Craig Murto: No off-season in racing

There is no off-season in racing.

In fact, the past couple of weeks have been very busy at Daytona as ARCA teams tested. One of those drivers who tested was ARCA/CRA Super Series Champion Travis Braden.

“It was a good time as always, like getting an early Christmas present!” said the West Virginia University engineering student. “Being my third time now to do the test, I was kind of amazed at how comfortable I am now. As crazy as it sounds, it tends to not really feel like you are going 185 mph just because of how massive this place is.”

Braden got to do the test as part of ARCA’s “Road to Daytona” program, which awards the Super Series and ARCA Midwest Tour points champions and top rookies after each season. Braden was Super Series Rookie of the Year in 2012, and won the championship the past two seasons.

Braden was the ninth fastest out of 30 cars in Friday morning’s session on the track.

“Overall I tried to learn as much as I could as a driver, which is hard to do without actually being in the race where you’re around 20 other cars,” Braden said.

Bill Kimmel, an eight-time ARCA Crew Chief of the Year winner, prepared the cars for the Daytona test and assisted Braden along with Kimmel’s son, Will, one of the drivers for Kimmel Racing. ARCA Midwest Tour Champion Ty Majeski also participated in the test.

Braden earned his opportunity. Others have the backing that opens up doors, yet they still need to perform. Sophomore ARCA racer Cody Coughlin, 19, has the backing of his family’s business (JEGS).

The Joe Gibbs Racing development driver only needed the morning session on Saturday to officially complete his inaugural Daytona test session, and immediately put himself on top of the charts. He wound up fifth quickest in the session with a lap of 185-plus mph in a Venturini Motorsports machine.

Bill Venturini praised Coughlin on his first test session on a superspeedway.

“We are very pleased. We didn’t know what to expect since he has never been on a superspeedway before,” Venturini said. “I was very impressed about how he kept the car on the yellow line while some others drifted up. He was very smooth behind the wheel.”

Coughlin will get to prove how smooth he is on the superspeedway when ARCA runs its annual 200-mile event on the high banks on Feb. 15. Meanwhile, indoor racing is going strong, most recently in Trenton, N.J.

Trenton was once the site of a famous track that hosted Indycar races and the annual Modified Race of Champions. Now it is the site of indoor TQ (three-quarter) Midget racing.

Buffalo, N.Y., driver Andy Jankowiak started up front and finished there at the end of the 40-lap Battle of Trenton TQ Midget feature Saturday night in the Sun National Bank Center. Ryan Flores of Mooresville, N.C., was the eventual runner-up.

But second place was not the place to be.

Kyle Reinhardt was second for the first few laps before he fell back after Ted Christopher passed him on lap five. Erick Rudolph assumed second by getting under Christopher, but his stay ended abruptly on lap 23 when his car shut off coming down for a restart. Ryan Flores, close behind, spun and went to the rear of the field as a result. This put Jimmy Blewett in second, who then spun after contact with Anthony Sesely. Blewett slammed into Sesely under caution, ending his race. Sesely went to the rear.

Ryan Susice was second on the next start. Matt Janisch then gained second, only to be passed by Christopher. Flores, who had been involved in a lap 23 spin, charged back through traffic to pass Christopher with six laps left, only to have Christopher take the spot back a circuit later.

Jankowiak remained perfect with Flores eventually second, the 11th time the position changed. Christopher was third, Mike Lichty fourth and Janisch fifth.

The races are Len Sammons Motorsports Productions (LSRP) events. Sammons publishes the weekly racing paper Area Auto Racing News.

The second event on the LSRP schedule is set for Jan. 30-31 with the Atlantic City Indoor races inside historic Boardwalk Hall. For ticket information visit “http://www.aarn.com”>www.aarn.com or www.boardwalkhall.com and you can enjoy some “off-season” racing.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.