STATESVILLE, N.C. – After three races have been logged into the 2015 CARS Tour record book, Justin Crider has been one of the most impressive drivers competing in the new racing series. With two top-five finishes, the 18-year-old charger has moved up to fifth in points as the tour returns to Southern National Motorsports Park this weekend.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back over to Kenly (SNMP) for this weekend’s race,” Crider said of Saturday’s Don’t Tread on Me 250 Presented by MMIA on the 4/10ths-mile oval. “Our confidence level is higher than ever and we have so much momentum going for our team.”
Saturday’s race marks the first time the CARS Tour has revisited a track. The record book shows that Crider started 27th and finished 20th in the March 28 X-1R Performance Products 300 at SNMP, the inaugural event for the series.
“The statistics from that first race certainly were nothing we were proud of, but they weren’t representative of our effort that weekend,” said Crider, one of seven drivers across the nation who is part of the Kulwicki Driver Development Program. “It’s like we’re going back looking for some vindication for what happened to us there back in March.
“What a lot of folks don’t realize is that the confidence and momentum we have going now actually started in that race. The statistics will never show that we started way back in 27th and raced all the way up to eighth when the transmission broke with five laps to go. It was the first race for the new series and we came out of there with the confidence we could be competitive in racing against those guys. It might have been a little surprising being that strong there right out of the box, but I knew we had it in us.”
Crider’s competitiveness in that opening race at SNMP has led to an enjoyable situation he labels as “a progressive growth of confidence” as the racing season goes on.
“We left Kenly after the first race knowing that we could race with them and be contenders,” said Crider, who just completed his freshman year at North Carolina State University. “We went on to Orange County (for April 18 race) confident that we could run well and get us a solid top-10 finish. We qualified eighth, ran tough all night long and finished second for our best-ever late model finish.
“When we headed to Hickory, I think all the laps we had on that track — all of our racing experience there — had us poised to do well,” Crider said of the May 9 Catawba Valley 250. “It was like we were on a roll. We started eighth and finished a strong third.
“So, I guess you could say that we’re coming back to Kenly enjoying a progressive growth of confidence,” said Crider. “It’s been a situation where we’ve shown speed in spurts before, but now we’re proving that we can maintain it throughout the race. I think we’re getting more respect from the other competitors than ever, but I think we’re going about it the right way and really earning it.”
Unlike the first race there which was a 150-lap battle, CARS Tour officials have shortened the race to 125 laps in the effort to make sure all the competitors have sufficient fuel to go the distance. Crider says he understands the reason for the change and is prepared for it.
“I know why they cut the distance back, but it’ll mean we’ll have to adjust for it,” Crider said. “It was those final 25 laps where we shined during the March race, so we’re coming back with a little different game plan. Running 125 laps instead of 150 makes it a bit of a hurried-up situation. We’ve been able to learn the basics of running the new bump-stop setups. Heading back to Kenly for the second time, we think we can try some things to get better that will help us adjust to the change.
“We’ve learned how important qualifying up front is since the first race. We’ve qualified in the top 10 since then and that has been a huge basis for our success. It allows you to save your tires instead of burning them up trying to climb up through the field to get to the front.
“I owe a lot of credit to my crew chief Bob McVay for the progress we have made this season,” said Crider. “We’re not allowed to make any changes to our chassis between qualifying and the race. He’s really been on top of that and we know what we’ll have to do to be better at Kenly this time around. The major challenge is to have our car set up to have the speed we need for qualifying and still have the grip we need at the end of the race.”
So what are the “realistic expectations” for Crider, his family-owned team and the No. 7 KDDP/JDS Glass race car he calls “Rocket” at SNMP this Saturday?
“I’m coming in there expecting to qualify in the top 10 and get us another top-five finish,” said Crider. “I think those are reachable goals. I think that with a little racing luck, we can win the race or at least have a legitimate shot of winning it.”
The schedule at SNMP opens on Friday with testing for both divisions from 1:30 p.m. till 5:30 p.m. Saturday’s action sees alternating practice sessions beginning at 12:30 p.m. Qualifying is set for 4:30 p.m. and last-chance races begin at 6 p.m. The first 125-lapper is scheduled to get the green flag at 7:30 p.m. Grandstand admission for Saturday night is only $20. Youth tickets (ages 7-12) are $10 each and children 6 & under are admitted free of charge.
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-Kulwicki Driver Development Program Press Release. Photo credit: