After taking a gamble with last year's Winter Showdown, SRL promoters Brian Olsen and Larry Collins are starting to see the rewards as a huge field between two divisions turned out to Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, California for practice and inspection leading up to Sunday's 250-lap, $30,000 to win race.
48 Super Late Models and 25 Lucas Oil Modifieds took time Friday. Lucas Oil Modified practice was untimed, but observers pointed at defending series champ Austin Barnes' #51 as the car that everyone will try to beat. Only defending event winner Dylan Cappello, who will have to work overnight to replace the head gasket on his number-11 car, ran into notable trouble in that division.
On the Super Late Model side, Derek Thorn, Bubba Pollard, Preston Peltier and the entire fleet of NTS Motorsports cars consistently stayed at the top of the speed chart.
Defending champion Bubba Pollard said that his team was trying to figure out where to go with their setup. Although not fastest, overall he feels their car has been better on longer runs than others, with lap times not falling off very much. If Pollard wins, he will rack up a $40,000 paycheck with the addition of the Coors Light / Speed51.com Bonus.
Preston Peltier, also eligible for the Bonus cash, ended the evening early after a flywheel broke out of transmission. They will get the bell housing and parts out of their backup and make the repairs. Despite this, Peltier is happy with the way things are at after virtually changing everything to get to where they are at on the charts.
Donnie Wilson and crew adjusted on their car all evening. Nothing major was wrong with the machine, but they were trying to get used to the track. The team told Speed51.com powered by JEGS that the balance from the fall-off on the right side tires, which are harder than Wilson and team usually run out east.
As for the three-car effort of NTS Motorsports - featuring Blaine Rocha, Christian McGhee, and Parker Stephens – all took time near the top of the charts. McGhee remarked that it's a night and day difference between this car and his family team car he ran here a year ago. Meanwhile, Stephens is poised for a breakout year after moving to Bakersfield to more closely align himself with NTS. (You can read a full story about Parker posted earlier today on Speed51 here)
One other note of interest from Friday came from identifying some of the famous crew chiefs who have come to town with some new drivers. Legendary Freddie Query is here to help out Garrett Evans. Butch Miller, meanwhile, is teaming up with NASCAR K&N West champion Chris Eggleston's new Late Model effort.
Practice for the Winter Showdown Open begins tomorrow at 10:00 AM PST. Speed51.com will have live Trackside Now coverage beginning at that time. Speed51.com's live single-camera, pay-per-view video broadcast will begin with Lucas Oil Modified qualifying at 3:30. You can purchase your virtual ticket here. MAVTV will have a full broadcast of both series at a later date. Please check your TV listings for air dates and times.
-- Story by Tim Quievryn & Aaron Creed, Speed51.com
-- Photos by Tim Quievryn, Speed51.com