The ARCA Racing Series held its annual preseason test at the Daytona International Speedway (FL) this past weekend.  While everybody had a different agenda, many took notice of the Mason Mitchell Motorsports cars sweeping both day’s speed charts.  Many also noticed what appeared to be a lack of speed on the part of Venturini Motorsports.  But it’s still too early for anybody to be either worried or overjoyed.


“Obviously we want to go back even stronger and we have some things to do and accomplish before we come back with our cars for the race,” Mitchell told powered by JEGS.  “I was just really proud of our guys here.  We don’t have a huge group of guys but we have a good core group of guys that work well together and have put a lot of hours in to prepare them.  So I feel like it was a really solid effort.  It was definitely an A for sure.”


graphic 51 tv speedfest 2016Mitchell ran three cars this past weekend with five drivers, including himself.  He was joined by Gus Dean, Spencer Boyd, Zane Smith and Noah Gragson.  According to Mitchell, Dean is signed to race for the team when the series returns to Daytona for the season opener on February 13.  Mitchell himself turned the fastest overall lap of the weekend with a time of 47.416 seconds around the two-and-a-half mile super-speedway.


“Our drivers did a really good job,” Mitchell said.  “They executed almost perfectly.  They learned a lot and didn’t make any mistakes.  They drafted well with each other and also in a group and we were able to put a pretty good time up there that we were proud of.”


Some observers were surprised by the Venturini Motorsports cars not appearing in the top five on the overall speed chart, but the General Manager of Venturini Motorsports, Billy Venturini, said the test went about as well as he had hoped it would.


“We weren’t too ramped up trying to turn a low number in the draft,” Venturini said.  “I thought our cars were incredibly strong.  I think that we’ll be the ones that pace the whole deal when we go back.”


The highest-ranked Venturini driver was veteran Tom Hessert who clocked in at ninth on the board with a time of 47.630 seconds.  Mark Thompson came in at 17th on the board with a lap of 47.844 seconds and William Byron finished the weekend 20th overall with a time of 47.867 seconds.  Byron will be making his first ever start at Daytona at the season opener.


Venturini said he believes all three drivers will be tough to beat come race day, and that had him excited when he left the Sunshine State.


“William Byron did amazing for his first time there,” Venturini said.  “He’s an incredible talent.  A very special talent that I think is going to go incredibly far in this sport.  I really believe in him.  Mark Thompson is a veteran that come race time will be right there in the mix of things.  And Tommy Hessert is going to do great things for us.  We’re looking forward to him.  He’s like the right combination of still enough youth and also experience.  He’s like the right combination for us for success at the plate stuff.  I think he’s going to be really tough throughout the race and do a great job for us.


“I think all three cars have a shot to win.  I think all three cars have a chance to win the pole.  I think we’ll be very good.”


-By Rob Blount, Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount

-Photo Credit: ARCA Photo

Mitchell Paces Daytona While Venturini Surprises Many