GT: Congratulations on your successful debut in ARCA during the 2016 season. At the annual awards banquet, you were crowned SCOTT ‘Rookie of the Year’ and you helped your team win the General Tire Superspeedway Challenge. Did you and your team have either of those as goals at the start of the race season? Did plans change once the season began?
DS: At the beginning of the season I feel like we had lofty goals, we wanted to contend and put ourselves in a position to win every race on the schedule. We most definitely had the General Tire Superspeedway Challenge and the Rookie of the Year circled on our list of goals to achieve for the year, and it’s a great feeling to accomplish those two goals.
GT: Your racing background is a little different than some of the other drivers in ARCA. Give us a quick overview of your racing experience up to this point. How does an ARCA stock car differ from what you have driven before?
DS: My background started in karting on pavement road courses all over the state of Florida. My Dad was a fan and bought my little brother and I a kart for Christmas when we were very young and the two us being very competitive, we raced against each other and that just continued to grow. We started at club level, then went to national karting and then on to international karting. We raced mainly in Europe but also ran in other countries around the globe. It was a challenge coming into pavement oval racing but it was something I had always wanted to accomplish and excel at. An ARCA car is completely different than anything I’ve ever driven. The cars are a blast to drive and I love the great tire General Tire provides us along with the horsepower Illmor delivers.
GT: How did you get connected with Venturini Motorsports and what was it like to race for one of the most successful teams in series history?
DS: I originally was connected to Venturini Motorsports through my great relationship with Toyota Racing. The Venturini legacy is extremely well known throughout the racing industry and because I’ve been watching and attending ARCA races since I was a kid, I was well aware of Venturini Motorsports and their pedigree of previous drivers. It was a blast every weekend, especially having Billy Venturini as my crew chief and mentor. I really learned a lot from having all that experience sitting on top of the pit box.
GT: What was it like to have veteran ARCA driver, Tom Hessert as a teammate. Were you able to learn any valuable tips from him throughout the season since the cars and most of the tracks were new to you?
DS: Having Tom Hessert was such a huge asset to this overall race team let alone myself as a rookie driver. With many of the race tracks that we went to, Tom knew every inch of them and the secrets to get around each one. He was very important in my development throughout the year. He’s a very smart race car driver and seemed to know how the races were going to play out before the green flag had even flown and he relayed that information to me and my teammates. I’d say both the drivers and entire team benefitted from having Tom on the team. It was a ton of fun having him around outside the car as well.
GT: Now that you have a season under your belt, what is one thing you like best about ARCA? Was racing in the series different than you expected?
DS: Really the thing I like the best is the race cars and the variety of schedule. From a driver’s perspective, I think the entire package that ARCA has come up with; including the cars, tires and engines is really fun to race with. Couple that with an amazing schedule filled with great short tracks, NASCAR tracks, road courses, then throw in live pit stops and the strategy that goes along with it. The biggest thing I took away from the 2016 ARCA racing season was the amount of fun I had and how much I loved competing at that level of motorsports.
GT: Considering you earned your first career ARCA win at Berlin, this may be obvious, but of the 15 races you competed in, which race and/or track was your favorite?
DS: Berlin definitely ranks up there after getting my first win there, but I really enjoyed the faster, larger racetracks. I had so much fun at Pocono, Michigan, Talladega and of course the half-mile tracks. The speed of these ARCA cars is so much fun and challenging around those racetracks, it takes a whole different skill set than I had ever been accustomed to and it was a challenge that I enjoyed.
GT: What is your ultimate goal in motorsports? What are you plans for 2017? Will we see you in the ARCA series?
DS: I think everyone’s ultimate goal is to reach the NASCAR Cup level and have the opportunity to race on Sundays. I really think the ARCA Racing Series prepares young drivers like myself for the necessary steps it requires to get to that top level of racing. I loved racing in the ARCA Racing Series and I hope I’m back racing in the series in 2017.
NOTE: Our conversation with Dalton took place prior to his recent announcement regarding his racing plans for 2017. During a press conference at the PRI Show, Dalton announced that he is joining Cunningham Motorsports for the 2017 ARCA Racing season where he will pilot the 2016 championship winning #77 car led by Cometic Crew Chief of the Year, Chad Bryant.