car in the last couple laps, but I just didn’t know how to make that pass. I’m not sure exactly what I did, but I’m happy with a second place.”

Outside pole-sitter Cody Coughlin, 19, finished fourth in his first-ever race at Daytona.

“We had a lot of fun in my first time at Daytona,” Coughlin said. “To come away with a top-five finish is cool. We were up front all day and could taste the victory, so it’s a little bit bittersweet in that aspect. We had a wicked fast Toyota today, I learned a lot and next time we’ll get the checkers.”

ARCA veteran and 10-time series champion Frank Kimmel once again fell short of his bid to finally win at Daytona.

Kimmel, who has earned 80 ARCA wins in his career, finished fifth, adding to the three-runner-up finishes he’s had in career starts at DIS.

A pit road problem cost Kimmel the win. He was leading the race just short of halfway when he came in to pit.

The connector part of the fuel can came loose, dumping the entire contents of the fuel on the gasman and on the ground.

Kimmel had to come back around to take another can, dropping him from the lead to 34th position.

Wrecks were few and far between, but one must be noted.

On Lap 54, Leilani Munter bounced off the left rear of Blake Jones, sending her into Terry Jones and then bounced off and into Buster Graham and Bobby Gerhart.

Gerhart needed assistance to get to the ambulance. It seemed he was pretty shaken up, but he said he was fine after being discharged. Gerhart finished 39th.

“The tape will tell it all,” Gerhart said. “I’m not pointing any fingers or placing any blame. There’s not a lot of room for error when you’re three-wide. Everybody was just at the right place at the wrong time.”

J.J. Pack appeared to run over debris from the five-car wreck that punctured the fuel line on his car, leading to a spectacular fire. Pack was uninjured.

NOTES:

* Mark Thompson, who at 63 became the oldest driver to ever win a pole in DIS history (in Friday’s qualifying), finished 14th.

* Former NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series driver Bobby Hamilton Jr. finished 26th in his first race of any series in nearly four seasons. It also was Hamilton’s first race in an ARCA car since 1999.

* Vancouver, B.C. native Sarah Cornett-Ching made her Daytona debut, ultimately finishing 31st out of the 40-car field. She fell behind in the first two laps, and was forced to pit to fix a motor issue.

Competing in the first of what she hopes to be at least 10 races on the ARCA circuit this season, Cornett-Ching came back on the track

* Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell qualified fifth, but suffered overheating problems that left him with a 35th place finish.

FINISHING ORDER:

1 Grant Enfinger

2 Daniel Suarez

3 Brett Hudson

4 Cody Coughlin

5 Frank Kimmel

6 Mason Mitchell

7 Matt Kurzejewski

8 Scott Sheldon

9 Josh Williams

10 Will Kimmel

11 Tom Hessert

12 Daniel Hemric

13 Austin Hill

14 Mark Thompson

15 Austin Wayne Self

16 David Levine

17 Blake Jones

18 Tyler Audie

19 Terry Jones

20 Cole Powell

21 Patrick Staropoli

22 Brad Smith

23 Bo LeMastus

24 Thomas Praytor

25 Karl Weber

26 Bobby Hamilton Jr.

27 Bill Catania

28 Barry Fitzgerald

29 Sean Corr

30 Ed Pompa

31 Sarah Cornett-Ching

32 Roger Carter

33 John Lowinski-Loh

34 Garrett Smithley

35 Clay Campbell

36 J.J. Pack

37 Buster Graham

38 Leilani Munter

39 Bobby Gerhart

40 James Swanson

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