A pair of defending World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing champions experienced contrasting days at New Smyrna Speedway on Thursday afternoon.
Ryan Preece, the defending Tour-Type Modified champion, spent all three rounds of practice at the top of the speed chart. Meanwhile, Zane Smith – the defending Super Late Model champion – set fast time in the second practice before suffering a blown engine, which cut his day short.
Preece, debuting a brand new race car owned by Eddie Partridge, picked up right where we left off one year ago. The 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion from Berlin, Connecticut turned in a fast lap of 17.291 during the second practice session of the day.
At the end of the day, Preece was thrilled with the handling of the new car and glad to be back in a race car at New Smyrna.
“We have just been messing around with it and progressively getting better with it,” Preece told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “It’s a new car and it’s pretty similar to what we had last year. It feels really good and I’m really happy with it. I love New Smyrna and I love racing. I’m just happy to be down here in February.”
Despite being the fastest car all day long, Preece’s closest competition in Chuck Hossfeld and Jimmy Zacharias weren’t too far behind. Preece said that he’s looking forward to battling with the rest of the field and hopes to win one, two or all of the races next week.
“Last year we were never really the fastest car in practice,” said Preece. “Chuckie (Hossfeld) was always really good, but night time was always when this car really shined. We have a little bit of experience and notes from last year. I’m sure Chuckie is going to be fast. I want to win a race, I’d like to win all of the races. I’m here to have fun. I love Modifieds and this is going to be fun.”
On the other side of the spectrum on Thursday was Zane Smith. After making his first run during the second practice session of the day, the defending SLM champ went back into the pits with his name first on the speed chart. The Crooks Racing team made adjustments on the car and after a few laps back on the track, the engine under the hood of the No. 77 expired.
As of Thursday night at 5 p.m. the team was continuing to swap engines and Smith said that he wasn’t concerned at all heading into Friday’s opener.
“When we went back out, I think it was lap three, an exhaust valve blew up,” Smith explained. “The engine we’re putting in is just as good, if not a little bit better. I’m not worried at all; I might be worried if the car wasn’t handling well, but the thing has handled perfect so I’m not worried about it at all. I have to thank all of my guys for getting this back together and I’m excited for tomorrow.”
One thing different for Smith this time around at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing is that he isn’t entering the event as a relatively unknown. Since his championship effort one year ago, the California kid has turned in a number of strong runs in big Super Late Model events.
Despite the success and different circumstances going into Friday, Smith doesn’t plan to approach it any differently this time around.
“We have eight nights of racing, I’ve just got to play it smooth. I’m not even going to think about that championship deal; I’m going to go in and go for wins. Hopefully like last year that championship deal will play out by itself.”
On-demand coverage of Thursday's Practice Day can be seen by visiting Speed51.com's Trackside Now coverage presented by JRi Shocks, LFR Chassis and RaceDay Safety.
Speed51.com will power NASCAR Home Tracks Race Central Live coverage beginning on Friday night. 51 will also produce the live online broadcast on FansChoice.TV.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com