Connor Okrzesik became the latest driver to score a first premier Super Late Model win at CRA SpeedFest one year ago in spectacular fashion, outdueling reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch on the final restart for the biggest win of his career. One year later, the Grand Bay, Alabama native returns to Crisp Motorsports Park looking to become the first driver to win SpeedFest two years in a row since Chase Elliott did so in 2014-2015.
Okrzesik also went on to win another Super Late Model race at the Georgia track later in the year, doing so in the Southern Super Series race and beating Super Late Model ace Bubba Pollard in the process. It was the SpeedFest win that jumpstarted his 2019 season.
“It definitely got my name out there beating Busch and Burton, that was a big win for us. I had a lot of people congratulating me and a lot of stuff go on that next week,” Okrzesik told Speed51’s “The Bullring” on Monday. “With confidence, it really did boost it. We almost won that next race at Five Flags but we got caught up in a late-race incident with ten laps to go. It just left a lot of confidence as well.”
While Okrzesik has visited victory lane on two occasions and is vying for another trip there, there is one location he does not want to see. The absence of a backstretch wall has claimed multiple drivers over the years, often sending cars into the watermelon patch behind turn three.
“I haven’t seen it yet; I really don’t want to see it. I really want to avoid it,” he joked. “When I first practice. the first five laps, I’m careful not to run off the track and into it. Once it gets into the race I’m worried about going to the front. If it happens, it happens, it’s just part of racing.
“It’s crazy, if you run just a foot wide you’re off in the dirt. You just have to be really, really careful going down through there,” he added. “You just have to run as hard as you can and just pay attention, really. Just make sure you don’t dip off the back.”
Last season saw Okrzesik branch out farther than he had in the past, which included a trip to the Canadian Short Track Nationals and two ARCA Menards Series races, while also finishing a career-best second in the Southern Super Series championship standings.
Okrzesik says more ARCA races are in the works for 2020, with a possible ARCA Menards Series East championship run to go along with a potential Southern Super Series championship attempt.
“We wanted to do a couple more Late Model races. We are going to run some ARCA races this year and we couldn’t get anything for a Truck race, so we’re not going to run any Truck races. It’s just going to be ARCA and Late Model. We just want to run some Late Model races.”
It all starts this weekend at CRA SpeedFest, the site of his breakthrough win. He is as confident as ever as he looks to double up.
“It feels good because it means we had a good car. I think we’re going to have just as good of a car and hopefully we can make it two in a row, go back-to-back.”
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-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51.com