Qualifying Day at Montgomery Motor Speedway alleviated the pressure to perform for one team that found themselves at the top of the speed charts for the 53rd Annual Alabama 200.
Bobby Knox, Jr. came into the weekend confident in his machine, despite 20 other drivers all vying for the top position in time trials. Knox’s inkling turned into a reassuring reality as the scoreboard lights reflected the evening’s fastest time of 19.228 seconds for the black No. 30.
“I knew we had a pretty good car,” Knox told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We came out here and tested a few weeks ago and I really felt we could get it done.”
The Alabama native gave credit to his crew who worked diligently during practice to make the necessary setup adjustments. The relief that followed qualifying was inevitable for Knox, who noted how rough the year has been up until that moment.
“It’s definitely a lot of pressure off of us,” Knox said of his success in qualifying. “It’s been a tough year and we’ve been working really hard these past couple weeks. We’ve gone through a bunch of shocks and set-ups. It’s great to have a solid car for tomorrow.”
The alleviation will be short-lived for Knox, however, who now faces the unpredictability of 200 heated laps around the half-mile oval.
“It’s good to come out of here tonight on top, but we’ve just got to be ready for tomorrow,” Knox said. “Two-hundred laps is such a long distance to go here. You just never know what’s going to happen.”
Casey Roderick missed the fast-qualifier mark by 11 thousandths of a second. Roderick didn’t offer much concern, his team already focused on Sunday afternoon’s bigger picture.
“I thought we had a really good lap, we just barely got beat there by [Bobby Knox Jr.],” Roderick said. “We’ve got a really good race car, I’ve been happy with it in practice and it handled well in qualifying. Knox had a little bit more, but I’m really confident in how it’s going to perform in the race, so that’s all that matters.”
Many factors will carry influence in the event’s outcome, but Saturday’s unusually cool weather had drivers like Roderick wondering just how much of a part the shift in degrees will play.
“This is probably the first time I’ve ever been to at Montgomery where there was a nice breeze and it was somewhat cool out,” Roderick teased. “It wasn’t miserably hot. I’ll be curious to see how the car reacts to that during the race.”
Counteracting any of Mother Nature effects, Ronnie Sanders Racing will be implementing strategy that revolves around scheduled cautions. The team’s tactics have already proven successful this season, coming into the Alabama 200 with fourteen Late Model wins this season.
“Our guys are going to try and play some strategy with how the competition yellows fall,” Roderick said. “It’s definitely going to be interesting. “Hopefully we can put on a good show for the fans.”
Unlike Roderick and Grill, Chris Dilbeck came into qualifying with a bout of uncertainty. Dilbeck admitted he’s been a stranger to the speedway, attempting to brush off over a decade’s worth of Montgomery dust in one weekend.
“I haven’t been here in thirteen years,” Dilbeck began. “We really didn’t even have a chance to mock up, to have a confident run on sticker tires. It’s refreshing to know we’ve got speed in the car and we can compete with Casey and Augie and all these other guys.”
Dilbeck agrees that despite running competitive times in qualifying, the name of the game will be hanging on for the entirety of the race.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” Dilbeck said. “Having that much speed in the car, all we have to worry about is making it to the end. I think after 200 laps, we’ll be there.”
Augie Grill, who qualified on the pole for the Modifieds of Mayhem feature and Christopher Tullis, who was fastest in the final round of Pro Late Model practice, rounded out the top five.
Trackside Now coverage of the 53rd Annual Alabama 200 will begin at 1:00 p.m. CT on Speed51.com.
-By: Melissa Strahley, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
Alabama 200 Qualifying Results
Montgomery Motor Speedway (AL) – September 9, 2017
|1||30||Bobby Knox Jr.||19.228|