It had been 11 years since Justin Drawdy competed in pavement Late Model racing before he climbed behind the wheel of the Lee Faulk Racing and Development No. 12 Pro Late Model at New Smyrna Speedway.
A former Blizzard Series and Red Eye 100 winner, Drawdy had been sidelined from racing due to the impacts of an automobile accident in 2009. The hiatus ended this week as Drawdy returned to action at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
Thus far, Drawdy has enjoyed being back in the cockpit, with his family along for the ride.
“It’s been a good time,” Drawdy told Speed51. “I’ve had a lot of fun, brought some family here for the whole week. I’ve been enjoying it.”
Drawdy has been no slouch on the racetrack this week either, with a pair of top-10 finishes in the first three nights of Pro Late Model racing for the World Series. Still as competitive as ever, Drawdy is still hungry for more speed while sitting sixth in the Pro Late Model points.
“I wish I could qualify it better. The car has been good in the race. I just have to get it qualified up front. It’s so hard to pass here.”
A lot has changed in the racing world since it last saw Drawdy. One of the first changes he had to make was his driving style around New Smyrna Speedway.
“Coming back after an 11-year layoff and learning to drive the track was tough,” said Drawdy. “It wasn’t like this when I stopped racing. The grooves were completely different.”
The competition has also changed. Perhaps most notably, there are many more younger faces on the track with Drawdy.
“Coming back here with a lot of these young guys, I’m 43 now and competing against 15, 14-year-old kids. It’s a little bit tough.”
The cars themselves have changed considerably as well, thanks to technological advances and the evolution of competition over the past decade. Drawdy has found that even the smallest details make a huge difference in today’s Late Model racing.
“The cars are really finicky any little detail. You can change something so small. When we used to race, we were putting eighth-inch, quarter-inch shims and stuff there. Now we’re down to 32ths. It’s completely different, and you can feel every little change.
They drive good. They drive a lot better. You don’t have to hustle them like you used to. It’s definitely changed. It was a steep learning curve really quick.”
One of the biggest keys for Drawdy finding speed in his return has been working with Lee Faulk Racing and Development. Drawdy credits crew chief Michael Faulk, a fellow racer in his own right, for aiding in the transition.
“I hadn’t worked with these guys before, but the team is unbelievable at Lee Faulk Racing. Michael Faulk is my crew chief this weekend. He’s been awesome, just because he’s been in the car and he knows what he’s doing. The little bit of information I can give back to him, he can communicate. It helps when I’ve been out of the car so long.”
With the second half of the week on the horizon, Drawdy hopes the team can find that elusive qualifying speed and compete for top-five finishes and wins.
“I hope to put it up in the top five. After we got done testing, I expected to win a race. I’m a little bit down right now since we haven’t had the results I think the car deserves. We’ve just got to get the car qualified good, somewhere in the top six so we’re in the draw.
“In the race, we’ve been running the same times as the leaders. I think we can compete if we can get it qualified.”
Fans can follow Speed51’s on-location coverage presented by BMR Drivers Academy throughout the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. Live updates are available on Race Day Now by clicking here. Fans can also enjoy all of Speed51.TV’s on-demand video content from the World Series with a free seven-day trial by clicking here.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo / Will Bellamy