Super Late Model drivers practicing for the Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) on Friday describe their experience with one word: fast.
A total of 40 drivers made their way around the high-banks of Bristol throughout the day’s three practice sessions. At the end of the day, it was 14-year-old Chandler Smith setting the overall fast time with a 14.457 second lap at an average of 132.725 miles per hour.
“We’ve been on old tires all day. We had like 70-lap old tires all day. We just now put on some stickers, mocked up and put two-tenths on second place,” Smith told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I feel like we have a good piece for this weekend.”
Having a chance to race at a historic racing facility at such a young age isn’t something that Smith takes for granted. But, he admitted that getting comfortable on the track was not something that happened quickly.
“It’s amazing; it’s a dream come true,” he stated. “Last test session we came here, the first time we went out I came back in and couldn’t even move my back due to all the g-force. I’ve gotten a lot more used to it and I’m pretty comfortable with the race track. I’m ready to go racing.”
Another driver who displayed a lot of speed during his “half-mock qualifying run” was last year’s Winchester 400 winner Travis Braden. He set the fastest time in the second Super Late Model practice.
“It’s getting better obviously. It’s pretty good,” Braden commented. “We were on our tires from the test session a week ago and we really didn’t have enough stagger with those tires, so we were waiting to put on the new set. We put on the new set and did like a halfway mock qualifying run. It felt a lot better, it wasn’t as tight as we’ve been feeling. That’s our biggest concern all weekend is how tight we’ve been, so we’ve been working on freeing it up and getting it closer.”
The fastest driver in Thunder Valley to kick off Friday’s practice day was Fat Head Racing driver Trevor Noles. He set fast time during the opening round of practice to kick off the day.
“Car feels great. It’s really adapted well to Bristol off the truck,” Noles said. “I feel like we’ve made gains on it all weekend since the test last weekend. We’ve put a lot of effort into this race car. I’m just looking forward to the race and looking forward to a good weekend with Wauters Motorsports.
“This kind of a car is really good. I haven’t been in a car like this yet.”
One driver who didn’t show a lot of speed on the speed chart, Quebec native and 2016 CARS Tour Super Late Model champion Raphael Lessard, was very happy with his car at the end of the day.
“The car is really good. We didn’t put on new tires today. The car, I don’t even know what to say to my crew. The last run we did was really good for new tires,” Lessard said. “We changed the front shock to try something to make it better, but it was way worse.
“It’s going to be 100 laps and it’s going to be really fast. I can’t wait to see that. I love the track. This track is one of my favorites now and I can’t wait to see how it looks in traffic and how it plays out.”
Super Late Models will have a pair of practice session Saturday morning before group qualifying begins at 3:30 p.m. ET. They will later run a pair of qualifying races to help set the field for Sunday’s 100-lap main event.
Race fans can watch all of the action beginning at 3:30 p.m. with a live pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51.com.
On-demand coverage of Friday’s practice day can be found by visiting Speed51.com’s Trackside Now presented by AP Racing Brakes and Racecar Engineering.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos