February 20, 2014 – (Daytona Beach, FL) – For a driver stepping back to a partial schedule in 2014, Tom Hessert performed like a veteran chasing a championship over the weekend during the ARCA Racing Series season-opening Lucas Oil 200.
Hessert rejoined his 2013 team, Cunningham Motorsports, to take on the 2.5 mile Florida track. The four hour practice session on Thursday found Hessert’s crew struggling to find a timing issue in the Penske Racing engine before inching up the speed chart to end up 6th fastest. Qualifying was the only event on Friday’s schedule, with Tom posting the 12th quickest time. Five car’s times were disallowed in post-qualifying tech, moving Hessert to the 7th starting spot.
A 45 minute practice session was cut short, due to rain showers early on Saturday morning. Hessert took to the track for about 20 minutes to refresh his drafting skills, before returning to the garage.
Starting from the fourth row, Hessert and his AxiomWarranty.com/CareGard Dodge took the green flag from the 7th spot, where he stayed for a handful of laps before telling crew chief Paul Andrews that he needed to get some cool air to his Penske Racing engine. After allowing the engine to cool, the crew removed tape on the pit stop on lap 13. In addition, the crew gave Hessert four fresh Hoosiers and a full tank of Sunoco fuel.
Through the next 45 laps, Hessert managed to use the outside line to progress into the top ten, where he set his sights on the leaders. The next five spots proved to be a little tougher for the Cherry Hill native, as he took advantage of other driver’s mistakes to grab a spot or two. With nine laps to go, Hessert moved up to fourth. He was able to hang onto the spot, as his teammate Tyler Reddick crossed the finish line in his tire tracks.
After the race Hessert was exceptionally pleased with his performance.
“After having some good runs in the past at Daytona, but not many good results to show for them, it was great to leave Florida with a 4th place finish. We had a solid car all through testing and the race weekend. I have to thank Paul and everyone at Cunningham for bringing such a great car.”
“Our race didn’t start too well, as our water temp was getting too hot and we had to go to the back to get some fresh air. Once we were able to make a stop and get some tape off the grill, we just raced smart and dodged a few wrecks. A huge part of restrictor plate racing is getting to the end, and once we got back in the top ten towards the end, I knew we had a shot at a good finish. I am very proud to come out of the box in our first race with our new partners Axiom and CareGard and get a great finish!”
The ARCA Racing Series has one month of prep time before their next race, the ARCA Mobile 200 at Mobile International Speedway in Mobile, Alabama on March 16. Hessert will be with the Cunningham organization in Mobile, driving a third Cunningham entry. The drivers will appear at an autograph session Thursday evening, March 20, at the USS Alabama from 5-6 CST. Practice for the 100 mile event is scheduled for Friday from 2:30-3:15 and 4:15-5:00, with qualifying at 7:00. The 200 lap race will be Saturday at 2:00.
Follow Cunningham Motorsports on twitter @cunningham_race, and for more information, visit cunninghammotorsports.net.