Empire Racing grabs 3 fastest spots in Daytona ARCA test

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ARCA wrapped up its two-day test at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday and Empire Racing and its drivers were the big stories.

The test, in preparation for the season-opening and 52nd Lucas Oil 200 on February 14, was dominated by Empire, which took the three fastest spots on the speed chart.

Sean Corr (pictured) had the fastest speed (188.509 mph) and elapsed time (47.743 seconds) of the 49-driver field around the 2.5-mile superspeedway, with his No. 48 Ford Fusion powered by a new ARCA Ilmor 396 motor.

“It’s an amazing powerplant,” Corr said in an ARCA media release. “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.”

Even though he was not originally scheduled to take part in the test, teammate Patrick Staropoli made a last-minute beeline to Daytona and ultimately recorded both the second- (188.478 mph) and third-fastest (188.344) speeds, first in his own No. 8 Ford Fusion, and then in Corr’s No. 48 Fusion.

“This wasn’t exactly supposed to happen,” said Staropoli, a Harvard graduate and aspiring doctor. “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.”

But Staropoli took to Daytona like a duck to water, surpassing every driver in the field except teammate Corr.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Staropoli said. “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.”

Austin Cindric, son of Penske Racing president Tim Cindric, had the fourth-fastest speed (187.758 mph) in his first appearance as a racer at Daytona.

“I learned a lot this weekend,” Cindric said. “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 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.”

Tom Hessert, Cindric’s Cunningham Motorsports teammate, recorded the fifth-fastest lap. Eight-time Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart was sixth-fastest, while Leilani Munter was seventh-fastest.

“I’ve never had a car this good before,” Munter said. “It took me 14 years of driving to get in a car this fast. I want so bad to win this race for the Venturini’s (team owners). … They believe in me. Now it’s time for me to do my job and win the race. I want to be the first female driver to get to Victory Lane in ARCA, and I know I’ve got the car to do it.”

Cody Coughlin was eighth-fastest, followed by ARCA rookie David Levine and 2014 Rookie of the Year Austin Wayne Self.

ARCA returns to DIS on January 16 for a single-day open test.

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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III