With the Alabama 200 now kicking off the racing season at Montgomery Motor Speedway (AL) and serving as the first major standalone Pro Late Model event of 2019, it should come as no surprise that the home guard from The Yellowhammer State is eager to defend their home turf.
Hometown boy Perry Patino of Montgomery, Alabama is especially eager for a good showing this Saturday, March 2 after three seasons of consistency in the track’s Show Me the Money Series for Pro Late Models.
While Patino feels confident heading into the new season with his No. 51 Pro Late Model, he knows that there is a lot of work facing himself and the Grand American Race Cars (GARC) camp. In a class of racing where engines are more or less the same, it comes down to chassis construction and race car setup to give the driver the edge he or she needs.
“We feel pretty good, but I guess I could go either way,” Patino told Speed51.com. “There was a lot of success at the beginning of last season, it went really well. Then, there was this boom for Senneker and Fury cars where they were taking off, setting faster times at all these tracks. So, we got together with some guys and started with this new setup, I think it’s going to be fast as anything out there, but we may need a few races to get it really dialed in.”
As for his thoughts about starting the year with the “Hunt for the Bear” Alabama 200, he’s excited about having a big race early on in the season.
“I think it’s awesome, one of the best decisions Stan Narrison has ever made since we got him as the GM at Montgomery,” Patino commented. “We have seen insane amounts of cars come out to race, I think we averaged 15 to 20, and the bigger races we had over 30. The entry list for this race is huge, you’ve got Bubba Pollard, Augie Grill, Casey Roderick, Willie Allen, a bunch of really big guys. Racing them, that’s how you see where you are.”
It is a perfect opportunity for Patino to test the experience he has gained and hopefully turn around the misfortune he has incurred in this legendary race.
“The first Alabama 200 we ran, I was up in second and blew a right-front (tire) and the second a wire burned up so we couldn’t finish,” Patino explained. “Long races for me aren’t too much of a big deal, I think they’re a lot more fun because it’s not just what you have to start. You get to come in at whatever mark they set for this year and make a change.
“It’s about the team, it feels like a big NASCAR race which cool, it’s challenging too. We don’t get too much strategy in 100-lap Pro races, you tend to lean on guys like Augie, and he gives us tips which works to our favor. We got a bit of an advantage over the guys that normally run at Montgomery.”
Staying optimistic, Patino feels that if the new setup falls into place after Friday’s practice session, he can go “bear hunting” on Saturday.
“If we can get the setup dialed in, I think we can go for the win, especially with it being my home track. We’ll see how Friday practice goes with Augie and I, then go into Saturday. I wouldn’t underestimate our team at all.”
But he’s also staying realistic, knowing that this new setup is meant for a season run, which he hopes means wins down the line along with a shot at the Show Me the Money Series title.
“Honestly, as far as the setup we are still in a building stage and we’re not expecting to blow everybody’s doors off. Even Bubba went through that time before his cars got really good. Even a top five or top ten would be good for us and we can build on it going into the season with a little testing, and go for the championship.”
Those unable to make the trip to Montgomery this Saturday can watch the race with a monthly or yearly subscription to the Speed51 Network. If you’re not already subscribed, click here to sign up today.
Fans can get all the info they need for the 55th Annual Alabama 200 by visiting www.montgomerymotorspeedway.org/.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com