He Said, She Said – ARCA Style – 03/20/07

Race Fans:

Welcome to the second edition of He Said, She Said for the ARCA RE/MAX Series. This is a great column reintroduced to the ARCA RE/MAX Series for the 2007 season. Catchfence.com has lined up a great amount of respected individuals within the ARCA RE/MAX Series and we’re excited to have them aboard.

Next to each name, you will find their specific representation in the ARCA RE/MAX Series.

We’ll break the answers up between the guys and the girls. Feel free to email us and let us know what you think.

1) The ARCA RE/MAX Series heads to USA International Speedway this weekend for the inaugural race in Saturday’s Construct Corps-PBG 250 Saturday night. How important is the addition of this short track not only to Florida but to the ARCA RE/MAX Series?

Guys:

Chris Knight, Catchfence.com

I’m very excited to see this race added on the ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule. I’m glad there is not a long break in the schedule as we’ve seen in years past. I think the Construct Corps-PBG 250 brings a new market to the ARCA RE/MAX Series and I’m all about that. I like our older short tracks, but I think racing at a new place like USA International Speedway will bring great racing, fast speeds and a possible new winner. I agree with Daren, I would like to see this race remain on the schedule for several years to come.

Daren Havens, ARCA

I think the addition of this event is excellent. It adds a race in March at a track that has a good reputation. I hope that this turns in to an annual event.

Robby Benton, owner of the No. 65 Construct Corps Dodge for RAB Racing with Brack Maggard

Very important. The addition of Lakeland brings ARCA more exposure in the southern, particularly Florida, market. As time has gone on, ARCA has lost many of its southern tracks. This may not have necessarily hurt the series, but it definitely hasn’t helped. I believe sanctioning a race in Florida in such a strong market will strengthen the series as a whole. Additionally, as many good racers as there are in Florida, there will be a strong, tight field making for an exciting race.

Eric Jones, SI Performance Motorsports and former ARCA driver

USA International Speedway is a nice addition to the ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule. It’s a great short track that will provide some close racing. It would be nice to see some more short tracks of this caliber replace some of the older, outdated tracks on the ARCA schedule.

Joey Dennewitz, Public Relations Eddie Sharp Racing-Michael McDowell

It is obviously important to bring ARCA RE/MAX Racing to new and different venues to showcase the some of the most talented drivers in the nation. The Florida market is strong with stock car racing roots and the USA International Speedway gives ARCA a great stage. With it being a new venue, it should be interesting to see who can grab a handle on the track the quickest and run away with the win.

Andy Belmont, driver of the No. 1 Andy Belmont Racing Ford

Not important at all. It is another event in the same market with no TV coverage.

Girls:

Jennifer Belmont, car-owner of No. 62 & No. 1 in ARCA RE/MAX Series

I guess since this track runs pretty much all year it is good business for the Lakeland area. The race not being televised says it all. If you are not at the facility then you have no idea it happened. No TV really hurts this series.

Bethann Puderbaugh, Ingle Motorsports

The addition of Lakeland to the ARCA schedule is great for the series. New venues can open up new marketing opportunities for teams, create new fans for the series, and USA Int’l Speedway is a great facility. This is nothing but positive for everyone involved.

Shannon Feldman-Wells, Public Relations Representative Mike Harmon Motorsports

It shows the variety of what a driver can do. I also like how we don’t have to wait months for the next race. Plus it is warm place to go when it is cold up north.

Sandy Sparrow, Darrell Basham Racing

To tell you the truth, at first I was not happy about the Lakeland Race. Long drive, short track and small payout. However, I am glad to have a new track on the schedule, this adds excitement to the series. Lakeland will help us gain a new group of fans from that area that will hopefully continue to follow the series for the rest of the season. So get ready Lakeland here we come.

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2) Daytona is now over. A veteran (Bobby Gerhart) came out on top followed in toe with several young guns. Overall, your thoughts on the 2007 season opener?

Guys:

Chris Knight, Catchfence.com

Overall, it was not a bad season opener. Bobby Gerhart and his Bobby Gerhart Racing team have their restrictor program figured out. It’s going to take a lot of time, energy and money for someone to beat them. I think we saw some strong cars in the event who didn’t have the best finishes (Damon Lusk, Tim Russell, Justin Marks and Brad Coleman) come to mind. However, I think to see the faces of Marc Mitchell, Jeremy Clements, Phillip McGilton and Michael McDowell near the front were eye-openers.

The wrecks were nothing new at Daytona. I’m glad that weren’t any severe wrecks that we’ve seen in years past. I’m thankful that all the drivers were able to walk away and race another day. I don’t think there is anything you can do to avoid the wrecks, it’s just the nature of the beast.

