While most teens are soaking up the dog days of summer somewhere on a beach, Connor Okrzesik is suiting up for the eighth Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco event of the season.
The 16-year-old is traveling to Five Flags Speedway (FL) this weekend in search of his first Super Late Model career win, a feat that he nearly accomplished several weeks ago in his home state of Alabama.
“We’re getting closer and closer,” Okrzesik said of his season-best finish at Montgomery Motor Speedway (AL). “We’ve been really hungry for a win since the start of the season and I know it’s right there.”
Okrzesik finished second only to Bubba Pollard, the winningest driver in the series to date. Before Pollard’s takeover, Okrzesik had led the majority of the 125-lap feature.
Joining a handful of races that haven’t been plagued with bad luck, Okrzesik’s performance at Montgomery shows the team’s steady improvement over the summer.
“We’ve definitely made the car better since the beginning of the season,” Okrzesik said. “But we’ve also been able to stay out of trouble and that’s helped us a lot.”
Trouble began for Okrzesik back in March during the Rattler 250, where a wreck took the No. 14 out of contention early in the race.
Two similar incidents, one at Five Flags (Blizzard Series Race No. 1) and Anderson Motor Speedway in South Carolina (Border War 150), left Okrzesik with a pair of disappointing finishes.
“At Opp, we got into a wreck and in the first Five Flags race of the season we were in a wreck,” Okrzesik said. “Nashville, we didn’t get into a wreck, but we didn’t have the car quite right.”
Breaking the cycle, Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) offered some relief for Okrzesik and his team as they ended the weekend with the car in one piece.
The young gun would catch one more break before Montgomery, finishing off the second Blizzard Series race of the year just four spots short of a victory.
Now, with only four races left on the Southern Super Series circuit and a podium finish under his belt, Okrzesik is ready to take on Pollard again, though he knows it won’t be easy.
“I think we’ll be up there,” Okrzesik said. “But it’s going to be hard to beat [Pollard] because you have to be absolutely perfect.”
Combine Okrzesik’s overall progression with a crew chief like Mike Garvey— a short track veteran who’s also competed in the top-three tiers of NASCAR— and you might just have a recipe for success.
“[Garvey] has been a really big help throughout my Late Model career,” Okrzesik said. “I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am if it wasn’t for him.”
Only time will tell if Friday night will be the pivotal point in his career, but Okrzesik already knows what a win will mean to him and his crew.
“The world,” Okrzesik said. “It’s going to mean the world to me and my team.”
Pre-race festivities at Five Flags Speedway begin at 8:55 p.m. ET, with heat races scheduled to start at 9 p.m. ET.
Race fans who can’t make it out to Pensacola’s famous half-mile can watch the 125-lap event from the comfort of their own homes.
Speed51.com will be broadcasting the event live as a pay-per-view broadcast for just $14.99.
Have a yearly Speed51 Video Network subscription? Save 10 percent on pay-per-view orders. Click here for more information.
-Melissa Strahley, Gulf Coast Editor
-Photo Credit: Melissa Strahley/Speed51.com