A familiar face kicked off the 2017 Sunshine State Challenge Series season in Victory Lane Sunday afternoon at Auburndale Speedway (FL). 2016 Sunoco Challenge Series champion Jesse Dutilly, a winner of 10 Super Late Model races one year ago, kept up his winning ways despite a major mishap in qualifying earlier in the day.
“We led the whole race, the car was really good, I got to thank FLF Racecars and Progressive Race Engines,” Dutilly told Speed51.com. “We made a mistake in qualifying, they had some issues with the lap timer and we ran extra laps and I didn’t know what lap we were on. But it was a good way to start the year.”
In 2016, the Sunoco Challenge Series contested Super Late Model races at Auburndale and Desoto Speedway (FL). For 2017, the series and cars will compete under the new Sunshine State Challenge Series, which will have championships for seven other divisions of racing and adds the re-opened 4-17 Southern Speedway to the mix.
“It looks like the competition has really stepped up, there’s new faces and new cars, good cars,” he said. “I think it’s going to be stiff across the board. The series is attracting more quality cars and they all seem to be in it for the season, so we should have some really good races this year.”
Dutilly and his team believe they are ready for the challenge. After working since the end of October, he thinks that the No. 30 team is ready to take on all challengers.
“We did a lot of homework over the Winter, the competition is working hard,” he said. “I thought we had worked on some of our weak points and the car was better in those places than it had been in the past. We’ve hit on a couple of things and I’m excited to see how the next couple of races go.”
The next stop for the Super Late Models is 4-17 Southern Speedway in Punta Gorda on January 21. It’s a track that Dutilly, like everyone else , has not raced on in a while, but he does still have some fond memories.
“I raced there in 2009 in a Mini Stock and we won every race that year except two where I ran second,” he explained. “But it’s about the only time I’ve ever run there except for seven or eight other races. I’ve always liked that track. I’m excited they’re opening it back up and I’m excited to get down there to see how it goes. I think the track fits our setup package well.”
After such a dominating performance to open the season, Dutilly feels that while he has a car and crew that can win another championship, it will all come down to how he handles himself on the race track.
“We need to stay out of trouble and have a little luck on our side. We’ll see what happens. We’re going for it; we’re running all 12 of the races. If we can keep our nose clean we have a shot at it.”
-Story by Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Sunshine State Challenge Series Diamond 100 Unofficial Top 10
Auburndale Speedway – January 8, 2017
1 - Jesse Dutilly #30
2 - Dylan Bigley #128
3 - Jon Guy #42
4 - Anthony Sergi #20
5 - Joe Boyd #5
6 - Bubba Pollard #26
7 - David Green #12D
8 - Michael Atwell #51
9 - Becca Monopoli #59X
10 - Matt McCrary #54