Daren Havens, ARCA

Too many wrecks!

Robby Benton, owner of the No. 65 Construct Corps Dodge for RAB Racing with Brack Maggard

Daytona seemed to go exactly as expected. I believe the finish would have been different if not for the last caution, but everyone expected to have to beat Bobby to win.

Eric Jones, SI Performance Motorsports and former ARCA driver

It was a little bit disappointing to me that with the depth of the field we didn’t see much double wide racing. With that much talent in this year’s ARCA 200, I didn’t think that we’d see guys fighting for the bottom all day. I expected a more exciting race.

Joey Dennewitz, Public Relations Eddie Sharp Racing-Michael McDowell

Typical ARCA SuperSpeedway racing. I was a bit disappointed watching everyone stick it on the bottom and avoid the high side like the plague. If a couple drivers would have stuck with it, I think the high side could have worked and we would have had a better show. Mad props to Mr. Gerhart for not only driving for five, but taking the lead in exciting fashion as well.

Andy Belmont, driver of the No. 1 Andy Belmont Racing Ford

Half of the race was run under caution. That wasn’t much of a race.

Girls:

Jennifer Belmont, car-owner of No. 62 & No. 1 in ARCA RE/MAX Series

Too many young guns, not enough experience = yellow flags. We had plenty. ARCA needs to address this by mandating that these people drive at a short track BEFORE they are allowed to race at Daytona. Its INSANE. Too many tore up cars and too many yellows, makes the series as a whole look bad.

Bethann Puderbaugh, Ingle Motorsports

I can’t help much with this one guys & gals. I was driving to Florida during the season opener and to my disappointment it wasn’t recorded when I got home so I had no way of reviewing the race. I must say I wasn’t surprised to hear that Bobby Gerhart won though, if you’re going to win an ARCA RE/MAX Series event at Daytona, you’re going to have to go through Gerhart to do it.

Shannon Feldman-Wells, Public Relations Representative Mike Harmon Motorsports

It was a good opener. Daytona is always exciting and this year didn’t let us down. I wish more of the drivers that I was cheering on did better, but that is racing. I was very happy for Lil Gator and his crew! That kid will go places.

Sandy Sparrow, Darrell Basham Racing

Daytona seemed to me to be a pretty predictable race. Gerhart up front……not anything new at Daytona. However, with David Ragan and Marc Mitchell not far behind Bobby had to make sure he made no mistakes. All of the fans seemed to enjoy the race and heck we came away with an 18th place finish so I liked it too. Did I mention we were on the lead lap?

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3) The COT (Car of Tomorrow) is approaching it’s debut in NASCAR. Do you think the ARCA RE/MAX Series should follow suite? What are it’s advantages and disadvantages?

Guys:

Chris Knight, Catchfence.com

The COT (Car of Tomorrow) is a long way from invading the ARCA RE/MAX Series and that’s a good thing. I think NASCAR should work out the tweaks early on which will play into the ARCA RE/MAX Series teams advantages. These cars are going to cost a lot of money and I don’t think the ARCA series is all that ready for a big change like this. The good thing about the change for NASCAR is that the ARCA Series will be able to benefit from the “old” NASCAR Nextel Cup Series cars for at the next three years, which at that time I think the ARCA RE/MAX Series will be ready for the renamed COT (Car of Today).

Daren Havens, ARCA

This remains to be seen. The COT hasn’t even run an event yet, so I am going to withhold comment.

Robby Benton, owner of the No. 65 Construct Corps Dodge for RAB Racing with Brack Maggard

Definitely wait this one out. I don’t think the COT will go as smoothly as everyone hopes. On top of working out all the technical issues associated with it, the expense is enormous. The COT transition will be 2-3 years down the road if at all. When and if ARCA chooses to go down that road, it will be a major ordeal. The used car market will fall out when all the current Nextel Cup cars get unloaded. Initially, that will strengthen the ARCA Series because cars will be cheap for potential ARCA competitors. However, when ARCA decides to follow suit with a COT or something similar, today’s style of car will be worthless. The only advantage I see is that ARCA could continue it’s close relationship with identifying with the Cup cars by going to the COT.

Eric Jones, SI Performance Motorsports and former ARCA driver

The COT needs to be in the distant future for it’s use in this series. It would be nice for safety and a level playing field, but some of last year’s full time teams are struggling to find sponsorships and few teams could bare the cost. I really don’t see this happening for quite some time.

