ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards veteran Mark Thompson became the oldest polesitter in Daytona International Speedway history Friday and will start up front for Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200 presented by AutoZone.
Thompson, 63, won his first Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell in 17 years, topping the charts with a lap of 187.336 mph during group qualifying.
“Winning the pole at Daytona is a big deal,” Thompson said. “It’s special. There’s probably not a place I’d rather win the pole than here.”
Thompson went out in the fourth group out of seven and wheeled to the top of the charts in his No. 11 Phoenix Air-Ken Schrader Racing Toyota. Cody Coughlin, in the No. 55 JEGS Toyota, will start second and Tom Hessert, in the No. 77 Barbera’s Autoland Dodge, third.
Thompson won three previous Menards Pole Awards, all at Michigan International Speedway – two in 1996 and one in 1997. He surpassed Vern Slagh to become the oldest ARCA Racing Series pole winner at Daytona, track communications officials confirming that Thompson is the oldest pole winner ever in a major racing event at the “World Center of Racing.”
“I was not a big fan of group qualifying before, but obviously I am now a fan,” Thompson said. “It’s interesting for the fans. It worked out for us. I’m very pleased. I just went out there and found some holes and went fast.”
Brett Hudson qualified fourth in his Brett Hudson Motorsports Dodge and Clay Campbell fifth in the Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet.
Daniel Suarez, in the ARRIS Toyota, is sixth, with Blake Jones in the No. 22 Uncle Ray’s Potato Chips-Carolina Nut Dodge qualifying seventh. Will Kimmel, in the Vogtland Springs-Americanmuscle.com-Accel Ford, was eighth. The top-10 also includes Sean Corr in the No. 48 Empire Racing-Hylton Motorsports Ford in ninth and Leilani Munter in the No. 66 Energy Freedom Toyota rounding out the top-10.
Venturini Motorsports put three cars in the top 10 – Coughlin, Suarez and Munter. A fourth Venturini entry, Frank Kimmel, in the No. 25 Ansell-Menards Toyota, qualified in the 11th spot.
“We had a lot of issues in practice under the hood and didn’t have any expectations except hoping to have a top 10,” Coughlin said. “With those expectations, to be able to come away with a front row start, especially my first time here, is exciting. It’s good for morale. It’s good to put your head on the pillow at night with the second starting position.”
Hessert and Jones are both from the Cunningham Motorsports stable of cars. “You never know what’s going to happen in the race, but it’s good to start third,” Hessert said. Forty-eight cars attempted to qualify with 40 making Saturday’s race. The top three qualifiers all are utilizing the ARCA Ilmor 396 engine package, which will make its competitive debut on Saturday. Saturday’s race will be televised live on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET while MRN will broadcast the race over ARCAracing.com. ARCAracing.com will also feature live timing and scoring and a live chat board.