Chilly Willy weekend 2018 opened Thursday with a great show of numbers from the Super Late Model field who will go for $10,000 on Saturday. But with what was shown Thursday, fans might’ve thought that there was $10,000 up for grabs right from the get go.
Following time trials Thursday at Tucson Speedway (AZ), the 41 qualifiers were divided up into two 50-lap open shows having no bearing on the Chilly Willy 150 itself; just $1,200, a trophy, and a chance at some NASCAR National points for the winner.
A major theme of the day was late arrivals, with teams loading in throughout the afternoon, with some cutting it close for qualifying, and in the case of the Vanderwal family, missing qualifying thanks to multiple tire blowouts on the hauler.
Noah Gragson also had a long day as well, waking up at 4:30am ET to do media commitments for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, then hopping cross-country to jump into the No. 8G Super Late Model 10 minutes before qualifying, after the car had been put through its paces by Dustin Ash, who served as Gragson’s spotter the rest of the night.
From there, Gragson’s love of Late Model racing took over, qualifying second overall in time trials, leading all the laps in the first 50-lap feature and winning against a hard charging Sean Bray. While the determination was all there, Gragson was glad he didn’t have to wait until the second race.
“I toughed it out, I’m tired coming from the east coast this morning, waking up early. But I’d do anything to race these Super Late Models here at Tucson Speedway, this is one of my favorite tracks for short track racing. It’s such an awesome event, what Tucson is doing. I’m thankful to be out here, be with my friends from Las Vegas, it’s good to see them. Just trying to have some fun,” Gragson told Speed51.com.
The personal significance of the day was on full display postrace with Gragson climbing the fence in celebration.
“To get here, not have any practice laps and put it P2 after getting here 10 minutes before qualifying, just five one-thousandths off Preston’s time is awesome. Hopefully we can carry on the momentum.”
Gragson had won the first feature running the middle line on the track, while local favorite Bray had made inside dives. With a new tire in use for the Chilly Willy this year, the night was also a great learning experience with qualifying looming Friday.
“In year’s past the bottom has been the way to go, but with the new tire this year, the Hoosier F80, it was a testament of what it was. Trying to figure out how hard you could run, this was a test session for me for Saturday.”
It was much the same story for Preston Peltier, who is making his first ever appearance at Tucson this weekend.
“We learned some things today for qualifying and learned a lot in the race, so we got some tweaks coming, it’s not going to be easy the next two days.”
Peltier was dominant on the night, setting quick-time in time trials and pacing the field in the second feature. For Peltier, it was just another night at the office.
“These guys just work really hard on this thing week in and week out. This is what I do, this is my job, this is what I get paid to do, this is how I bring home the bacon, so I should be good at it.”
Stay with Speed51.com Friday and Saturday for Trackside Now coverage of the 5th Annual Chilly Willy 150 from Tucson Speedway.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com