Perry Patino was perhaps the biggest surprise story following qualifying for the 51st Annual Snowball Derby last December. The Pro Late Model stalwart qualified 16th for the Snowball Derby in the Bobby and Roger Reuse-owned No. 89 in what was just his second-ever Super Late Model start. Despite not earning the finish he wanted to in the 300-lap race, he turned many heads in the short track racing world and gave himself a boost of confidence heading into the 2019 season.
This Friday, Patino will head back to Five Flags Speedway for the first time since the Snowball Derby. He’ll be competing in the opening round of the Allen Turner Pro Late Model Series, a four-race series which has big implications on the Snowflake 100 later in the year.
“I’m feeling pretty good. We haven’t had any luck this year; we’ve had lots of speed but absolutely nothing to show for it,” Patino told Speed51.com. “We got David Reyes as a new crew chief and I think we’ll be really good. We’re all really excited. We’ve been working with Augie Grill a lot. We’re excited to see what we have Friday night, I think we’ll have a really good car.”
After pulling double-duty in the Pro Late Model and Super Late Model during Snowball Derby week, Patino said he learned quite a bit that he can apply to future races. He said the biggest thing he learned about the setup of his car was stagger.
“We fought a car that was so ill-handling. We had a decent Super and an okay Pro car, it would’ve been really good but we just fought tire issues and stuff like that,” he explained. “We really didn’t know what to do with stagger. The biggest thing right now is to make sure the car has stagger. It doesn’t really matter what you do to the front, if it doesn’t have any stagger it isn’t going to be any good.”
The Allen Turner Pro Late Model series brings some of the stiffest competition anywhere in America. With some of the nation’s best drivers competing on any given night, being able to run well is a win in itself for Patino and his team.
“Guys like Casey (Roderick), Augie (Grill), Bubba (Pollard), and (Jeff) Choquette, the best guys in the country run down there,” Patino said. “It feels like a Southern Super Series win if you do win it. The couple times we have run second up there, it felt like a win. It’s so hard to run against those guys and they do it every day as a full-time job. You got Anthony Campi and all those guys that have so much money and technology in these cars, it’s so hard to run against these guys and when you do, it feels really good.”
Patino plans to apply what he learned from the Snowball Derby to Friday night’s Allen Turner Pro Late Model season opener at Five Flags Speedway. When asked about what it will take to pull into victory lane, he said it will take beating the hottest Late Model team in the country.
“Beating the Anthony Campi car, honestly,” he admitted. “I wish we were in the position where we could go and test for a couple days to get really good. The next Pensacola race, we’re going to do that. Right now, I think it’s going to be drive off and just having a good, consistent car during the long run. It seems like with the new rules, it’s kind of a hit or miss. You’re either a zero or a hero, so right now being super consistent with tires and having a ton of drive off.”
Race fans can watch the opening round of the Allen Turner Pro Late Models Friday night via a live video stream on the Speed51 Network. To purchase your monthly or yearly subscription today, click here.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI)
-Photo credit: Speed51.com