While the likes of Jimmy Blewett, Anthony Nocella, Matt Hirschman, and the majority of the Tour-type Modified field feel confident in their cars after Wednesday practice at New Smyrna Speedway, entering the John Blewett III Memorial 76, there was a bit of a surprise in terms of speed on the charts.
Long Island driver Brad VanHouten is a part-time Modified racer who is back at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing after a decade’s absence. He topped the final practice session for the Tour Modifieds, despite not having the setup he wanted on his car.
“The car is decent, we tried some stuff that we actually didn’t like, it didn’t seem to work. So, we went back to what we had last night. We’re gaining on it, the biggest thing for me is just getting time in the seat, I don’t race that much, but the more I run the better we seem to get,” VanHouten told Speed51.
“Last time I was here was about 10 years ago in an SK Modified, ran about four or five nights. It’s been a long time, but it’s good to be back, I’m having fun.”
One of the big come back stories of Wednesday belonged to JR Bertuccio, who lost the engine in his primary car in Tuesday practice, and destroyed his back-up car in the race. Gershow Motorsports saved the engine in the back-up and got it running again in the primary car, with Bertuccio feeling good after practice.
Another comeback story on the week is 2019 Claremont Motorsports Park track champion Brian Robie, who lost his engine last Saturday at Bronson Speedway. After getting a loner engine Tuesday from fellow New Hampshire driver Mike Willis Jr. the No. 25 made its first practice laps on Wednesday.
“We got the one practice in and it actually felt pretty good for never having been here before. Time wise we were decent, probably mid-pack or whatever, but I’ll take that for never having been here, and never using this motor before. Motor is decent, it’s not a monster, but she’ll do just fine,” Said Robie.
Despite being behind the 8-ball, Robie hopes that Wednesday’s longer distance might work to a conservative strategy.
“I’m hoping it’s going to be a 76-lap race, I’d rather not have it be just a test session. That’s why I chose tonight to get out there, longer races without having all the seat time per say, you got to save the tires until the end. So I’m hoping we can make all those things work and race at the end of the race.”
The hard luck case of practice belonged to Tommy Catalano, who lost the engine in his No. 54 Modified. He will run his mother Amy’s No. 56 car Wednesday night, and will look to get a fresh motor in the 54 for Thursday.
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-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo