Practice at Crisp Motorsports Park for CRA SpeedFest is usually very eventful. In 2016 about three cars went off track and into the watermelon patch that sits behind turns three and four. Friday’s practice for this year’s CRA SpeedFest was a bit calmer, however, as just one car ran off track. A calmer practice meant mostly happy drivers and crews, except for one team.
Zane Smith was the lone car that made an off-track excursion on Friday evening. Smith went off track on his final run of the day. His final run was meant to be a mock-qualifying run, but Smith never made it around to start his run.
“I guess the temperatures dropped a lot,” Smith said. “I went into three and four and I just did what I usually do where I crank the wheel and let it run up the race track. It’s just like it wouldn’t turn at all and then it went right up over the hill. We caught that wet grass and then there’s no slowing it down.”
Fortunately for Smith, his car didn’t make it to the creek as the patch has come to known as thanks to the new addition of a tire barrier a few feet ahead of the famous creek.
“Thankfully they put tires out there or I would have ended up in that (creek),” said Smith. “If those weren’t there we definitely would have ended up in it and that would have been a huge mess.”
Smith's Fury Race Cars teammate, Snowball Derby champion Christian Eckes, had a frustrating Friday as well. Eckes didn't find the creek, but he did have to bring out a backup car. While his primary car, known as "Ole Henry" didn't have a scratch on it, Eckes said they just weren't happy with how it was performing.
"We just want to try the other car and see if it might be better," said Eckes. "This is the car that won us the Snowball Derby, but it just does not like this race track. It's been too tight all day long. We'll see what the other car has and then compare."
Chris Dilbeck, a former track champion at Crisp Motorsports Park, said that he appreciates the fact that there’s now a barrier there, but he said it’s something he’s not focusing on too much as the weekend goes on.
“Honestly, I try to focus as little as I can on the outside of the race track,” explained Dilbeck. “I don’t want that to be a place that I begin focusing on and then end up in. But I think that the changes that this race track have made are all great. Mr. Lyles has done a great job making this place more competitor friendly and fan friendly. The updates that he’s made to the creek as everybody likes to call it is a good thing for a lot of these racers.”
What Dilbeck has decided to place his focus on is being fast, and that’s something he accomplished on Friday. Dilbeck was near the top of the board for much of Friday in both the Super Late Model and the Pro Late Model. Dilbeck said he expected to be fast in the Pro car, but his speed in the Super surprised him a little bit.
“We had a good day today,” Dilbeck said. “I was surprised with the Super. That’s the first time I’d ever run a Fat Head Racing car for Jamie Yelton. I’m just really happy with it and I think we’ll be really good. Now if the driver can hold up his part of the deal then we should be able to be top five in qualifying.”
At the end of the day it was Chandler Smith at the top of the board in Pro Late Model practice with a fast lap of 16.110 seconds.
Meanwhile in Super Late Model practice it was Harrison Burton with the fastest overall time of 15.729 seconds. Burton led all but one of the five Super Late Model practice sessions on Friday afternoon.
“It was a really good start,” said Burton. “This is our first event with Fury Race Cars. We just need to keep improving. Sometimes it’s really easy when you’re that fast to lay back and end early, but you’ve always got to find ways to get better because someone else is out there trying to be faster than we are.”
The only driver that went faster than Burton at any point on Friday was Brandon Setzer. Setzer led the way in the final round of practice on Friday evening.
“That was awesome,” said Setzer. “I was glad to be at the top of the board. We were second to Burton a few times throughout the day. We just played it like everybody else. We were all just chasing Burton. But we kept changing things, man. We changed three things every practice. We just kept getting better. Everything tries seemed like it helped. Usually if one thing out of 10 that you try helps then you’ve had a great day. So I’m really car with our car right now. I’m really excited about this weekend.”
For an on-demand replay of Friday’s Trackside Now coverage presented by PFC Brakes and JRI Shocks, click here.
Speed51.com will have more from Friday’s practice day on the Speed51 Network. To subscribe to the Speed51 Network, click here.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Heath Lawson Photo
ARCA/CRA Super Series
Crisp Motorsports Park, Cordele, Georgia
SpeedFest 200 Overall Practice Results
|14||01||Derek Scott Jr.||15.987|
JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour
Crips Motorsports Park, Cordele, Georgia
SpeedFest 125 Overall Practice Results
|10||20||Jack Dossey III||16.292|
|14||12||Joe Graf Jr.||16.348|
|29||30K||Bobby Knox Jr.||N/A|