By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
For the first time in the 2021 season, the ARCA Menards Series will hit the track this weekend with over 50 drivers slated to hit the high banks of Daytona International Speedway — many with different agendas in place.
Some drivers will seek clearance to run the season opener at Daytona next month while others use the weekend as track time. It also serves as a “spring training” of sorts, where new faces pop-up in new places.
The defending ARCA Menards Series championship-winning team will have two champions testing the car this upcoming weekend. Owner-driver and now ARCA champion Bret Holmes will kick off his sixth season. Add Sioux Chief Showdown and ARCA East champion Sam Mayer to his lineup as Mayer will test the No. 23 following the last few seasons with GMS Racing.
Defending Daytona winner Michael Self departed the ARCA Menards Series to become the general manager for Silver Hare Racing after finishing runner-up to Holmes last season. Venturini Motorsports brings two returning drivers to the program and one driver who will make her Venturini Motorsports debut. Kansas winner, Corey Heim, is the only announced full-time driver for the organization while Drew Dollar will run a part-time schedule with the organization. After running the full ARCA West schedule last season with Bill McNally Racing, Gracie Trotter will test the No. 25 this weekend. In 11 starts last season, she earned one victory, seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes.
Rev Racing will be going full-time this season with Nick Sanchez, who will be looking for his clearance to run the season-opener at Daytona. Sanchez ran the full ARCA East schedule last season earning two top-five and four top-10 finishes. Rev Racing has brought on NASCAR veteran Mark Green to test the No. 2 car. Green has 318 starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series dating back to 1995 with two top-fives and 15 top-10’s.
Willie Mullins will make his 20th career ARCA Menards Series start next month at Daytona but much as his team has done in the past, Mullins will allow two other drivers to test at Daytona. Davey Callihan and Robert Bruce will share the No. 3 alongside owner/driver Mullins. Bruce has experience running an ARCA car at Daytona testing with Mullins Racing on two previous occasions.
He also has two starts with Mullins Racing and earned the team’s first top-10 finish on a short track at Elko Speedway in 2018. As for Callihan, he’s a Dominion Raceway regular earning two victories and a third-place finish in points. Bruce is looking to run either the Daytona season opener or the New Smyrna East Series opener.
Empire Racing is filled with experience this year as Sean Corr and Rich Bickle will test cars at Daytona. Bickle is confirmed to run Daytona while Corr is to be determined. At 59-years old, Bickle is one of the oldest drivers running the season opener but it has been 25-years since his last ARCA Menards Series race and 16-years since his last race in NASCAR’s top-three series. In his most recent ARCA start in 1996 at Atlanta, Bickle won the pole and finished fourth with Darrell Waltrip Racing. Corr has competed in 11 straight season openers at Daytona finishing a career-best of fourth in 2020.
After going through a rebrand, David Gilliland Racing returns with Taylor Gray and Thad Moffitt. DGR ended the season with a victory in the West Series at Phoenix as team owner David Gilliland took the checkered flag. It was his first win since 2012.
Gray was a standout last season after making his ARCA debut at Lucas Oil Raceway finishing fourth. It is unknown how many races Gray will run this season but he’ll make his superspeedway debut this weekend during the test. Moffitt was on track to run the full season last year but was derailed due to funding. In his last race out, Moffitt scored a career-best finish of fourth. Much like Gray, it’s unknown how many races Moffitt has planned in 2021.
Ty Gibbs tested for Joe Gibbs Racing last season at Daytona alongside Riley Herbst. The two shared the car throughout 2020 but Herbst has moved to Stewart-Haas Racing. With Herbst out of the picture and without any announcements in the Truck Series yet, Gibbs could run a full season in the ARCA Menards Series. It would be his first start at Daytona.
With Mayer running the test with Bret Holmes Racing and moving on to the Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports, Jack Wood will replace him at GMS Racing. Wood will run the full season in the ARCA East Series, including the entire Sioux Chief Showdown. Wood has raced in the ARCA West Series since 2019 and earned one top-five and six top-10 finishes. Wood is a member of the Drivers Edge Development program which includes Sheldon Creed, the 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and 2018 ARCA Menards Series champion, Zane Smith and Noah Gragson.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will have a presence with two of their regular teams involved. Both Niece Motorsports and Young’s Motorsports will bring a car apiece for a total of four drivers. Carson Hocevar (Niece Motorsports) and Kris Wright (Young’s Motorsports) will be seeking their clearance to run the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250. Jeff Noland will share the No. 40 with Hocevar while Toni Breidinger will share the No. 02 alongside Kris Wright.
Andy Hillenburg will field four cars for the ARCA Road to Daytona participants. Entering its ninth season, the Road to Daytona program gives drivers from the ARCA/CRA Super Series, ARCA Midwest Tour, and ARCA Menards East & West Series. This year ARCA/CRA Super Series rookie of the year Jaren Crabtree, ARCA Midwest Tour winner Justin Mondeik, ARCA Menards Series East driver Parker Retzlaff and ARCA Menards Series West runner-up Blaine Perkins received an invitation.
Cars are slated to hit the track for the first time on Friday at 10 a.m./ET and that session will continue to 5 p.m./ET. They will follow up with another all-day session on Saturday from 10 a.m./ET to 5 p.m./ET. Should weather interfere with these sessions, a reserve day has been planned for Sunday. Live timing and scoring during the ARCA Menards Series preseason test at Daytona will be available on ARCARacing.com.