DAYTONA BEACH FL (1-23-08) - When the #46 Ford rolls off at Daytona, it may look much the same as it did in years past, but in reality, much has changed inside the Larry Clement-owned camp.
For one, the famous ARCA RE/MAX Series machine will be without its longtime occupant - nine-time champion Frank Kimmel after he announced he was forming his own team for 2008.
Clement will still be the car owner however, but the car will have a new cast of characters in and around it in 2008, most notably, a new driver.
That new driver is Denver, North Carolina racer Matt Carter, son of longtime NASCAR Cup crew chief/car owner Travis Carter. And if the stars line-up just right, Carter hopes to make a full run at the ARCA RE/MAX Series in 2008.
At the onset, the prospects look pretty good. Although Carter, a veteran of the Hooters Pro Cup Series, has never raced at Daytona, the next two events - Salem Speedway and Iowa Speedway - are familiar territory to the second-generation racer.
"I had never seen the place (Salem) until last year when we went there with our Hooters Pro Cup team," said Carter. "We sat on the pole with a new track record and finished second in the race, so we felt pretty good about that."
Carter also felt pretty good last year at Iowa where he won the race, which was event number two in the Hooters Pro Cup championship series trail.
From there though, the ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule gets blurrier for Carter who will be visiting tracks, for the most part, he's never seen before.
"From the middle on out, the tracks on the schedule are ones I've never been to, so that could be challenging. But I've never really had any trouble adapting to new tracks in the past, so I'm not too concerned. It's one of those deals where I don't know any bad habits yet because I've never raced there. I've actually only been racing for about seven years, but we've managed to run pretty well everywhere we go."
Next stop - Daytona Int'l Speedway for the 45th annual ARCA 200 at Daytona.
"I've always dreamed about racing at Daytona, but I never thought I'd actually get the chance to run there, so it's huge deal; especially since I practically grew up there going with my Dad over the years."
Carter's father Travis Carter is renowned among high-level NASCAR players with an impressive history that dates back to the 1960s. The senior Carter's first claim to fame was crew chiefing Benny Parsons to the 1973 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Carter followed with another Cup championship with Cale Yarborough in 1978. After working with the likes of Harry Gant and Bobby Allison, Carter moved onto the team ownership role employing drivers such as Geoff Bodine, Hut Stricklin, Butch Miller, Rick Mast, Darrell Waltrip, Todd Bodine, Jimmy Spencer, and even a short stint with Frank Kimmel, whose Pork sponsor helped Carter get through a portion of a Cup season.
"I'm looking forward to being there again with Dad. He's just going to hang back and let us do it, but he'll be there for guidance if we need it.
"Right now, we'll have three guys from our shop working with us at the track - two from the Hooter's deal. Larry Clement is planning on spotting for us." Clement also spotted for Kimmel in the 46 car en route to their nine titles together.
Despite the newness of the Daytona race experience, Carter tested well there back in December.
"I was real comfortable in the test. But that had a lot to do with the car. We unloaded and the car was good. In just a few laps we had worked up to third quick. The car drove real good. But I never really got the chance to run side-by-side either; I'll figure it out as I go.
"To be honest with you, I'm not really feeling the pressure; not yet anyway. I mean, my Dad's not putting any pressure on me; no one is. I've always put the pressure on myself; it doesn't matter if it's Daytona or wherever. I've always been that way.
"Bottom line, I just don't have anyrace experience at Daytona. But I've always been pretty smart about my racing in the past and didn't do stupid stuff, so hopefully I can back that up. The car we're bringing is an excellent car and we'll have a Roush Yates motor too, so we have every reason to believe we're going to run well. There are big shoes to fill in that 46 car, no doubt. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Frank Kimmel. I only hope we can have an ounce of the success that he had here."
The 45th annual ARCA 200 at Daytona is LIVE on SPEED at 4:00 pm ET Saturday, February 9th. The first practice is Thursday, February 7th from 12 noon to 5:00 pm. SIM Factory Pole Award Qualifying is 12 noon Friday followed by final practice from 5:10 to 6:15 pm.
MATT CARTER BIO:
Hometown: Denver, North Carolina
Veteran of the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, NASCAR-sanctioned late models and UARA. Finished career-best 6th in championship points in Hooters Pro Cup in 2004 with 9 top-5 finishes and 16 top-10s in 19 races. Also finished 7th in championship points in Hooters Pro Cup in 2005 with 5 top-5 finishes and 15 top-10s in 18 races. Also finished 8th in championship points in Hooters Pro Cup in 2007 with 1 win at Iowa Speedway, 5 top-5 finishes and 8 top-10s in 13 starts. Hooters Pro Cup Miller Lite Rookie of the Year in 2004. Made NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Memphis Motorsports Park in 2007 finishing 39th. Made Craftsman Truck Series debut in 2003 at Martinsville Speedway finishing 17th after qualifying 14th. Late model track champion at Hickory Motor Speedway in 2003 with 2 wins among 20 top-5 finishes, 22 top-10s and 3 poles in 25 races. Overall stats in 149 career starts in all said divisions include 7 wins, 72 top-5s, 108 top-10s and 11 poles with track records at Salem Speedway and USA Int'l Speedway. Plans to drive fulltime in ARCA RE/MAX Series competition in 2008 for Larry Clement Racing. Son of longtime NASCAR team owner Travis Carter.