TOLEDO, Ohio – The last time a driver won back-to-back ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season openers was in 1990; that was until Grant Enfinger stepped to the plate in 2014.
Enfinger, driver of the No. 90 Casite/Motor Honey-Advance Auto Parts Team BCR Ford, has got the attention of his peers with consecutive wins to start the year at Daytona and Mobile.
And, if he can win the Federated Auto Parts 200 presented by Crunch’N Nutter at Salem Speedway on April 27, the next event on tour, he’ll go in the books as one of only two drivers in history that have opened the season with three consecutive wins.
Currently, Ramo Stott is the only driver in 62 consecutive seasons that started the year on the strength of three straight wins, pulling off the feat in 1970 with victories at Daytona, Talladega and the half-mile Tri-County Speedway dirt track outside of Cincinnati.
“To be honest, I haven’t thought much about that,” Enfinger said. “We were not even geared up to run the full season this year so the possibility of winning three in a row was not something I was at all focused on.”
Initially, Enfinger’s 2014 plans included the 10 announced TV races and maybe a few more here and there. But, here he sits with two wins and a 50-point lead over 10-time series champ and nine-time Salem winner Frank Kimmel.
“I feel like we’ll be at Salem,” Enfinger said. “It’s really more of a Howard (Bixman/Car Owner) question, but, based on our start this year, I feel pretty safe to say that we’re going to Salem.”
That said, Enfinger’s car owner Howard Bixman was the next call for the same question.
“We’ll for sure go to Salem,” Bixman answered.
“We’re right in the middle of our negotiations for the rest of the year. We should know by May 1. We’re certainly pressing hard for it. Like most teams, there are a limited amount of funds we have to work with it. Team BCR is certainly capable of running the full year. Our short track program has always been very solid. We’ve been working so hard on our speedway program, and we’re very busy on our intermediate program, so I know we’ve got what it takes to compete for championships.”
Winning season openers at Daytona and Mobile certainly helps the marketing cause.
“We’ve had such an incredible start to the season,” Enfinger said. “I’m just so happy for everyone at Team BCR. We’ve all worked so hard for this success, and it helps a lot toward running a full season, but there are a lot of details to be finalized. And it’s getting later in the game with each passing day. Right now, I’d say we’re race by race until Howard says differently. He handles most of the business side of things. If he says we’re going, then we’re going; if not, then we’re not.”
The plan is to race the very same short track car at Salem that just came out of victory lane at Mobile. Despite both tracks being half-mile paved ovals, according to Enfinger, the difference between the two is like the difference between two planets.
“There’s really nothing similar about them (Mobile and Salem). They’re two different planets. Salem is an incredibly awesome place to race, but the place eats cars; that sums up Salem. 90% of the cars (at Salem) come back all cracked up and hurt pretty bad. The place is so fast, and you’re already right against the wall, so sooner or later, you’re gunna hit it.
“It’s abrasive, bumpy, rough, but it’s an absolute blast to drive it. It’s a classic, old-school short track. Winning it would be huge, but we all know how challenging that is.
“I’ve been there three times, and we’ve been decent but we’ve never had any great finishes; but I do look forward to it. It’s one awesome, one-of-a-kind track.”
Beyond Salem, Enfinger knows the team is also going to Talladega Superspeedway for the Int’l Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 in early May and the event at Toledo Speedway in mid-May, both events televised. The next question then becomes the non-televised event on the New Jersey Motorsports Park road course in early June, which was not part of their initial plans.
“It’d be a dream come true to be able to run the full ARCA season and compete for a championship, but always easier said than done. We’ve got some great sponsors and marketing partners and no matter what happens, I’m grateful for any opportunity I get to climb into our ARCA car and race, no matter where it is.
“I’ve got some great support, and I’d like to thank Casite, Motor Honey, Advance Auto Parts, Stanley Industries and Wurth for believing in our program.”