We recently talked with veteran ARCA Racing Series driver, Tom Hessert and asked him to reflect on the 2016 race season now that things have started to settle down.
GT: Congratulations on your 2nd place points finish in the 2016 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards championship. You have finished 3rd in the championship on two previous occasions. How does it feel to reach this new milestone in your career, especially in your first year with Venturini Motorsports?
TH: It is a big accomplishment to have finished 2nd this year. The first part of our season started out rough, but as the year went on we got a lot stronger and were in contention a lot more. Working with Venturini Motorsports this year was a blast. They have an awesome family run organization and I am proud to have driven the #25 car which has such a history with the team.
GT: We assume that your most memorable race of 2016 was DuQuoin since that’s where you won your 6th career ARCA race. What does it mean to you to add your name to the long list of winners at that legendary track?
TH: DuQuoin was awesome! It is such a historic place and the list of people that have won there includes some incredible drivers. 2016 was the first time the DuQuoin ARCA race was run at night, so that makes it even more special!
GT: Did any other race stand out for you in 2016?
TH: Talladega! We qualified on the pole and had an awesome race car. I have been in a lot of races at Talladega and that one had to be the most competitive one. It was non-stop action from the drop of the green flag. Berlin also stands out as we had an amazing car there too, probably should have won, but unfortunately got crashed out.
GT: You have been involved in ARCA since 2007, what is it about the ARCA Racing Series that keeps you coming back?
TH: I just love the series. The tracks, the competition and the people are all great. I feel very lucky to have been in the series for this long. It’s been a great place to have a career and I hope I can keep it going.
GT: How do you think your diverse driving background in karting, USAC midgets and sports cars has helped you in a stock car?
TH: I think when I initially transitioned to stock cars, my experience in open wheel cars definitely helped a lot. I was used to lightweight super-fast cars but in a stock everything happens so slow in comparison. The biggest learning curve was the length of the races. I really had to learn how to manage a race, tires, brakes, fenders, etc. The karts and little bit of sports car racing certainly helped me with the road courses. I grew up around road racing and love it. I really want to win one of those road course races with ARCA!
GT: How did the General Tires perform this season? How do you feel their involvement this year has benefited the series?
TH: I don’t know if a tire manufacture could have had a more successful first year in the series. The tires performed very well at all of the different types of tracks and surfaces that we raced on. The at-track displays and fan engagement were a huge benefit to the series. It was great to see the fans engage with our tire manufacture and to have them see in-person the products available for their personal vehicles.
GT: What are your plans for the 2017 ARCA season?
TH: I wish I knew! As of now, I don’t have anything locked in. Hopefully I’ll be back, whether it’s a limited schedule or full season I don’t know.