MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 20, 2017) – It’s no secret that Dalton Sargeant had a successful run in the ARCA Racing Series last year, capping off a 15-race season by earning the 2016 SCOTT Rookie of the Year award…and it looks like 2017 is starting off in the same fashion. The 18-year-old opened up the season with a 4th place run at Daytona International Speedway in the Lucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200 Driven by General Tire in his first race for Cunningham Motorsports (CMS).
Sargeant had seen strong results throughout days leading up to the race, having the fifth fastest time in both practice sessions and then qualifying in the 10th position. Come race time, just like CMS teammate Shane Lee, Sargeant was able to stay at the front of the field for the duration of the 80-lap event, even leading a lap midway through.
“We had a good run and really a solid weekend for the No. 77 Phoenix Construction, Billy Ballew Motorsports Ford Fusion,” said Sargeant. “Obviously we wanted to win, but we just couldn’t ever get into a good position to have a chance at commanding and holding the lead. To come out of here with a 4th place finish is definitely a positive way to start the year. We’re definitely here to win races but in the end, we’re here to win the championship. So, it was a good finish and we’ll take what we’ve learned and move on to Nashville.”
Within the first few laps of the race Sargeant found himself in the top five, but started to lose positions after a restart came from the first of many cautions. By lap 21, Sargeant was 11th and with the second caution of the night, the No. 77 car came in to pit for fuel only, coming out two more positions down for the restart. It didn’t take any time at all, though, for Sargeant to come back out on top and by just over the halfway point, he was up to second.
With less than 30 laps to go, both Cunningham drivers found themselves one behind the other on the leader board, and stayed within one or two positions of each other, but never fully being able to work together to get to the top. Sargeant was holding on to fourth place until the race came under a red flag with five to go for a multi-car crash, which ultimately ended the night.
“You have to be thankful anytime you come out of Daytona in one piece and inside the top-five,” said crew chief Chad Bryant. “I was really hoping the race was going to finish under green…I think we could’ve gained a few spots or at least been back into contention for the win. We just weren’t able to get with Shane like we wanted to and I felt like if the two of them had been able to work together the outcome of the race would’ve been different.”
Even though fourth place is not what the team was hoping for, Sargeant gained valuable experience and came out of his first Daytona race with more knowledge and positivity for the rest of the year.
“It was a lot of fun working with everyone at Cunningham Motorsports for the first time,” said Sargeant. “From the time we unloaded on Wednesday to now I picked up so much throughout the week and it was a lot of fun racing at Daytona. I think we’ve started the season off in the right direction and look to keep building to get that championship.”
Now the attention turns from superspeedways to short tracks as the next race for CMS will be the Music City 200 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville in April. Until then, to stay up-to-date with all Cunningham news, follow along on social media through Facebook (@CunninghamRace), Twitter (@Cunningham_Race) and Instagram (@CunninghamRace). Be sure to also keep up with Dalton Sargeant by following his social media on Facebook (@DaltonSargeantRacing), Twitter (@DaltonSargeant) and Instagram (@DaltonSargeant).