Long Pond, PA – Michael Lira, in the final moments of the session, shot to the top of the speed charts in ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards open testing Wednesday afternoon at Pocono Raceway. Lira, in the No. 58 Ford Performance-TraqGear Ford, circled the 2.5-mile Pocono triangle in 53.055 seconds, an average speed of 169.635 mph.
“We’re a lot faster than we were here last year,” Lira said. “A lot of that is me being better acclimated to this place. I didn’t need to spend all my time this year getting used to the track. We were able to work on our car a lot more this year, rather than working on me. We had a good test…led the charts. I’m feeling pretty confident about the race.”
The Port Orange, Florida driver also said the bumps in the tunnel turn are a little more intense this year than last year.
“The tunnel turn is the hardest turn here, even without the bumps, but they seem a little more intense to me than they were last year. You really have to be careful through there.”
Kyle Weatherman, who took his first laps here today at Pocono, found out the hard way. Weatherman spun in the tunnel turn, made contact with the wall and damaged the rear of the No. 22 Cunningham Motorsports Ford, the same car that Trevor Bayne had tested in earlier in the day. Weatherman commented just prior to the incident.
“It’s definitely one of the hardest tracks I’ve ever been on,” said Weatherman, who ended up third overall on the charts. “It’s just like they call it…the Tricky Triangle. It’s awesome though; I can tell you that. I wish I was racing. The tunnel turn is definitely hard. It’s got some bumps right where you need to get on the gas.”
The damage on the 22 was enough that crew chief Paul Andrews has already begun stripping what he needs from the car to be transferred over to his back-up car.
Daytona 500 winner Bayne spent a few laps in the 22 car this morning before the crash, and plans to come back for his ARCA Racing Series debut Saturday in the Pocono ARCA 200, ahead of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Bayne had to cut out early to attend a family function back home, which opened up the seat for Weatherman, who plans to race at Pocono in August.
“The car’s really good down into the corners,” Bayne said. “I have to leave early, but I told Paul (Andrews/crew chief) that he could free it up a lot. It’s too tight everywhere so it could be freed up in a million ways. It races very consistent though. I’d say, let’s get another 5/10ths out of it and we’re good.”
Despite what Bayne learned in the car, he’ll work with the back-up machine for the race because of the aforementioned incident. He ended up eighth overall on the charts with just 13 laps turned. Bayne also made a comparison between the ARCA cars and the Cup cars.
“It’s a lot different feel than the Cup car…the horsepower difference. There’s a lot more throttle time so you really have to arc it through the turns so you don’t miss the corners. I really enjoyed the ARCA car; I’m excited for the race.”
Kyle Benjamin, who also took his first laps Wednesday at Pocono, was second (169.342 mph) on the charts in the No. 15 Venturini Motorsports Toyota.
“I like it a lot,” Benjamin said. “I like how different it is. It’s all about finding the balance. What you give up in one corner, you have to make up in the next. I thought we’d have a good shot here. This is one of my crew chief’s (Kevin Reed) best tracks. I know a lot of people were struggling in the tunnel turn today. It’s tricky down there, but turn one was the hardest for me. We were way too tight getting into one, but we made up for it at the other end. What a cool track.”
Cody Coughlin climbed to fourth on the charts late in the going in the No. 55 JEGS Toyota with Cole Custer trailing in fifth in the No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet.
“I knew we were bringing a fast car here, so I’m not surprised we’re up there,” Custer said. “I’m still getting used to the track…the bump in the tunnel turn and still figuring out how to get through three. I’m not used to carrying that much speed through a flat corner like that.
“It was really smart of ARCA to give us this chance to test rather than cramming it all in the day before the race. I wouldn’t want to do that. We’ve got a fast car…a shot to win the race. It’s a fun track…the way you carry so much speed all the way around…lots of character. Neat track.”
Matt Tifft was sixth overall on the speed charts in Ken Schrader’s No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet.
