Owens has good reason to smile
By D.C. WILLIAMS
DAYTONA BEACH -- Alli Owens has been smiling so much since Friday that her cheeks hurt.
"After this is over, I'm going to have to get a massage," the South Daytonan said as she gently rubbed each side of her face.
It's been that kind of weekend for Owens, who said her first smile was cracked Friday while on Daytona International Speedway's superstretch during her first lap of ARCA testing. The smile has been a fixture since.
"On my first lap, by the time I got to the backstretch, I already knew my car was the best stock car I'd ever driven," she said. "My crew had told me to go out and take it easy, shake the car down for the first couple of laps, but it felt so good I had my foot in it by the end of the backstretch."
Running a Chevrolet prepared by Lake Wales-based DGM Racing, the Atlantic High grad posted top-16 times in the 178-180 mph range through the weekend. She clocked the 16th best (178.359 mph) speed of the 38 cars testing Sunday -- bettering nine-time and defending ARCA champion Frank Kimmel's 25th-fastest time. Sunday afternoon was devoted to drafting.
"I've been as high as fourth or so at one point during the weekend," Owens said. "It just feels so good to be able to run so well here. I've dreamed about being at Daytona for longer than I can remember."
At DGM's helm is three-time ARCA race winner and occasional NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Mario Gosselin. Gosselin finished 13th in the 2007 ARCA 200 after a Lap 60 spin following a battle with eventual race-winner Bobby Gerhart.
The ARCA 200 on Feb. 9 will be Owens' first race with equipment out of the DGM stable, which brought four cars to the weekend test.
"I knew she was gonna be just fine after her first run Friday," Gosselin said. "After that, Alli came in wanting to know how soon she could get back out. If she had've come in ghost-white and had a death-grip on the steering wheel, then I would've known we'd need to work on her skills a little more. She's a racer, that one."
A crowd of family and friends were on hand Sunday to cheer Owens on.
"Like most racers, Alli's had her share of ups and downs," father Mike Owens said. "It's just good to see her have such a really great weekend."
Inspired by the successful test, Owens has started looking to February's Speed Weeks.
"It's nice to know we'll be coming here for Speed Weeks with top equipment," Owens said. "I'm very grateful for my sponsors, family and friends for their support. From racing at New Smyrna Speedway to going to school here -- even while just driving down Interstate 95 -- I can't tell you how many times I've thought and dreamed about running right here at Daytona."
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