Fairhope’s Grant Enfinger just missed taking home the drivers championship last season in the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) racing series. Now as he prepares to return home for the ARCA Mobile 200 next month, he appears set to make another run at the title.
On Valentine’s Day, Enfinger drove his No. 23 Alamo Rent-A-Car Chevrolet to victory lane at Daytona International Speedway. It is the second straight season in which he has opened the ARCA series with a victory in Florida.
“It’s an incredible feeling to be standing in victory lane right now,” Enfinger said after the race. “A few weeks ago, there was a lot of uncertainty. I didn’t know when I was going to get back in a race car.”
Enfinger started in the 13th position for the Lucas Oil 200. Jeff Stankiewicz, his crew chief, called the 30-year-old driver into the pits under a caution flag on the 34th lap for fuel only. The strategy worked as he jumped up into fourth place on the ensuing restart. Enfinger gained the lead on the 53rd lap and never trailed again.
“I’m so proud of all the hard work this team put in over the off season,” said Enfinger, who now has nine career victories. “It all pays off tonight. We’re going to savor this one for a while.”
Also performing well in Daytona was Mobile’s Thomas “Moose” Praytor. His No. 9 DK-LOK Ford had to start in 31st place after having to replace a motor during qualifying. This was another tough break for Praytor, whose car suffered a broken transmission last year at Daytona.
Praytor, who finished seventh in ARCA drivers championship in 2014, and his crew decided on the 17th lap to gamble and not come in for fuel during a caution flag. Twenty laps later on another caution flag, Praytor pulled up to third place. A lack of drafting partners, though, proved costly and left Praytor to finish 24th.
“It was a wild week to start the season,” said Praytor, who logged his 5,000th ARCA mile at Daytona during his 46th career start. “Hopefully, the next 19 races won’t be quite as eventful.”
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He will find out soon as ARCA returns to Mobile International Speedway. The “fastest week in Alabama” begins on March 7 with a daylong test session for all teams. The green flag will fall at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 14.
“Our race teams, fans, sponsors, officials and the entire ARCA community have made Mobile a ‘must attend’ destination on the tour,” said racing series president Ron Drager. “Enjoying the climate and the hospitality the region offers has solidly established Mobile as the logical second race of the season after Daytona now for the fourth straight year.”
General admission tickets are on sale at all Greer’s and Greer’s CostSaver locations along the Gulf Coast. Information on ticket and camping options can be found at http://arcamobile200.com or by calling 251-343-2929.
Race fans will have an opportunity to welcome the ARCA drivers and teams on Thursday, March 12, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the USS Alabama Aircraft Pavilion. During the final hour, an autograph session will take place. Other MIS track champions have been invited to be involved with the event.
“It’s an added bonus to have the opportunity to visit and take part in this event at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, in honor of our veterans and active U.S. Armed Forces personnel,” Drager said. After the autograph session, Mobile County sheriff’s deputies will lead the ARCA haulers from the battleship in a parade to MIS in preparation for track activities the next day.
“We’re coming up on our 50th anniversary. And in 50 years, hosting the ARCA cars and drivers is one of the most unique events we hold at the battleship,” said Bill Tunnell, executive director of the memorial park. “The ARCA event has gotten so big, we are extending our hours on the battleship so fans have time to take it all in.”
ARCA Mobile 200 notes
— Ronnie Osmer will become the latest MIS driver to compete in the Mobile 200. What makes the Louisiana native special is that he is only 15, making him the second youngest driver ever in the ARCA series.
Despite his age, Osmer has built quite a solid résumé. He has a Bandolero State Championship, a Legends State Title and in 2014 was the MIS Pro-Late Model Rookie of the Year.
• Praytor announced he and his Mobile-based DK-LOK team would be running test laps at MIS for two days, starting on Wednesday, Feb. 25. He is looking to be the third local driver to win the Mobile 200, following Cale Gale’s victory in 2012 and Enfinger’s triumphs the last two seasons.
• Enfinger is helping to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with a special edition T-shirt. “Fear the Finger” apparel is $10, with all proceeds going to the hospital. Sizes run from small to 5XL, and are available at the ARCA Mobile 200 ticket office at 4742 Airport Boulevard in Mobile or by calling 251-343-2929.
The Mobile 200 is known for supporting charitable events. Members of the U.S. military, the USO, the Boy Scouts and the Ride 2 Recovery project have benefited from previous races.
• The Rusty Wallace Racing Experience is coming to MIS on Sunday, March 8. For $99, fans can drive 10 laps in a racecar and pick up a ticket to the Mobile 200. The regular price is $299.
For additional information, call 855-22-RUSTY (227-8789) or visit http://racewithrusty.com/drive-10-laps-99-plus-free-ticket-arca-mobile-200. The promotional code is “ARCA99.”