“Fortunately, we were pretty solid right out of the gate,” Tifft said. “I noticed the tunnel turn is a little bumpier than it was last year…a little trickier. With the new engine packages, you can drive the car into the corners here deeper than before, but if you kill your momentum on the arc, it’ll hurt your speed. Our set-up is pretty neutral, and we’re fast, so we can just try a few small things to see if we can get it better, but we’re pretty solid right where we’re at.”
Will Kimmel was seventh overall in the No. 69 Kimmel Racing Ford, two positions ahead of his uncle Frank Kimmel. Frank was ninth overall in the No. 25 Ansell-Menards Toyota.
“The car drives a little different with the new engine package,” Frank Kimmel said. “We’ve been playing with different gear ratios all day. We’ve been on the chip hard, so we’re pulling gear out. Car’s fast. We’re in the game…we just need to fine-tune it.”
2014 ARCA Racing Series champion Mason Mitchell was 10th overall.
Sarah Cornett-Ching tested two different cars and is still getting acclimated to Pocono’s unique triangular layout.
“It’s different; that’s for sure,” Cornett-Ching said. “Different than anything else I’ve ever been on. I’m still getting used to the speed you have to carry all the way around to be good. There are a lot of new things for me here, and I’m taking my time getting used to it. Car’s been tight, for the most part, so we’re working on that. And, I kept missing the entry to the tunnel turn…that’s making my car push more than it should. I like the track though. I think we’ll be good.”
In all, 22 drivers posted time and speed in the open test in preparation for Saturday’s Pocono ARCA 200.
On-track activity for the Pocono ARCA 200 includes one practice session on Friday, June 5 from 2:15 – 4:15 p.m. Raceday Saturday, June 6 begins with Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell at 10:05 a.m., followed by the Pocono ARCA 200 at 1 p.m. The Pocono ARCA 200 is live on FOX Sports 2 Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.
In addition to live coverage on FOX Sports 2, arcaracing.com will feature live timing and scoring of all on-track activities to include practice, qualifying and the race.
Tickets are on sale at PoconoRaceway.com.
ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards
Open Test Results, Pocono Raceway (6-3-15)
|58||Michael Lira/Port Orange FL||Ford||53.055||169.635|
|15||Kyle Benjamin/Easley SC||Toyota||53.147||169.342|
|22||Kyle Weatherman/Wentzville MO||Ford||53.365||168.650|
|55||Cody Coughlin/Delaware OH||Toyota||53.533||168.121|
|00||Cole Custer/Ladera CA||Chevrolet||53.644||167.773|
|52||Matt Tifft/Hinckley OH||Chevrolet||53.672||167.685|
|69||Will Kimmel/Sellersburg IN||Ford||53.763||167.401|
|22||Trevor Bayne/Knoxville TN||Ford||53.818||167.230|
|25||Frank Kimmel/Clarksville IN||Toyota||53.852||167.125|
|78||Mason Mitchell/West Des Moines IA||Chevrolet||54.044||166.531|
|23||Grant Enfinger/Fairhope AL||Chevrolet||54.483||165.189|
|77||Tom Hessert/Cherry Hill NJ||Dodge||54.547||164.995|
|98||Austin Wayne Self/Austin TX||Ford||54.672||164.618|
|98aq||Austin Wayne Self/Austin TX||Ford||54.718||164.480|
|54||Matt Kurzejewski/Mansfield PA||Chevrolet||54.902||163.928|
|59||David Levine/Highland Park IL||Ford||55.121||163.277|
|2||Sarah Cornett-Ching/Summerland BC||Chevrolet||55.833||161.195|
|5||Bobby Gerhart/Lebanon PA||Chevrolet||56.252||159.994|
|2a||Sarah Cornett-Ching/Summerland BC||Chevrolet||56.360||159.688|
|42||Bo LeMastus/Louisville KY||Dodge||57.450||156.658|
|06||Dale Matchett/Cherry Hill NJ||Ford||63.977||140.676|
|06||Don Thompson/Carlisle PA||Ford||68.268||131.833|
|07||Brian Kaltreider/Reading PA||Ford||75.762||118.793|
|12||Tyler Audie/Orlando FL||Dodge||No Time|
Story & Photo: ARCA PR