After posting top-10 times in each of his practice sessions this week at Daytona International Speedway, Bluffton's Gus Dean will find himself a little farther back on Saturday's starting grid for his first race on the famed track.
Dean placed 15th in Friday's qualifying for the Lucas Oil 200, making the 40-car ARCA Racing Series lineup with ease but with a time nearly a half-second slower than either of his practice sessions.
The 21-year-old driver circled Daytona’s 2 1/2-mile superspeedway in 48.241 seconds, traveling an average speed of 186.56 mph. With qualifying conducted in five-car groups, Dean crossed the finish line third in his session.
Cole Custer, himself just 18, captured the pole with an average speed of 188.407 mph. The California driver was just ahead of rookies William Byron (188.139 mph) and Chase Briscoe (187.958).
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Saturday's race is set for shortly after 4 p.m., serving as the first race on the Daytona Speedweeks schedule. Dean will drive the No.98 Chevrolet, owned by Mason Mitchell Motorsports and sponsored by Carrier Home Comfort Systems.
It will be Dean's first race in ARCA, which has served as a developmental series into NASCAR's upper circuits. He joined the MMM stable little more than a month ago, but made an early splash by going fastest of some three dozen cars during his first January test session at Daytona.
"For them to put it together so quickly and be so fast, it's phenomenal," he said earlier in the week.
In this week's two practice sessions, Dean clocked 47.824 seconds on Thursday and 47.891 on Friday morning. That put him in the second-fastest quintet of cars for qualifying, but he couldn't keep the momentum.
As it turns out, it pays to have fast friends. Friday's top five qualifiers all came from the same qualifying group that had topped the practice chart.
ARCA Lucas Oil 200
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Daytona International Speedway
TV: Fox Sports 1