NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Connected Drivers Dominate "Buckle-Up Kentucky 150" Practice
Five drivers representing prominent NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series development programs dominated today's two-hour practice session for tonight's ARCA RE/MAX Series "Buckle-Up Kentucky 150" race scheduled to take the green flag at 8:00 p.m., at Kentucky Speedway.
Roush-Fenway Racing NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series regular Erik Darnell (No. 99 Roush Racing Ford) topped the speed chart after turning his best practice circuit at 177.235 mph (30.468 seconds) and was followed by Evernham Motorsports driver Erin Crocker (No. 98 MAC Tools - Mac Card Dodge), who was second quickest with a fast lap of 176.846 mph (30.535 seconds). Michael Waltrip Racing driver Ken Butler, III (No. 22 ESR Development Team - NAPA Toyota) occupied the third position on the speed chart after knocking out a 176.488-mph (30.587 seconds) lap and Chip Ganassi Racing pilot and Dodge Development Program member Scott Lagasse, Jr., rounded out the top five with a 175.023-mph (30.853 seconds) effort.
Darnell, Crocker and Lagasse, Jr., have all made previous marks at Kentucky Speedway. Darnell will make his ninth career start at the track in tonight's race. He scored a second-place Kentucky finish in a NASCAR Elite Division event on June 13, 2003 and finished ninth in his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut at the venue July 8, 2006. Crocker took her second career ARCA RE/MAX Series pole award at the track on July 7, 2006, after turning a 177.340-mph (30.450 second) lap. Lagasse, Jr., won the closest race in Kentucky Speedway history May 7, 2004 when he crossed the finish line .014 of a second in front of Wade Day in an American Speed Association event. Butler III will make his first start at Kentucky Speedway tonight.
After analyzing the practice results, drivers expect tough competition in tonight's "Buckle-Up Kentucky 150."
"It's (ARCA RE/MAX Series racing) definitely a lot tougher than it was a couple years ago, with the amount of NASCAR affiliated teams coming into the series," Darnell said. "There's quite a few Cup-affiliated teams that have run strong this year, and I think it's made ARCA more competitive than ever.
"We finished second at Kansas in our debut a couple weeks ago and it was a little frustrating, so we're out here this weekend with the intention of winning the race. We need to focus on race set up. I think the car ran a couple great laps in race trim. I honestly believe the race package is better than the qualifying package, so we're just trying to start up front, and hopefully be there at the end."
Qualifying for tonight's "Buckle-Up Kentucky 150" is set for 4:00 p.m. Steve Wallace set the series track qualifying record on May 13, 2006 with a 177.509-mph (30.421 seconds) lap.
Crocker likes her chances of becoming the first female race winner in Kentucky Speedway history.
"It's a very good car," she said. "We've had a couple poles here and at other tracks but we're really trying to get that win. In practice, we've been working on our long runs and race set up instead of qualifying."
Butler, III, also encouraged by his car's practice performance, plans to have a say in tonight's decision.
"The car is great. I can't ask for anything more," he said. "Maybe if we free it up a little bit, that's the only way it can get better. I think it's going to be great on the long runs. Now we just have to turn it up for a best lap in qualifying. "(Tonight) you have to be on your toes the whole race. It's going to be tough; patience, survival, and just finish the race. This is my first time on a big track and I don't really know what to expect yet. We're going to try to be in good race position, make the right adjustments, and be there at the end." Tickets for tonight's race are still available and can be reserved at the main ticket booth at the track located between Gates 15 and 16 up to race time.
ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series "Kentucky 100" Update: ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series drivers took to the paved quarter-mile track for a practice session at 12:45 p.m. The session concluded without incident with Cleveland, Ohio driver Nick Gullatta (No. 31 Thomson Automotive Chevrolet) occupying the top spot on the speed chart after rolling through his fastest practice lap at 60.464 mph (14.885 seconds). Mark Otting (No. 00 Westfalia Surge Chevrolet) was second-fastest with a 60.358-mph (14.991 seconds) lap, John Kasmierski (No. 3 Carpenters Local 1138 Chevrolet) shown third after charting a 60.342-mph (14.915 seconds) lap, defending series champion Paul Hahn (No. 7 Hahn's Group - Fox Auto Parts- Howe Racing Chevrolet) was fourth in the session with a 60.269-mph (14.933 seconds) lap and Steve Christman (No. 34 Shrader Tire & Oil Chevrolet) completed the top five with a 60.036-mph (14.991 seconds) lap. Series qualifying is slated for 3:00 p.m.
Story by Mike Schmaltz
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