Dylan Kwasniewski, 18, zooms into Daytona spotlight by winning pole for ARCA season opener

jutter@charlotteobserver.comFebruary 14, 2014 

— Dylan Kwasniewski will get an early start on his NASCAR competition with an up-front view.

Kwasniewski, who will run full time in the Nationwide Series this year with Turner Scott Motorsports, won the pole Friday for Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200, the season opener for the Automobile Racing Club of America series at Daytona International Speedway.

“It’s an honor to be here and starting on the pole at Daytona. It doesn’t happen often. TSM gave me a great car and a great chance to start up front,” said Kwasniewski, who is 18.

“It’s all brand new for me. I’m used to running short tracks. I definitely have a clean slate. I’ve been trying to get a lot of insight from the other drivers who have more experience than me.”

The ARCA race is the second for Kwasniewski. He started from the pole and finished fourth in the race last October at Kansas.

Kwasniewski’s pole-winning average lap speed was 182.186 mph. Grant Efinger was second and Buster Graham third. Five cars had their qualifying times disallowed after failing post-qualifying inspection.

Jimmie Johnson launches wellness challenge: Six-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson and his wife, Chandra, are launching a wellness challenge through their Jimmie Johnson Foundation.

The Foundation has partnered with Cool Breeze Cyclery on four events encouraging individuals and corporations to prioritize health, wellness and team-building.

The Wellness Challenge events will be based in the Charlotte area at the Jimmie Johnson Foundation 5K on April 27 in Huntersville, the Lake Norman Excursion on July 12 in Mooresville, the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Cane Creek Sprint Triathlon on Aug. 19 in Waxhaw and the Lake Davidson Sprint Triathlon on Sept. 7 in Davidson.

Visit jimmiejohnsonfoundation.org.

A tribute to Earnhardt: Michael Waltrip will run a limited Sprint Cup Series schedule this season in the No. 66 Toyota, including the season-opening Daytona 500. In 2001, Waltrip was in his first season driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc. and won the Daytona 500, the race where the seven-time NASCAR legend lost his life in a wreck on the final lap.

Waltrip will honor Earnhardt by wearing a tribute helmet in this year’s 500, in part because it marks the first time Earnhardt’s trademark No. 3 will be raced in the Cup series since his death.

“My favorite race car drivers are my brother, The King (Richard Petty) and Dale (Earnhardt). In the past few years I have done tribute helmets for Richard and Darrell and with the No. 3 coming back to the track this year, I just thought it was fitting,” Michael Waltrip said.

Darrell Waltrip sidelined: NASCAR Hall of Fame and Fox Sports TV analyst Darrell Waltrip underwent a minor surgical procedure on Thursday and could miss the broadcast of Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited. He did not participate in coverage of Friday’s Unlimited practice sessions.

“We wish him a speedy recovery and his on-air status is day-to-day,” a statement from Fox Sports said.

Hornaday gets a ride: NASCAR Truck Series veteran Ron Hornaday will drive the No. 30 Chevrolet in next week’s season opener at Daytona for Turner Scott Motorsports. Hornaday, 55, remains the all-time series leader in wins with 51.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @Jim_Utter

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