Monday, April 23, 2018

ARCA: Meunier trails for third time in rough underdog weekend

Meunier at Road America last year
PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons
by William Soquet Guest Contributor

Mark Meunier finished last for the third time in his ARCA Racing Series career in Sunday’s Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 at Salem Raceway when his #0 Peterson Motorsports Ford did not start. The finish came in his 36th series start and was the first since Kansas in 2017, four races ago.

Meunier is a native Kentuckian from the Louisville area. Before transitioning to ARCA, he raced Street Stocks at Louisville Motor Speedway, which hosted Truck races until 1999, and has raced late models at Kentucky Motor Speedway, a 3/8-mile track not far from Owensboro. He made his ARCA debut at this very race five years ago for Carter 2 Motorsports, finishing 23rd in a 28-car field after a mid-race crash. In the 34 starts between then and now, he competed for Carter, Kimmel Racing, Dale Shearer Racing and Wayne Peterson Racing, who he first teamed up with in late 2016. Meunier finished nine of those starts with a best finish of 16th at Elko in 2013, in his second start. This race marked his first appearance of the year for Wayne Peterson Racing. According to his Twitter account, at one point he tried to compete in the April 2016 XFINITY race at Bristol, but a team was never made and the effort did not come to fruition. He also works as a driving instructor for the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

The entry list for Sunday’s race topped out at 27 cars, which shrunk to 25 following the withdrawals of Hixson Motorsports’ two cars, which was due to the rising costs of the series. Among the drivers entered were four debuts: JR Motorsports late model driver Josh Berry, who teamed up with Chad Bryant Racing, who bought the assets of Cunningham Racing, in the team’s #22; Colby Howard, a sixteen-year-old Late Model Stock driver who originally drove motorcross, entered in Mason Mitchell Motorsports’ only entry; 2017 ARCA/CRA All-Star Tour champion Jack Dossey III, entered with his family team; and Matt Dooley, a Limited Late Model driver who competes at dirt tracks around Georgia, who was entered in Fast Track Racing’s #11 car, this week a Ford. Of the four, only Dossey has announced more races, as per and The Pit Lane he will return with an old Cunningham Motorsports car at Lucas Oil and the second Salem race of the season.

Meunier finished last in Friday’s lone practice session. His fastest lap was a 21.4, a tenth slower than his WPR teammate Con Nicolopoulos and 4.3 seconds off of leader Chandler Smith’s time. In qualifying, the field was shortened one more, as James Hylton Motorsports’ #48 car, driven by Brad Smith, suffered an engine failure in practice and was forced to skip the rest of the weekend. Again, the bottom of the charts were led by Meunier, who picked it up to a 20.576, four and a half tenths off of Dale Shearer, making his first start of the year.

Meunier’s car never registered as being on-track, according to ARCA’s timing and scoring. later indicated that his car pulled off the track on the first lap. That left him 24th and last. 23rd went to Dooley, who went to the garage with two laps complete, came back around lap 50 and returned to the garage soon after, done for the day. Next to fall out was Fast Track Racing’s other driver, Richard Doheny. Similar to Dossey, Doheny went to the garage after four laps and came back around lap 50, only to retire after causing the race’s second caution. Both Dossey and Doheny were listed out with crash damage. Nicolopoulos completed 9 laps, went to the garage, completed 11 more and then returned for the day, edging out Doheny for 21st by a lap. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Shearer, whose car made a hard impact with the wall to bring out the day’s first caution.

Looking ahead, only 24 entries are filed for next Friday’s General Tire 200 at Talladega. Jesse Iwuji and Wayne Peterson Racing have announced entries but have not filed. If only 26 cars show up, it will be the shortest restrictor plate field in an ARCA race since Racing-Reference started keeping ARCA stats. The current low is 35, at Talladega a few times in the early 2010s.

24) #0-Mark Meunier / 0 laps / unknown
23) #11-Matt Dooley / 15 laps / crash
22) #10-Richard Doheny / 19 laps / crash
21) #06-Con Nicolopoulos / 20 laps / too slow
20) #73-Dale Shearer / 45 laps / crash

1st) Max Force Racing, Darrell Basham Racing, Wayne Peterson Racing  (1)

1st) Chevrolet (2)
2nd) Ford (1)


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