Joey Dennewitz, Public Relations Eddie Sharp Racing-Michael McDowell

There are a few things that come into play here. First, the COT is plagued with many issues in Cup and if those engineers and specialists from the teams and sanctioning body can�t figure it out, I�d say we leave it alone for quite a while. Secondly, there isn�t enough man power on either the team side or the sanctioning body side to make that switch. Lastly, it doesn�t make sense economically. From building them to teching them, it would take an extreme amount of resources to do it right.

Andy Belmont, driver of the No. 1 Andy Belmont Racing Ford

The COT can be advantagous, it depends on how it is handled. IF ARCA doesn’t take a stand and get a handle on some of the ridiculous rule changes they put in place and get a lid on the cost deal soon, the only teams left will be the NASCAR R&D and the kids with money.

Girls:

Jennifer Belmont, car-owner of No. 62 & No. 1 in ARCA RE/MAX Series

Are you kidding me? We cant get through tech now, we would have to be there a week early with that thing. ARCA needs to keep the real race cars. Who knows maybe we will attract the fans that once watched NASCAR and get more races on TV. That COT has given the owners like myself a chance to buy cup cars at a serious discount. I honestly think that car is not for this series.

Bethann Puderbaugh, Ingle Motorsports

I think the ARCA RE/MAX Series will eventually need to follow in NASCAR’s path with the use of the Car of Tomorrow. It’s been a natural progression over the years that once NASCAR makes a change it eventually trickles down to the ARCA Series, so it’s only a matter of time. A possible advantage is that it may level the playing field between the higher funded teams and the lower funded teams, the disadvantage is going to be the investment the teams will need to make to purchase the equipment.

Shannon Feldman-Wells, Public Relations Representative Mike Harmon Motorsports

I don’t think ARCA should follow what NASCAR is doing. Look at all the problems they are having and why put that on us? We have enough problems without adding to them. The cost to replace all your fleet is crazy! It will be good for us because we can buy their used cars, but for them to rebuild new cars are expensive. I don’t think too many of us can afford to replace a new fleet. Let them work the bugs out in NASCAR and we should wait to see if it will be to our advantage to follow what they do. Right now I say no.

Sandy Sparrow, Darrell Basham Racing

The Car of Tomorrow, NASCAR can keep it. I hope that the ARCA RE/MAX Series has a few years left without it. Let’s let NASCAR work out all the issues and tackle the problems. Not only do I feel that they will have issues and problems with the car, but I also feel that the fans with show some dissatisfaction with this idea. I made a joke once with Andy Belmont when he qualified a car for James Hylton. I asked him if he had gotten into the wrong car? When the COT is here we will all have to insure that the driver checks the name above the door before he gets in to make sure he is in the right one.

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4) If there was one thing you could change about the ARCA RE/MAX Series, what would it be and why?

Guys:

Chris Knight, Catchfence.com

It’s crazy to ask a Public Relations representative this question, but I’m ready. First, I would like to see all the ARCA RE/MAX Series races televised. Whether the ARCA and SPEED come to an agreement or someone steps up to the plate to make that become a reality, it’s needed soon. I think we would erase a lot of the current issues we face in the ARCA RE/MAX Series if the races were all televised.

Next, I think we should bring the Lucky Dog to the ARCA RE/MAX Series. Hear me ARCA, I’ll volunteer during the race to help make this possible if that’s what it takes. I don’t think this will take a lot of energy for the series officials. We have timing and scoring. I don’t think there should be any issues here. I also think you may see a company step up to the plate and sponsor this new rule, if the ARCA RE/MAX Series ever decides to go there.

Finally, lock the ARCA regulars. Whether we expand the starting fields or lock the first top-20 in by owner’s points, this needs to be eventually be done to keep the regulars around. I think it would make it a great show for the regulars to step up to the plate to get the job done, while making the “big boys” concentrate on getting into the race rather than a qualifying setup. Hopefully this is something that may come to life in 2008.

Daren Havens, ARCA

I would like to see some west coast events and all of the races on T.V.

Robby Benton, owner of the No. 65 Construct Corps Dodge for RAB Racing with Brack Maggard

I would like to see something done to allow competitors a chance to get their lap back similar to what NASCAR does. It would make racing better and ultimately safer if a guy knows he doesn’t have to pressure the leader by racing him to get their lap back. Just wait until the next caution….they come around pretty often.

Eric Jones, SI Performance Motorsports and former ARCA driver

I’d like to see all the races televised. This exposure would greatly benefit the series, it’s sponsors, it’s team and drivers, and their sponsors!

