The latest hot topic in Southeast Super Late Model racing is about to come to a head this Friday night on the Florida Panhandle at Five Flags Speedway as heat race qualifying makes its debut in the appropriately named Mid-Summer Sizzler. In the midst of this, the Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco will go green for round seven of 2019, while also deciding the third of four races in the Deep South Cranes Blizzard Series.
The announcement of 10-lap heat races is one of a couple of changes being tested out this week, including an elimination of practice and testing prior to race day practice, as well as the pre-race impounding of race cars, with teams being free to make adjustments prior to staging. Finally, a reduced feature race distance of 75 laps, down from the usual 125 laps in past Blizzard Series mid-season races.
Not surprisingly, this single-event change in format has created a buzz of conversation from fans all the way to the drivers, while also stoking a varied mix of emotions.
One driver eager to take on this experimental format is 15-year-old rookie sensation Giovanni Bromante. Despite leading the Blizzard Series points by eight markers over Lucas Jones, and trailing Casey Roderick by only two points in the Southern Super Series, the Long Island native is still fresh to the SLM world, being ready for any new challenge.
“I’m really looking forward to it, I’ve never done heat races in a Late Model before. But, I’m sure it’ll be a lot of fun. It’s something new that Tim Bryant has done to spice things up,” Bromante told Speed51. "Hopefully it has something good in store for us, we haven’t done well the past few races because of some racing incidents. The heat races give you some points, so it’s opportunity to gain some ground in the points race too.”
While some rookie drivers may shutter at the thought of less practice time, Bromante is barely batting an eye at the reduction. Citing confidence in Anthony Campi Racing following early season wins at both South Alabama Speedway in the Rattler 250, as well as the Blizzard Series opener at Five Flags, he feels as ready as ever to go after that third win.
“It’s fine for us, Anthony has the car figured out. We’re going to be bringing back the Lefthander back because we can’t get the Fury back together quick enough. But it’s not a problem, we did pretty good in the Lefthander last time there. The shorter race is going to help our cause, because you don’t have as much tire wear. It’ll be good to make adjustments after the heats, because you can really get your car dialed in for the feature.”
Finally, Bromante sees the Sizzler as a chance to break the aforementioned mid-season bad luck, and hopefully set himself and ACR on the path towards the two titles and a shot at a Snowball Derby win in December.
“It’s been tough with the incidents we had at Bristol and Montgomery, but it’s all good, and we move on. We’ll do the best we can, we know we can win in Pensacola, and we give it all we can.”
With confidence also comes caution for a number of other drivers, including third-year SSS young gun Connor Okrzesik. Despite a bit of concern around him about the addition of heat races, the Alabama driver is withholding his final judgement until the checkered flag falls at night’s end on Friday.
“I’m not sure yet, I think a lot of the drivers and everyone on our pit crew have really, really mixed opinions on the heat races. There’s a few that I know have liked it and there’s quite a few that don’t like it. I don’t have an opinion at the moment, I’m just going to see how it rolls,” Okrzesik said. “Never done it in a Super Late Model, with a field this stacked it’s going to be something to watch, I hope.”
On the other hand, Okrzesik is very much in favor of the reduced practice time and the opportunity for pre-race adjustments. It’s just the thing that many teams, especially small-budget squads such as his own, have been calling for over the past number of years.
“I think everyone likes the one-day format; it keeps the racers from having to buy extra sets of tires to practice. So many of these guys have so many laps here anyways. The adjustments between the heat races and the feature is going to very interesting, you can actually make changes and you won’t be stuck with what you have if you miss it after practice. It’s going to be interesting, we’re just going to have to figure out how that plays out.”
Coming off a runner-up at Montgomery Motor Speedway earlier in July, the 2019 CRA SpeedFest Super Late Model winner believes that he has a car that can help add a Five Flags trophy to the shelf this week if they can get this format down right away.
“We got a really good shot at it. We tried something new at the last race at Five Flags, and we ended up with a fifth place with a car that we weren’t all that happy with. I think once we’re back on our normal stuff, we’re going to be good to go.”
Post time for the Mid-Summer Sizzler is 8 p.m. CT / 9 p.m. ET. Race fans from coast to coast and beyond can see all of the Southern Super Series/Blizzard Series action from Five Flags Speedway, including the heat races, live on Speed51's Summer Thunder TV with a premium subscription to the Speed51 Network. Not a member? Click here to join today.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com