When the group listing was released on Friday morning for that afternoon’s debut of the new ARCA group qualifying format at Daytona International Speedway (FL), everybody pointed to group seven as the fast group. It was full of the fastest drivers from both practice sessions. That’s where the pole was supposed to come from.
But instead it was a driver from the fourth group winning the pole for Saturday afternoon’s Lucas Oil 200. Mark Thompson’s lap of 48.042 seconds was the fastest lap turned on Friday afternoon. Thompson will share the front row with Cody Coughlin.
“We didn’t really have any strategy,” said Thompson. “I just fell in line, followed the holes and went fast.”
When asked if Thompson thought before qualifying began if he’d have a chance to win the pole he replied, “Absolutely not.”
Coughlin was also in the fourth group with Thompson. He missed the pole by four one-thousanths of a second. Coughlin’s lap was 48.046 seconds.
The driver making his very first start at Daytona didn’t show that type of speed in practice, but both of his sessions were plagued by mechanical issues.
“We had a lot of issues in practice under the hood,” Coughlin said. “We didn’t have any expectations under than hoping to have a top 10 run at best. With those expectations, to be able to come away with a front row start is exciting. It’s good for morale. It’s good to be able to put your head on the pillow with a front row starting spot. Now we’re going to dig hard for tomorrow.”
There were a lot of unknowns heading into this qualifying session. ARCA has used group qualifying in the past, but only at Talladega Superspeedway and on road courses.
Thompson was asked for his thoughts on the qualifying format to which he answered, “Obviously I do now,” which got a good laugh from the media room.
“I guess I really wasn’t a big fan of this before we just did this,” said Thompson, “but obviously now I’m a fan of it because it seems to work pretty well. For me, anyway.”
The ARCA Racing Series Lucas Oil 200 will go green from Daytona International Speedway at 4:15 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon. Speed51.com will be live with Trackside Now at 2 p.m ET.
Failed to qualify: Russ Dugger, Cassie Gannis, Tommy Barrett Jr., Andy Seuss, Brent Cross, Bryan Dauzat, Dale Shearer, Raymond Hassler, Derrick Lancaster
A replay of Friday’s Trackside Now can be found here: http://speed51.com/trackside-now-arca-qualifying-at-daytona-intl-speedway/
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor -Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Mike Ramsell/Speed51.com
ARCA Lucas Oil 200 Starting Lineup
Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
|27||98||Austin Wayne Self|
|36||97||Bobby Hamilton Jr.|