As the sun began settling down to the west of New Smyrna Speedway (FL), a hearty class of 30 Super Late Model drivers participated in time trials Saturday evening for the 51st Annual Governor’s Cup 200.
Zane Smith, driver of the No. 77 machine, set fast time after crossing the start/finish line .006 seconds quicker than defending winner Ty Majeski.
The victory was short-lived, however, as Smith’s team rolled through post-qualifying tech where director Ricky Brooks disqualified the temporary pole sitter.
“We rolled through tech and he said that it grinded off in two laps,” Smith said. “It needs to be about 20 inches from the splitter all the way up to the nose. We were about 19 ¾.”
According to Smith, less than a quarter of an inch sent him from starting first in the prestigious event to rounding out the rear where he will have to fight to avoid becoming part of the inevitable carnage.
“It’s 200 laps,” Smith stated. “I just need to stay out of trouble. It’s similar to Pensacola when I was running for the championship from the rear of the field and got shoved into an accident on lap one.”
In the Southern Super Series 2016 finale, Smith started at the back of the pack after pulling his impounded car out of line to be worked on. Just after the green flag flew, Smith was involved in a four-car incident that ended his chances at a favorable finish.
Strategy will play a major factor now more than ever for Smith, but he’s confident with his car’s performance.
“I’d say I’m probably going to stay back half a straightaway or so just to be sure to stay out of it all because I feel we have a car that can win,” Smith said.
“It sucks, it happens,” Smith continued. “I’m not going to take it away from myself or my team. It is what it is, but hopefully we win tomorrow.”
Ty Majeski won the pole by default, but the Wisconsin native is still heavily focused on saving his machine until the end on Sunday.
“Definitely an improvement from last year when we had to start 27th,” Majeski said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to manage our tires a little bit better early on and make smart decisions when it comes to pit stops.”
Jeff Choquette, who will be starting to the outside of Majeski, told Speed51.com after his qualifying run that he was slightly disappointed with his original placement of third before Smith’s disqualification.
His overall goal remains the same despite getting his wish of starting in the outside lane.
“Hopefully we can go out there and have a good day running around out front, keeping it clean and being there until the end,” Choquette said.
Others were not so lucky come qualifying time, including drivers like Todd Eliott, Anthony Sergi and Stephen Nasse who were not able to set times.
Nasse spent the entire afternoon practice session swapping engines.
“Just ended up having a little bit of motor troubles but luckily the Jett family was able to help me out, getting me a Robbie White motor back into the car,” Nasse said. “I think we should be good, I’m not too worried about starting close to scratch on the field.”
He, along with original pole sitter Zane Smith, will have to work their way through a strong group of competitors. Still, Nasse’s optimistic outlook survived the frustrating setback.
“I think we have a pretty good car here and we’ll have a little bit of practice in the morning to get it dialed in,” Nasse stated. “Normally changing a motor at the track doesn’t turn out so well, but I have a good feeling about this one so we’ll see.”
Pre-race ceremonies for the 51st Annual Governor’s Cup 200 begin at 1:15 p.m. ET on Sunday. Fans unable to make it to the track can follow along with Trackside Now coverage on Speed51.com beginning at noon.
-By Melissa Strahley, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com