Allgaier, Hessert, Sheltra Ready for ARCA RE/MAX Series "Drive Smart! Buckle-Up Kentucky 150"
ARCA RE/MAX Series standings leader Justin Allagaier joined fellow drivers Patrick Sheltra and Tom Hessert III at Kentucky Speedway today to preview the track's May 10 season-opening "Drive Smart! Buckle-Up Kentucky 150."
Allagaier, who vaulted to the lead in the series standings with his first win of the season at Salem (Ind.) Speedway April 13, plans to maintain his momentum in the series' next three races and build on his successful Kentucky Speedway record that includes two top-five and three top-10 finishes through five career starts.
"You attack (this track) as you would anywhere. You come in here with your best equipment intent on being the best you can. I've always loved Kentucky from the first time we raced here. It's been a great racetrack for us. We've had some really good runs and finished fourth a couple of years ago.
"The one neat thing about Kentucky is that with all the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and ARCA RE/MAX Series teams that test here, there's a lot knowledge passed around. To come here and run well against all that knowledge really boosts your confidence because you know that a lot of people have put a lot of time, money and effort into making cars run well here," he said.
The 21-year-old, third-year talent is coming off a series-best fourth-place finish in the final 2007 standings after delivering a win and a total of four top-five and 11 top-10 finishes. He closed out the year 850 points behind eventual series champion Frank Kimmel and said combining more focused race preparation with an improved maintenance program should help him narrow the first-place gap this season.
"We're focusing more on heading into races. My Crew Chief Larry Moore and I have had a strong bond every year we've worked together and have really tried working on our set-ups. This year, we've seemed to dive into it a little deeper and I've gotten more involved trying to understand how the cars work, building shocks and some other things. That's helped out a lot.
"Last year, our maintenance program wasn't where it needed to be. This year, we're focused on keeping things together and being there at the end of races. You take our average finish last year, take out DNFs, and it's sixth or eighth. Add DNFs, it was somewhere over the 20th position - so that really adds up in a hurry."
While still early, he knows his Salem victory and current point position can pay dividends as the schedule progresses.
"Salem is one of those places that's tough to get around and it's tough to have a car when you're all done. Fortunately, we came out of there with a racecar that still rolls and a victory. To be leading the points, even though it's early, is important because once you get down, it's hard to get back up," Allgaier concluded.
Sheltra is another 21-year-old competitor with high "Drive Smart! Buckle-Up Kentucky 150" expectations. The Indiantown, Fla., driver climbed to sixth in the current series standings with a season-opening 15th-place finish at Daytona International Speedway and an 11th-place performance at Salem Speedway.
He whet his appetite for Kentucky Speedway competition by taking ninth- and 18th-place finishes in his first two career starts at the track last season. He wants to maintain his aggressive approach this year against a field of talented drivers bolstered by former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series equipment. "(This track) is kind of aggressive. You have to really drive it. You've got to dive (the car) in the corners hard, arc the corners and really be aggressive. All the (NASCAR Sprint) Cup (Series) cars got passed down to a lot of (ARCA RE/MAX Series) teams and the equipment is a lot better this year. You have to have all your stuff together when you roll in the gates. With 37 other drivers out there, it's really hard." Hessert III, a former United States Auto Club (USAC) Midget and Sprint Car competitor from Cherry Hill, N.J., is enjoying his stock car transition after opening the season with a sixth-place showing at Daytona International Speedway and a 13th-place run at Salem. He will make his first Kentucky Speedway start May 10.
"We're going to try to finish in the top five in points and win Rookie of the Year. Daytona was good, we had some bad luck at Salem, but hopefully we'll keep it going and have a good year. ARCA is tough. You have a lot of new people here, but you also have drivers like Bobby Gerhart and Frank Kimmel, who's second in points, to deal with, so it'll be a hard year," he said.
Tickets for the "Drive Smart! Buckle-Up Kentucky 150" can be reserved online through the Tickets pages of this Web site, by phone at 888-652-RACE (7223), through Meijer stores and Tickets.com outlets and by visiting the Kentucky Speedway ticket offices at 400 Buttermilk Pike, Suite 100, in Ft. Mitchell, Ky., next to the Montgomery Inn Restaurant or the Sparta, Ky., Fan Center located off of Interstate 71 Exit 57 and Ky. Hwy. 35 N.
Speedway gates will open at 3:00 p.m., on May 10 with ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series qualifying on the paved quarter-mile track. ARCA RE/MAX Series qualifying follows at 3:30 p.m., and the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series returns for the "Kentucky 100" at 5:00 p.m. A concert with rising country music force Rissi Palmer will begin at 6:30 p.m., on the Turn 1 Concourse and the "Drive Smart! Buckle-Up Kentucky 150" field will take the green flag at 8:00 p.m.
Story by Mike Schmaltz
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