Venturini Motorsports is going international once again. The team has signed on former INDY Car Series and NASCAR Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series driver Milka Duno to a full season in the ARCA Series.
Duno will be running her first full season within the ARCA Series and has raced in 26 events over the course of the past three seasons. She’s raced with top teams such as Sheltra Motorsports, Eddie Sharp Racing and Darrell Basham Racing. She recorded her first and only pole award at the Toldeo Speedway in her fourth start with Sheltra Motorsports, which showed she’s serious about her career in stock-car racing.
“We feel like she has potential, she’s had success in other series of racing. She’s got a huge international following which will be good for Venturini brand. Our job with her this year is make her a contender in the ARCA Series,” Venturini Motorsports General Manager Billy Venturini said in an exclusive interview with Rant Sports. “I think she’ll move up to the Nationwide level eventually, but that’s not a plan that needs to be in our immediate future. Our goal is to make her ultra competitive in the ARCA Series and once she does that, that’s when we’ll look at her running in Nationwide.”
Venturini Motorsports will prepare the No. 35 car for Duno with sponsorship from CANTV, Milka Way and Seguros Altamira. Venturini will field Toyotas for Duno as well as the rest of their team using Joe Gibbs Racing engine combinations, which were a key reason for the team’s success in the 2012 season.
Adding Duno to the team’s 2013 lineup isn’t the only change they’re making. Venturini Motorsports has hired John Wes Townley, who will be running a full Camping World Truck Series schedule with Red Horse Racing in 2013, to run three Nationwide Series races and three ARCA Series races. Dan Deeringhoff will be Townley’s crew chief in his Nationwide Series races. Townley will start off his season with Venturini Motorsports at Daytona in the ARCA Series Lucas Oil 200 in the No. 15 Zaxby’s Toyota.
The team will make their return to the Nationwide Series for the first time since the mid-1980′s with Townley at Bristol in March in the No. 25 Toyota. Townley will also be behind the wheel at Bristol, Charlotte and Talladega with the hopes of running seven-eight more races. The signing of Townley should be a surprise to many consider the amount of struggles which he’s endured in NASCAR competition over the past few season. The Georgia native has only racked up two top-10 finishes in NASCAR over the course of his 71 races between the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series since 2008. However, Venturini Motorsports appears to be convinced that they’ll help Townley develop his skills and make him a contender in the ARCA Series which will help his full-time efforts in NASCAR.
“He ran Kansas with us last year and we didn’t get the finish that we wanted, but he qualified second and led a portion of that race. We see a lot of potential with John Wes and he’s grown up a ton over the past year. Honestly, the person he is now, you can’t even compare it to what he was at Childress and stuff like that,” Venturini said. “We expect him to be very competitive in the Nationwide Series.”
Townley’s history include a DUI last January, which evidently got him suspended from the Camping World Truck Series race where he had a ride with RAB Racing. However, Townley used that experience as a way to better himself on and off the track. Venturini Motorsports has his back. They have faith in the young driver as they hope to compete well in the Nationwide and ARCA Series as they feel like the team will be in contention at each race they enter in 2013.
“We’re trying to build a Nationwide program that will hopefully build to a full-time program in 2014. I’m not sure that’s going to happen, but we’re gonna try to make that happen,” Venturini said.
Venturini stated that the team’s goal is to run in the top-15 for the Nationwide races when they enter and he also said that they need Duno to qualify better in order to be in contention for wins.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.