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Toledo offers unique challenges for ARCA racers

05/18/2014, 12:00am EDT
By RACHEL LENZI BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Short track requires precision driving


Mason Mitchell is in second in the ARCA standings with 850 points. Grant Enfinger leads with 935 points. BLADE/ANDY MORRISON

Each stop on the ARCA Racing Series schedule brings a different track. Each of those tracks has its own unique facets.

When the Menards 200 kicks off at 2 p.m. today at Toledo Speedway, the drivers will compete on one of the circuit’s smaller tracks, a half-mile oval that brings its own nuances.

It’s one of 18 tracks on the ARCA Racing Series’ 20-race schedule, and one of four types of tracks ARCA runs on during the season: superspeedways that are at least two miles in length, winding road courses, unpaved dirt tracks, and short tracks like Toledo Speedway that are less than a mile in length and require precision driving.

“This is a track that, to me, you have to have so much rhythm,” said Mason Mitchell, who won the pole for the Menards 200 and enters today’s race second in the ARCA driver points standings with 850, behind Grant Enfinger (935). “The corners aren’t even similar. You have to run them totally different when you’re hitting everything.”

Each track, however, has its own distinguishing characteristics, which drivers and their crews need to prepare for on a weekly basis at different points in the season.

After driving on the half-mile oval at Toledo Speedway, the drivers will prepare for a road course June 1 at New Jersey Motorsports Park, then drive six days later at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. — a venue known to many in racing as the “Tricky Triangle” — before racing June 13 on the two-mile oval at Michigan International Speedway,

“You’ve got to be open-minded about those things because the schedule is always changing up,” ARCA driver Kyle Benjamin said. “There’s so many different tracks. It’s such a diverse series, which makes it really cool. It’s definitely a benefit.”

What distinguishes Toledo Speedway, Benjamin explained, is the design of the track itself.

“This track, it’s pretty much all corner and no straightaway,” Benjamin said. “There’s so much turning all the time, and even if you look like you’ve got a straightaway, you’re going to go right into the wall and right back out in the corner. It’s kind of a big circle, and that’s what’s pretty different about it.”

That, Mitchell explains, lends itself to tactical driving.

“The apex of the corners are different and the banking is different,” Mitchell said. “It’s all about getting that rhythm and being smooth at the wheel. That’s the biggest thing here. It’s not just an oval or two turns that are similar. It’s a little bit flatter, a little more banked and it’s got a little more shapes, which is fine because it adds a twist into driving.”

Benjamin tested last week at Toledo Speedway and explained that to reach optimum performance, it’s as much about the car as it is about the track.

“You have to really feel out your car and be precise about what the car is doing,” Benjamin said. “You’ve got to make sure you’ve got a lot of forward drive here and you want the car to stay cutting during the race. If you don’t have that, it’s going to stay tight and it won’t be any good. You have to make sure the car’s going to be a little loose.”

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.

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