NASHVILLE — Cunningham Motorsports, dressed in all black, threw the full weight of its two-car team at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville Wednesday, testing with drivers Dalton Sargeant and Shane Lee. Cunningham was joined by several ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards teams, some of which got started Tuesday. All were there in preparation for the next race — the Music City 200 presented by Azure Foundation coming April 8.
Sargeant, driver of the No. 77 Cunningham Motorsports Ford, has seen Nashville before.
“It was really great getting back on a short track for the first time this race season.” said Sargeant. “In the past I’ve had a lot of fun racing super late models here in Nashville. It’ll be fun to transfer some of that knowledge over to an ARCA car and look to continue the good start we had on the season with Daytona.”
While the Boca Raton, Florida driver has raced a late model at Nashville, it was his first go-round in the heavier ARCA car.
“We had a good day testing our No. 77 Ford Fusion. It was my first time out on the track in an ARCA car and I was able to learn a lot about how the car might handle throughout the day come race weekend.”
Sargeant’s teammate Lee (Newton, N.C.) is another return customer at Nashville.
“I ran here at Nashville last year for the ARCA race so it was good coming back having the experience on how the track feels and runs,” said Lee. “I think we’ve got a good car to take back to the shop and bring back for the race in a few weeks.”
Wednesday’s test reached into the evening hours, similar to what track conditions will be like when they come back and go under the lights.
“We had good speed in our No. 22 Ford Fusion throughout the day. I think it was really good to be able to test all day to get used to the changing track conditions that we’ll see when we race this track at night. Overall I think we as a team learned a lot. Taking what we know back to the shop, we’ll be able to improve the car and be able to contend for the win when we return.”
Munford, Alabama’s Bret Holmes also tested his No. 23 Chevrolet. After sorting through some mechanical issues, Holmes was fairly satisfied on the way out Wednesday night.
“We had some motor issues, but we figured it out,” said Holmes. “That’s what tests are for. We felt pretty good…we came with the same piece as last year so we started close to the balance we had; but I think we improved on it.”
Holmes made his ARCA debut at Nashville in 2016, qualifying second and finishing fifth after leading six laps.
“I think the field’s going to be a lot closer this year…better cars, better competition. ARCA’s been growing that way…it’s going to be tough for sure. If we can make the right decisions on pit road and no mistakes, I think we’ll have something or them.”
Other teams that tested over the two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) included Venturini Motorsports, Win-Tron Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Mason Mitchell Motorsports and Ken Schrader Racing.
Venturini came with three rookie drivers: Zane Smith, Christian Eckes and Raphael Lessard. While Smith and Eckes are already eligible for competition having raced last year, 15-year-old Lessard was there to gain approval under the eyes of ARCA Racing Series officials. Lessard, from St. Joseph, Quebec, gained the necessary approval to come back and compete in the Music City 200 race event in the team’s flagship 25 Toyota.
Bluffton, S.C.’s Gus Dean tested on behalf of Win-Tron Racing while rookie Riley Herbst took his first laps at Nashville in an ARCA composite car for Joe Gibbs Racing. Herbst is expected to compete in the full ARCA tour in 2017 in the No. 18 Toyota.
Series veteran Kyle Weatherman, who announced at least a 10-race ARCA schedule, tested with Mason Mitchell Motorsports. Ken Schrader Racing came with ARCA point leader Austin Theriault, also planning a full ARCA season in ’17.
This year’s Music City 200 will also include the North-South Shootout with the Southern Super Series and the ARCA CRA Super Series combo race. Last year, CRA got added to the Super Late Model mix to create the North-South shootout. The field saw a jump to 35 cars featuring some of the best short track racers in the country, with Donnie Wilson winning the top prize over Steven Wallace.
Super Late Models have a practice session Friday night, April 7 from 4-7 p.m. Then on Saturday, April 8, North-South Shootout practice will begin at 12 noon, with North-South Shootout qualifying at 3. General Tire Pole Qualifying for the ARCA Racing Series is at 4:15, with racing action following at 5:45 with the North-South Shootout presented by Team Construction 100. Race fans will be treated to the ARCA Racing Series Music City 200 grand finale at 8. The Music City 200 will be aired on MAVTV.
Discounted presale tickets for the event are available for $25, a $5 discount off raceday ticket prices. They are available by calling the event promoters Track Enterprises at 615-470-5214 or 217-764-3200.
-ARCA Press Release and Photo