By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
Tom Hessert turned a lap at 186.943 mph to take the General Tire Pole Award for Saturday’s season-opening ARCA Racing Series event at Daytona International Speedway.
Hessert, a 10-year veteran of the ARCA Series, dialed back his schedule for 2017 and will compete in only five of the 20 races on the schedule. The 30-year-old Cherry Hill, New Jersey native has six career victories, including a 2014 victory at Talladega, but would love to add a victory at Daytona to his resume.
“Winning at a historic track like this is every racer’s dream,” said Hessert. These Venturini cars are solid on the plate tracks. We had a winning car last year before cutting a tire. I’d say we’ve got some unfinished business to take care of this weekend.”
Matt Tifft, Bryan Dauzat, Kyle Weatherman, Willie Mullins, Kaz Grala, Ray Ciccarelli, Michael Self, Austin Theriault and Dalton Sargeant completed the top-10.
Forty-two cars attempted to take time in the group qualifying format as the field was divided into seven groups of six cars via a random draw. As is all too common in group qualifying formats, several drivers were not pleased with their group and a few took to Twitter to express their displeasure and frustration.
“Our group had a plan, but some in our session didn’t execute,” tweeted Theriault.
“Got screwed in group qualifying, we will be starting in the back tomorrow,” tweeted A.J. Fike, who will start 31st.
Noah Gragson, the quickest in Thursday’s practice session at 189.665 mph, experienced a mechanical issue during qualifying and was not able to complete a timed lap. Gragson will start from the 33rd position in the No. 55 Venturini Motorsports Toyota.
Cody Lane (35th quickest) and Gene Paul (37th quickest) failed to make the 40-car field as positions 33 – 40 were set based upon owner points from 2016.
The Lucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200 Driven by General Tire is live on FS1 Saturday, February 18 at 4 p.m. ET. ARCAracing.com will also feature live timing and scoring and live chat. Local radio affiliate WNDB will also provide live audio coverage of the race, which will be streamed live on the ARCA site.