With the 2014 season having opened in Daytona, Fla., the eyes of auto racing fans are now turning to Alabama. I’m not talking about Talladega. I mean the Mobile International Speedway in Irvington.

The next stop on the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) circuit is the third annual Mobile 200. Activities begin Saturday, March 15, with a daylong test session for the teams at the half-mile asphalt track. The 100-lap race is set for Saturday, March 22, when the green flag drops at 2 p.m.

Making the race even more exciting is that the defending champion – Grant Enfinger of Fairhope – won the opening ARCA race in Daytona on Feb. 15.

“Daytona not only kicks off the season, it is everyone’s warning shot that the ARCA Mobile 200 is just around the corner,” Tommy Praytor, the event’s promoter, said.
“Cars on the track at Daytona spur tickets sales, and with our defending champion … winning at Daytona, the phones have been extra busy during (Daytona) Speedweek.”

In his last 21 races, Enfinger has won three times. In addition to Mobile and Daytona, he took the checkered flag at the Iowa Speedway.

“Winning at Mobile last year was kind of like getting the monkey off our backs,” Enfinger said. “Winning at Daytona is pretty incredible. I don’t know that it’s sunk in yet.”
In 2013, Enfinger made just nine ARCA starts. He still finished 15th in driver points, with two wins, four top-five finishes and five top-10 results.

He currently stands atop the drivers point standings with 245. In second place with 220 points is Frank Kimmel, ARCA’s all-time career leader with 80 wins and its defending drivers champion.

“I’m going to be making a trip to Mooresville (N.C.) soon to get fitted in the short track car,” Kimmel said after the Daytona race. “We’ll go over some stuff for Talladega, too.
“I believe we’re going to be testing at the open test at Mobile the week before (the Mobile 200), so I’m really looking forward to that. I don’t normally get to test, especially on the stock tracks, so I’m actually really excited about testing at Mobile.”

Two other local ARCA racers competed in Daytona. Chase Elliott finished in ninth place, while Thomas “Moose” Praytor ended up in 31st place after developing transmission problems.

Something new that has been added to the Mobile 200 event schedule is the 95 KSJ/St. Jude’s Putt Putt Golf Tournament. The fundraiser will be Wednesday, March 19, at the Funntasia Family Fun Center, located at 5103 Girby Road in West Mobile.

“Everyone knows St. Jude is near and dear to our hearts at 95 KSJ, and we are happy to be involved with the ARCA Mobile 200 in this unique event,” said Dan Brennan, co-host of the 95 KSJ “Breakfast Club with Dan & Shelby.” “Everybody can play Putt Putt, and it will be a fun time supporting one of the most important facilities in the world.”

The field will include 36 four-person teams, with play starting at 6 p.m. Teams will compete in a scramble format, with all proceeds going to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Race officials have announced the camping area at Mobile International Speedway has already sold out. At press time, there were a limited number of reserved infield parking spots available. These can be purchased separately, or with the Infield Party Pass that includes a reserved parking spot and two infield armbands for the weekend.
On display in the fan zone at the ARCA Mobile 200 will be Denny Hamlin’s FedEx Toyota Camry, which he just used to win NASCAR’s Sprint Unlimited race at Daytona.

The Mobile 200 race weekend begins Friday, March 21, with the first of two practice sessions at 2:30 p.m. A final practice is set for 4:15 p.m.

Pole qualifying is scheduled for 7 p.m. that Friday. On race day, an on-track autograph session is set from noon to 1 p.m., followed by the driver introductions at 1:30 p.m.
The ARCA series is one of the most versatile in auto racing. Events are run on superspeedways, short tracks, road courses and dirt tracks. Although not affiliated, some of its races do take place the same weekends as NASCAR (such as at Daytona), MIS officials point out that the initial two ARCA Mobile 200 races have drawn fans from 22 states and two Canadian provinces. A news release said race fans have occupied more than 2,900 hotel nights, generating a $3.6 million impact to the area’s economy.

Tickets can be purchased at the ARCA Mobile 200 ticket office at 4742-C Airport Blvd. in Mobile, by calling 251-343-2929 or online at www.arcamobile200.com. A complete list of events can be found on the website.

USSA honors Malzahn

Gus Malzahn, who directed Auburn to the SEC football championship and a berth in the national title game, has been presented with the United States Sports Academy’s 2014 Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award.

Malzahn, who had been the offensive coordinator when the Tigers won the BCS title in 2010, returned as head coach after Auburn went 0-8 in conference play the previous season. His up-tempo offense helped the Tigers to 12 wins this year.

The award is named in honor of Stagg, who recorded 314 coaching wins in his college career. The USSA is a non-profit sports university located in Daphne that prepares students for careers in the sports profession.