Joey Dennewitz, Public Relations Eddie Sharp Racing-Michael McDowell

As vital to ARCA�s business plan as developmental drivers are, I believe a stronger relationship with the cup teams could be a good idea. The overall business strategy of racing as whole is centered around the drivers, and with the influx of talent becoming more prevalent throughout the country, I feel that ARCA could position themselves as being the source that not only fans look to, but cup teams and aspiring drivers look to provide future talent. That market positioning could essentially grow not only popularity, but revenues as well.

Andy Belmont, driver of the No. 1 Andy Belmont Racing Ford

Spec engines. It would make it affordable the working class man. Right now, it costs $20-$25,000 per event for a lease motor to have the best stuff that is out there to even have a chance against the R&D teams. It just doesn’t make sense to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in engine leases when spec motors are out there and can be run most of the year. ARCA could cut the engine bill by 80 percent. They wont.

Girls:

Jennifer Belmont, car-owner of No. 62 & No. 1 in ARCA RE/MAX Series

I like the series as a whole, great people, still fun to do. I would like to see a TV package. This could greatly increase exposure for the series and help teams with sponsorship. They should be working on someone to pay for a TV package. It is great racing, 99% of the time. Daytona is the exception due to the amount of people that can go fast by themselves for 2 laps but cannot handle race conditions with cars around them.

Bethann Puderbaugh, Ingle Motorsports

It’s frustrating to see some of the ARCA regulars in the series get pushed out by Nextel Cup Series funded teams testing their developmental drivers. I’d like to see the series somehow take care of the ARCA drivers that make the effort to be there every week. But I’m not exactly sure how it could be done.

Shannon Feldman-Wells, Public Relations Representative Mike Harmon Motorsports

Be consistent with the rules. When they discuss the rules in the drivers meeting, stick to them. Don’t change them because they favor certain people. That drives me crazy! They should also lock in the top 10 in owner points from the previous year. NASCAR does something similar to it, and it seems like ARCA is always trying to copy them, so help out the regulars. Otherwise I think you will see the regulars leaving.

Sandy Sparrow, Darrell Basham Racing

Asking this question to a women is pretty risky. Because as most men know, we love to change everything. Not just one thing, we would change lots of things. So here goes. First of all, the drivers would all have to take turns winning, because that would be the nice thing to do. Then they would all need to wear pink, because that is my favorite color. All tracks would not only have a BSR parts trailer but they would also have a trailer that sells women’s shoes and accessories.

Lastly all of the women’s restrooms would have a day spa and hair salon. Well you did say anything. Okay now let’s get serious. GUARANTEED SPOTS. We would not be the only series to do this. I think we should guarantee at least the top 25 in points a position in the race. With all of the Development Drivers showing up some of regulars are at risk of going home. Don’t get me wrong the Development Drivers are good for ARCA from the MEDIA aspect.

But these guys and girls are not dedicated to the series. When we go to places like Duquion and Springfield where are they? If drivers like Darrell, Brad, Tim, Mike and a few of the others in this group did not show up the field would be short. But they don’t, they are there race after race no matter what. Would Ray Evernham build a car for Erin to race on dirt? Maybe, if he knew that the top 25 were guaranteed a spot. But this would at least give our guys that are dedicated to the ARCA RE/MAX Series a fighting chance.

Contact The Guys:

You can reach Chris Knight at: CKnight@Catchfence.com

You can reach Daren Havens at: DHavens@Catchfence.com

You can reach Robby Benton at: RBenton@Catchfence.com

You can reach Eric Jones at: EJones@Catchfence.com

You can reach Joey Dennewitz at: JDennewitz@Catchfence.com

You can reach Andy Belmont at: ABelmont@Catchfence.com

Contact The Girls:

You can reach Jennifer Belmont at: JBelmont@Catchfence.com

You can reach Bethann Puderbaugh at: BPuderbaugh@Catchfence.com

You can reach Shannon Feldmann-Wells at: SWells@Catchfence.com

You can reach Sandy Sparrow at: SSparrow@Catchfence.com

Author: Chris Knight

Chris Knight (@Knighter01) has served as senior staff writer, assistant news editor and director of driver communications for CATCHFENCE.com since 2001. In his 16 years with CATCHFENCE.com, Knight has covered NASCAR's top-three series often breaking news, exclusive at-track content, while also providing in-depth race weekend coverage. He also offers exceptional insider coverage of the ARCA Racing Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series divisions and more. In addition to his active duties at CATCHFENCE.com and other racing endeavors, the 33-year-old is also a frequent contributor to SiriusXM Satellite Radio NASCAR channel 90. Before moving back to a media role full-time in 2011 Knight served as the Manager of Operations and Communications for Sheltra Motorsports and driver Patrick Sheltra in the ARCA Racing Series for four years, including their championship season in 2010. Follow him on Twitter @Knighter01