2017 “Road to Daytona’ well-traveled for Johnson, ArmstrongScott Menlen
ARCA Story – TOLEDO, Ohio (Jan. 18, 2017) – Each year, drivers from ARCA’s Touring Series earn the opportunity to take some laps in an ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards car on the high-banks of Daytona Int’l Speedway during the Series’ annual open test in January.
ARCA’s 2017 “Road to Daytona” came to fruition this past weekend for ARCA/CRA Super Series Rookie of the Year Dalton Armstrong and ARCA Midwest Tour Rookie of the Year Casey Johnson. Under the watchful eyes of two-time Daytona ARCA 200 winner and 1995 ARCA Racing Series national driving champion Andy Hillenburg, each driver takes his turn behind the wheel of one of Hillenburg’s Fast Track Racing Chevrolets.
“I felt like they both did a great job,” said Hillenburg. “With the time they got on the track, I feel they’ll be very well prepared for when they get back on the high-banks.
“It was a pleasure to work with them. I really think a lot of ARCA’s Road to Daytona program…I wish it would have been around when I was younger. I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
Johnson, who had never been on a track bigger than a mile, got the ride of his life.
“I got up to speed in my first session, and then I got caught in the middle of a seven-car draft, which was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” said Johnson.
“I just want to thank ARCA, Andy (Hillenburg) and everyone involved for setting up this program. It’s a once in a lifetime deal, especially after talking to a few teams…they get between 60 and a hundred grand just to run that Daytona race.”
For Armstrong, it was a huge learning experience.
“I definitely learned a lot,” said Armstrong. “A lot of drivers never get to turn laps at Daytona, so just having the opportunity to get out there is a blessing in disguise. It was so much fun, overall…a fun learning experience. If I ever get the opportunity to come back, I’ll be way more ready to go.”
Each champion from the ARCA/CRA Super Series and the ARCA Midwest Tour earn the opportunity to go to Daytona and participate in the Road to Daytona. However, ARCA/CRA champ Cody Coughlin had already raced in competition at Daytona while ARCA Midwest champ Ty Majeski had participated in ARCA’s Road to Daytona twice before. Consequently, the Road to Daytona program defers to the Rookies of the Year, and in this case, Johnson and Armstrong.
Through the help of Ilmor, General Tire, Sunoco, Valvoline, Eibach Springs, JRi Shocks, Tropical Manor Daytona Beach Hotel and Fast Track High Performance Driving School, the Road to Daytona program helps drivers reach the next level.
“Along with some of our corporate supporters, we have developed a way to provide that experience to some very deserving drivers,” said Mark Gundrum, ARCA’s VP for business development. “Of all the people who race cars, at one level or another, only a very, very small percentage of them will ever have the chance to drive a race car around Daytona International Speedway.”
Hillenburg, who has also driven in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, served in the role of coach and mentor for both Armstrong and Johnson.
“We’ve been involved since the inception of the Road to Daytona,” Hillenburg said. “It’s a perfect fit in the driving school industry, which I’ve been involved with for 28 years. It’s something I really enjoy…helping young drivers work their way up the ladder. I truly enjoy it, and it’s why I have the career I have.”
Since its inception, ARCA has provided racers the opportunity to test their skills on a wide variety of tracks. ARCA’s flagship property, the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, is a destination series for some, and, a development series for drivers aspiring to advance their careers. The series has helped develop the careers of some of the biggest names in racing.