Chandler Smith has proven throughout the 2018 ARCA Racing Series campaign that he has a knack for putting down a fast lap in qualifying. On Saturday at Winchester Speedway in Indiana, Smith proved that he’s a fast qualifier behind the wheel of a Super Late Model as he claimed the pole for the 47thAnnual Winchester 400.
“We were a little loose, but I just kept digging,” said Smith with a smile.
Smith apparently learned a lesson from last year’s qualifying effort here at Winchester, which he admits was a self-made mistake that caused him to start from mid-pack.
“Last year when we qualified I kind of stepped on a little bit, so I had to work my way through the field,” explained Smith. “We started like 16th, but we still led a good bit of laps here, but it’s definitely going to be better knowing that we’re going to be leading the Winchester 400 field to the green flag.”
The Georgia teenager put down a lap of 15.229 seconds. Smith will share the front row with Harrison Burton on Sunday afternoon. Smith’s lap beat out Burton’s by six one-hundredths of a second. Burton’s fast lap was a time of 15.289 seconds.
“At this place you don’t really ever remember how your lap was because you’re going so hard,” said Burton. “It’s a place where you really have to be an animal, which is a lot of fun for us guys that race on short tracks where it’s all about finesse and then you come here and then it’s a full go at it in a Super. It’s good to qualify second because it’s such a long race and you can have so many things go right or go wrong. Starting up front definitely helps.”
Making up the second starting row for Sunday’s Winchester 400 will be New Castle, Indiana’s Dalton Armstrong rolling off third and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma’s Donnie Wilson starting fourth.
Carson Hocevar completed the top five in qualifying.
One of the favorites for the pole position entering qualifying was Raphael Lessard of Kyle Busch Motorsports. Lessard was second fastest after the first practice session and was fastest after final practice. However, Lessard will roll off from the 24thposition on Sunday afternoon.
“The right-front bump stop came off,” said Lessard. “I don’t know how that happens. We’re still fast, though. I want to get to the front as soon as possible to use the same strategy, but we’ll see what happens because it’s such a long race.”
Another one of the favorites for the win on Sunday was 2016 Winchester 400 winner, Travis Braden. The West Virginia native showed plenty of speed in Saturday’s two practice sessions, but a suspension failure led to a crash in turn one with just a few minutes left in final practice. Braden was third overall at the time of the crash.
“It might have been a left-front upper control arm that broke,” explained Braden. “It was broken clean in half and I don’t think that would have happened by hitting the wall with the right side. I went into one and everything was fine initially and then all of the sudden it fell and then went up into the wall. It wasn’t too hard of a hit because I was so close to the wall, but it was definitely enough to destroy it to where we can’t fix it.”
Braden, who is also participating in the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour finale for the Pro Late Models on Saturday, said he and his team are exploring all options to be able to race on Sunday.
“If this car is in good condition after this race then we’ll either run this car with the crate motor, or we’ll put the Super motor in it,” Braden said. “The only reason we’d run this car with the crate motor is because there’s so many changes with the setup with the other motor. It would be hard to guess, where as with this car we already know what we have with this motor in it. So that’s the only question we have. If we get out of this race well, then yes, we’re going to race. But we’re just unsure as to what motor we’ll actually have in it.”
The 47thAnnual Winchester 400 is scheduled to go green at 2 p.m. ET. Race fans can watch all of the action live with our pay-per-view coverage by clicking here.
Full qualifying results can be found in Saturday’s Trackside Now coverage from Winchester here.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Associate Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Mojo Photos
47thAnnual Winchester 400
Winchester Speedway, Winchester, Indiana
|13||20||Jack Dossey III|
|21||23||Eddie Van Meter|
|29||35||Greg Van Alst|
|31||23B||Billy Van Meter|