"Big One" Crashes the Hopes of Venturini Motorsports at Daytona
Topics: Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200
Concord, NC (02-21-11) The "Big One" at Daytona International Speedway in the season-opening Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 eight days ago created big problems for Venturini Motorsports.
Two of the team's five cars were involved in a nine-car crash during the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200. The threat of a huge multi-car crash - known as the "Big One" - is never more than a few inches away, as packs of cars circulate in claustrophobic closeness at nearly 190 mph.
"It was a disappointing race, obviously," said team co-owner and competition director Billy Venturini, as he surveyed the damage of the team's crumpled racecars in the garage. "We have two out of five cars tore up. Our day was just one bad thing after another. Unfortunately, when we get our cars running together you run the chance of that happening. We just have been lucky enough before that it has never happened in the past."
While running in the top 15, that threat exploded into utter mayhem on Lap 64 of the scheduled 80-lap distance, as a late-lap wreck collected two of the five Venturini Motorsports drivers. Hal Martin and Steve Arpin's Daytona hopes came to a crashing halt after both got collected in the accident on the backstretch of Daytona International Speedway.
Martin was in the outside lane, when a piece of debris from an earlier accident led to a cut tire to his No. 55 NOLA Motorsports Park Toyota. It then shot across the track where it collected Martin's Venturini Motorsports teammate, Arpin. Trying to avoid the same fate, Arpin's No. 25 Mike's Hard Lemonade Toyota got clipped and slammed into the wall before coming to a halt.
Arpin and Martin were not injured in the incident, but their Venturini Motorsports machines were totaled.
Teammate Kyle Fowler was involved in the same accident but the No. 15 ESD Enterprise Software Deployment team was able to repair the right-side damage and allow Fowler to pick up nine spots and finish 16th for the night. That result, however, was not indicative of his performance for which persistence was key, or that of his teammates.
In Fowler's Daytona debut, the 18-year old driver started a career-best second, took the lead from Menards Pole Award winner Ty Dillon on the first lap, and proceeded to lead the next 18 laps as he hugged the yellow line of the 2.5-mile tri-oval. The Georgia native gave up the top spot while making a yellow flag pit stop on Lap 20. Trouble leaving pit road shuffled the rookie back, giving up valuable track position.
"We got a great start there at the front," Fowler said. "We came in for a pit stop and stumbled a bit leaving and that got us behind. But, we still had a great car and still had a chance to make it up to the front - we were doing so. The No. 15 ESD Enterprise Software Development Chevrolet was passing cars left and right as we were coming up through there. We never gave up even though we missed the "big one" basically, as we got a little bit of action out of that. Our crew worked really hard to fix it and we were still able to go just as fast as we were. I think if we just had a little bit more time we could have gotten back up there."
Miguel Paludo, driver of the No. 28 STEMCO-Duroline Toyota for Venturini Motorsports with an alliance with Red Horse Racing, led the five-car driver lineup for Venturini Motorsports with a 13th-place finish.
"It was really, really good until the middle of the race," Paludo said. "I am glad to finish my first race here at Daytona, but I knew we had a shot for a top-five - I don't know. We were there until Lap 40. But overall it was good. And thanks to Venturini and thanks to everybody at Red Horse Racing that helped me this weekend."
Paludo's solid finish with Venturini Motorsports provided the NASCAR rookie valuable on-track experience for Friday's NextEra Energy Resources 250 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where he finished fourth in the No. 7 STEMCO-Duroline Toyota Tundra. Paludo, driving under the Red Horse Racing banner, will compete for the Camping World Truck Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors during the 2011 season.
Venturini Motorsports' tough outing was offset by the finish of Mark Thompson. The driver of the No. 66 Phoenix Air Toyota Racing started eighth and finished 17th.
Despite the damage sustained by several cars at Daytona, Billy Venturini vowed that his team will rebound sharply in time for the next race on the ARCA Racing Series calendar, the Talladega ARCA 250 at Talladega Superspeedway on Friday, April 15.
"Obviously, we have a lot of repair work to do," Venturini said. "We will probably only fix one of the two cars we tore up in the big wreck on Lap 64 at Daytona. The No. 15 car was involved in that, just a little bit, but that is going to be minimal preparation on that one. It was not damaged very badly at all. The No. 28 and No. 66 cars are ready to go as is - just a few little fluffs and buffs. So, that will be easy on those."
Arpin's damaged No. 25 car - for which a Talladega driver is undetermined - will require more attention.
"The No. 25 car is probably going to be more work, obviously, than the others," Venturini said. "We will sent it out to the chassis builders and get that fixed. Then we will send it over to the body hanger and have the body done. And then it will head back over to us, and we will put all of the race suspension on it. (We'll) then get it ready for the wind tunnel, take it to the tunnel, and then take her down to Talladega for the (March 29-30) test."
Though Talladega is the next task at hand, Venturini insists that a broader scope of preparation is necessary for success in the ARCA Racing Series. After all, races at Salem Speedway, New Jersey Motorsports Park, and Toledo Speedway follow in May.
"We did all of our research and development before Daytona, so now we are going about Talladega just trying to get stuff back in the same condition," Venturini said. "We are actually starting to gear for the short tracks and the intermediate season. We will have a short track test or two before we get to Talladega. We also have to get the road course car ready also. Right now Talladega is, looking at these first two months and how we can prep for the first two months of the season from April 15 to June 15."
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