The 2019 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season kicks off on Saturday with the Lucas Oil 200 Driven By General Tire, the series’ annual visit to Daytona International Speedway and first of 20 rounds this year. Many of last year’s top racers will be back on track for the championship opener, looking to kick off the year on a high note with a win in one of ARCA’s biggest races.
First run in 1964 as a 250-miler, ARCA’s Daytona race went up to 300 miles in 1968 before settling into its current 200-mile length in 1974. Past winners have included NASCAR Cup champions like Benny Parsons and Kyle Busch, popular veterans like Kyle Petty and Tim Richmond, and active NASCAR drivers like Michael Annett and Grant Enfinger. Michael Self, last year’s winner, will return to defend his crown; Bobby Gerhart, the race’s winningest driver, will look to earn his eighth Daytona victory.
A number of top drivers from 2018 will return to the same teams this year in pursuit of ARCA glory. Venturini Motorsports will run Self, Christian Eckes, and Leilani Munter, all holdovers from last year’s driver roster. Empire Racing’s Sean Corr and Thad Moffitt, the grandson of Richard Petty, are also back on track. Some of last year’s top single-car teams will return, too: 2018 winners Gus Dean and Joe Graf Jr. are back, as are top-five points finishers Riley Herbst and Travis Braden. And Todd Gilliland, a part-time competitor last year, will be on track this weekend for DGR-Crosley Racing, a team co-owned by his father, David Gilliland.
But that’s not to say that there haven’t been some big changes in the driver lineup. Natalie Decker, last year’s Daytona pole winner, moved from Venturini to DGR-Crosley in the offseason. That opened up a spot for Harrison Burton, who departs MDM for Venturini. Brandon McReynolds, the son of veteran NASCAR crew chief Larry McReynolds, topped Thursday practice for KBR Racing Development.
Qualifying for the Lucas Oil 200 Driven By General Tire takes place on Friday at 3:30PM ET, while the race itself goes green on Saturday at 4:30PM ET. ARCA fans can watch the action live on FS1.