Only 15 points separate Connor Okrzesik from Southern Super Series points leader Casey Roderick entering Saturday’s season-ending Hart to Heart 100 at New Smyrna Speedway. Okrzesik, of Grand Bay, Alabama, has enjoyed a breakout year in 2019, and he would like nothing more than to add a championship to his season accolades.
Less than a week shy of his 18th birthday, Okrzesik heads to the place where his Late Model career began several years ago. Despite that fact, he hasn’t made a start at the Florida half-mile since the Florida Governor’s Cup in 2017.
“That’s actually where I had my first Late Model race, we did a Pro Late Model race there back in like 2014 or something,” Okrzesik told Speed51.com’s The Morning Bullring. “The last time I raced there was about three years ago in the Governor’s Cup and had some mechanical issues that really hurt us, so we finished near the back of that. I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.
“I’m really excited about it,” he added. “I really want to tame that place, we’ve had bad luck there in the past and for it to be the finale, it’s really going to be exciting for us.”
Okrzesik will lean on veteran crew chief Mike Garvey as they go into the championship weekend. Okrzesik is confident he and Garvey will hit on something quick on race day, but also says there is a second option if it gets to that point.
“He knows his stuff, he knows just about everywhere and just about what to do, he’ll find something,” he said. “Bubba (Pollard) helps occasionally, he’ll help out too if we really need it. I think me and Garvey can really get the car dialed in and get it right in practice and I think we’ll be really fast for the race.”
Okrzesik is coming off the championship doubleheader at Five Flags Speedway where he was the Allen Turner Pro Late Model Series points leader going into the race, but an incident under yellow late in the race would ultimately cost him the championship. He said he has learned one thing from that incident.
“I learned that you have to use your mirrors when cars wreck because other people just don’t know how to use the brake pedal,” Okrzesik stated. “I definitely did learn stuff about that. That’s going to be a big thing moving forward, I normally don’t have to use my mirrors after the caution’s out after fifteen seconds, but I guess I’ll have to.”
With CRA Speedfest and Southern Super Series wins at Crisp Motorsports Park under his belt in 2019, he is looking to add a Southern Super Series title as well. He feels good about his chances of winning the Hart to Heart 100 Saturday night, but acknowledged it will take a little more than that to steal the championship away from Casey Roderick.
“I feel really confident that we can have a really quick car. We’re going to try to put us in position to win the race and then we’re going to need a little bit of luck,” he said. “If Casey has a bad race and we have a really good race and win the race, we’re the champions. I think we have a half-decent shot at winning if we have a really good car.”
Race fans unable to make it to New Smyrna Beach, Florida this Saturday will be able to watch a live pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51. Live video tickets can be purchased for just $19.99 by visiting www.speed51.com/harttoheart.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51photos.com