DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A manufacturer switch may be just what Steve Blackburn needs to contend in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.
If Thursday’s practice chart from Daytona Inte’l Speedway is any indication, Blackburn and his self-owned team are on the right track.
The 49-year-old from Prestonburg, Ky., drove a best lap of 47.712 seconds (188.632 miles per hour) in a four-hour practice session to top Venturini Motorsports teammates Mark Thompson and Nelson Canache, Jr., Tom Hessert of Ken Schrader Racing and Venturini’s Brennan Poole.
In his eight previous starts since 2005 and both previous Daytona races, Blackburn had driven Dodges but never finished in the top 10 of any event. His new relationship with Richard Childress Racing executive Mike Dillon – father of last season’s ARCA champion Ty – and ECR Engines, however, may have turned the tide, giving his No. 94 Chevrolet a necessary boost.
“I called him back at the first of summer and never got in with him,” Blackburn said of Dillon. “I begged, pleaded, and told him I’d give him my next born for some horsepower, some Chevrolet power. They’ve let me in, I’ve joined the family, and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Thompson, who drove 39 laps, finished the session at 48.164 seconds (186.862 mph) to lead a usually strong Venturini effort. Canache finished only 0.012 second behind his teammate in preparation for his ARCA debut, posting a speed of 186.815 mph on his best of 24 laps.
Nine-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel ended the practice session sixth; his entry this weekend represents his first ARCA activity with ThorSport Racing, which is adding a full ARCA schedule this season to its 16-year history of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series racing. Kimmel has started 20 ARCA races at Daytona and finished second twice, but has never won.
Venturini drivers Ryan Reed and Paulie Harraka finished the session seventh and eighth, just ahead of Alex Kennedy and Sean Corr.
Seven-time and defending Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart ended practice 12th on the speed chart. Last season’s Daytona and season runner-up Chris Buescher was 14th.
In all, 52 cars recorded official practice laps in four hours of practice. 43 will start in Saturday’s Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200, scheduled to air at 4:30 p.m. on SPEED.BREAKING NEWS: SPEED SPORT is back in print with a new monthly format! Subscribe for just $24.95. Special offer for former subscribers.