ARCA 200 PRACTICE AS RACE DAY NEARS

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Fifteen-year-olds Kyle Benjamin and Anderson Bowen were at Mobile International Speedway on Saturday preparing for their debuts on the ARCA Racing Series. Tom Hessert was there, too: He is getting ready for his 100th ARCA race.

(See extensive photo gallery by Ashley Rowe at: http://www.ashleynrowe.com/practice/ )

Despite their dissimilar backgrounds, the three racers had something in common, something they shared with the eight other drivers who were at the half-mile oval on Saturday: They were cold. But beyond that, they were trying to get an edge on most of their competition and find the right setup to get them around Mobile International Speedway the fastest in the ARCA-Mobile 200, set for 2 p.m. March 9.

“Everybody’s just trying to figure this place out because Mobile is very unique – a high-banked half-mile,” said Thomas “Moose” Praytor, a Mobile driver who was piloting the No. 2 Ford during Saturday’s ARCA practice. “These cars have so much power – 850 horsepower. I watched some guys at the beginning of practice that drove off in there and were locking up the left-front brakes and everything trying to get it stopped. Everybody’s just trying to find a happy medium of where’s not enough and where’s too far.

“We keep throwing a lot of stuff at it. We’ve changed shocks. We put spring rubbers in. We’ve tried a lot of things. We’re just trying to find that sure-fired speed. But we’re getting faster and that’s all we can do right now.”

 

Benjamin and Boston are seeking to enter ARCA as soon as they became eligible. Last year’s ARCA-Mobile 200 was the first in the series’ history with a 15-year-old in the field. ARCA’s season-opening race at mammoth Daytona International Speedway is off-limits to 15-year-olds, but the local short track isn’t.

“I’m extremely excited about it,” Benjamin said. “We’ll have to see how ready we can get for it.”

Among the other drivers testing on Saturday, Taylor Ferns and Darin Matthews also have no ARCA experience. Ferns is a 17-year-old who is the winningest female driver in USAC history. Matthews is a late-model veteran from Pascagoula. So while Saturday was Ferns’ first time on the track, it was a new car, not a new track for Matthews.

Same for Benjamin and Boston, despite their ages. Benjamin was a contender for the Gulf Coast super late model championship last summer, when “it’s usually about 100″ at the track instead of the breezy 40-something of Saturday. Boston competed in last year’s Lee Fields Memorial pro late model race at MIS.

Fresh off starting on the outside pole and leading 11 laps at Daytona, Milka Duno was struck by misfortunate when she lost her engine her first time out on the track on Saturday, putting her crew into overdrive to change the malfunctioning motor.

“I did like two laps and the engine blew up,” Duno said.

Hessert wrecked while practicing for the inaugural ARCA-Mobile 200, so, after an uneventful practice on Saturday, he’s ahead of last year, when he finished ninth in the race.

 

Other drivers at the track on Saturday included Fairhope’s Grant Enfinger, who led 48 laps in last year’s ARCA-Mobile 200; Justin Boston, Mason Mingus and Mason Mitchell. All of those drivers raced in the season-opener at Daytona, with Mingus, a high school senior, posting the best finish of seventh.

Tickets for the ARCA-Mobile 200 racing weekend come in a variety of options. For tickets, call 251-343-2929https://blog.advance.net/mt-static/html/editor-content.html?cs=utf-8#. Tickets also are available at the 29 Greer’s Markets along the Gulf Coast.

The practice session leads into race week for the ARCA-Mobile 200. Here what’s on the schedule:

Tuesday

5 to 9 p.m. – Practice for local cars at Mobile International Speedway.

Thursday

3 to 6 p.m. – ARCA cars, haulers and teams will be on display at USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, with a pit-crew exhibition included.

5 to 6 p.m. – ARCA drivers autograph session at the Aircraft Pavilion at USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park.

6 p.m. – ARCA haulers leave USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park to parade to Mobile International Speedway.

6 to 8 p.m. – Causeway Seafood Jubilee.

8 p.m. – Home Mortgage of America Green Flag Party at Grand Central in Mobile.

Friday

All events at Mobile International Speedway

9 a.m. – Main ticket office opens.

Noon – Grandstands open.

2:30 to 3:15 p.m. – ARCA practice.

3:30 to 4 p.m. – Practice for local cars.

4:15 to 5 p.m. – ARCA practice.

5 p.m. – Practice followed by qualifying for local cars.

7 p.m. – Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell for the ARCA-Mobile 200.

8 p.m. – Island Motors II Bombers 25-lap race.

9 p.m. – Bob’s Speed Shop Sportsmen 50-lap race.

Saturday

All events at Mobile International Speedway

9 a.m. – Ticket office and parking lots open.

10 a.m. – Grandstands open.

Noon to 1 p.m. – On-track ARCA drivers autograph session.

1:30 p.m. – Driver introductions for the ARCA-Mobile 200.

2 p.m. – ARCA-Mobile 200. 

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