WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – As nine-time ARCA Racing Series champion Frank Kimmel prepared to hit the track for his qualifying run, the No. 44 car’s spotter radioed in that the current pole speed was a 78.037-second lap.
“Uh oh, that’s not good,” replied Kimmel.
It wasn’t good news for Kimmel, or the rest of the field for that matter. Casey Roderick, a development driver making his ARCA debut with Bill Elliott Racing, and with “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” himself in his pit, laid down that 78.037, picking up over a quarter second from his practice time while besting second-place qualifier Justin Marks, one of the most veteran road racers in the field, by nearly half a second.
The numbers were impressive enough. Even more impressive, the recovery Roderick and team had to make just to post that time.
“My guys have done a heck of a job today [after] we ran into a bit of trouble in practice” said Roderick after securing the pole award. “I was going into turn 1 off the short straightaway, and I was downshifting from third to second, and it got hung between two gears and wouldn’t come out. I don’t think anything internal was messed up, I think it was just the shifter, but it messed me up.”
Roderick’s car was stopped on the track for a lengthy period of time before making it back to the pits. When asked whether there was concern in the No. 51 camp about this mechanical problem resurfacing during the race tomorrow, Roderick acknowledged that there was, but that it was up to him to “save his stuff and be there at the end.”
Roderick wasn’t the only driver in the field to rebound from mechanical issues in practice to score a solid starting spot. Blake Koch, driving for race title sponsor Tire Kingdom, blew a motor in practice, yet rebounded to qualify third. Also notable was Venturini Motorsports’ Steve Arpin, who despite suffering some damage to his car’s aluminum skirt after hitting an overturned cone during practice qualified seventh.
Alongside Roderick, Marks and Koch, Tom Hessert and Mikey Kile rounded out the top five in qualifying. De facto series points leader Patrick Sheltra will start 12th. Though only 31 cars took time on Friday, 34 cars will start Saturday’s (Feb. 27) Tire Kingdom 150 (Wayne Peterson, Rob Jones and Billy Leslie all did not take times after extremely limited activity during the three-hour practice session). The only incident of the day occurred 15 minutes into practice when Hal Martin spun the No. 59 exiting turn 2. He didn’t hit anything.
About the author
Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.
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