DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Following a season which featured one of the closest championship margins and most prominent Daytona Int’l Speedway races in ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards history, the bar is high for the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 Feb. 12.
Given a field of drivers hungry for their first victory on the 2.5-mile superspeedway oval and the historic track’s newly-paved surface, the 48th appearance for the ARCA Racing Series at Daytona should live up to the billing.
As has been the case every year since 1964 — three years prior to Super Bowl I — the ARCA Racing Series will provide fans at Daytona Int’l Speedway and throughout the racing world the year’s first stock-car race on the storied track.
That distinction takes on added meaning this season, as the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 will be the first race for stock cars on the full oval’s fresh pavement — a job which used 50,000 tons of asphalt and began last July.
Fifty-eight drivers took to the track earlier this month in a three-day testing period for the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200. Benny Gordon (No. 09 VSI Ford) finished with the test week’s top speed, driving a lap of 48.414 seconds (185.897 miles per hour) in a car owned by Grant Enfinger.
Tim George, Jr., the returning full-time driver of the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Development Chevrolet, came away impressed with the new surface.
“It’s really smooth. It’s astonishing how much grip there is, so we’ll have to see. Hopefully, that won’t cause tire issues. The Hoosier tire is a good tire and should keep holding strong. As far as the pavement, there’s a little bump down in (turns) three and four. Everything else feels really, really smooth,” George said.
George will also benefit from the addition of rookie Ty Dillon to the Richard Childress Racing team.
“It’s good to have a teammate here,” George said. “Ty Dillon; he’ll be a good drafting partner. He’s been racing cars way longer than I have. You know, he’s much younger than I am. I’m going to lean on him for some stuff and he’ll probably lean on me for some stuff on the road courses and maybe the superspeedways,” George said. “There’s a lot that he’s done in his racing career that I’m looking forward to doing, including winning in the ARCA Racing Series. It’ll be good to have support between him and I, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Dillon will drive the No. 41 University of Northwestern Ohio/RCR Development Chevrolet. Last season, at 18, Dillon started on the pole at Iowa Speedway in his first career start, and then won in back-to-back races at Kansas Speedway and Rockingham Speedway to close the year.
The 80-lap, 200-mile Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 airs live on Speed at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 12.
Bobby Gerhart (No. 5 Lucas Oil Chevrolet) is the defending and all-time leading winner at the track, with wins in 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010. Gerhart also won four consecutive poles between 2003 and 2006.