Jesse Dutilly was not an optimistic man when the first green flag of the triple-50-lap features fell Sunday afternoon at Auburndale Speedway. The 2014 Bright House Challenge Series champion overcame a car that, in his words, struggled, throughout practice for Sunday’s Sunoco Challenge Series opener, and was able to improve when it counted most, sweeping all three legs of the event, setting an impressive precedent for the new series.
Dutilly surprised himself with a fast qualifying run and won the first 50 lapper. He started eighth in the second race and from the rear of the field in the third, but each time he was able to take the lead by halfway en route to the Sunday sweep.
“I wouldn’t have even told you I’d be running fourth or fifth in these races,” Dutilly said. “We struggled yesterday, we were struggling today. (I) thought we were struggling in qualifying, but we set fast-time”
“We set our car up free and decided we’d just boil the right rear off every 50 laps – I’m really good at that. It took me a year or two to figure out how not to do that, so it was kind of fun actually. I’d just melt the tire off the car and they’d just bolt another one on.”
Once the handling of his green-and-white No. 30 car was figured out over the course of the first feature, his main headache came from trying to master the four American Racer tires on his car. Sunday’s race was the series’ first on rubber from its new supplier.
“I know everyone was battling their tires, they’re different compound and have a little less grip.”
Second place finisher Mike Franklin, Jr. shared in Dutilly’s trouble throughout much of the day.
“We definitely struggled all day and a lot of the good cars were out by the end,” Franklin told 51. “I’ve been out of Super Late Models for nine years and we just got back in it. There’s a lot of things that have changed.”
Carrying on the theme of the day in third place, Brandon Duchscherer spoke of a part failure as being a major component in his difficulties throughout the racing action.
“Well, there were a lot of wrecks,” Duchscherer said. “But not 10 laps into the first race and we had an ignition box go bad, so we spent the next 50 laps fixing it. We started towards the end for the last race and eventually restarted third, finishing third. Fifty laps is a short race; you got to go while you can.”
Try as they did, nobody was going to keep Dutilly from a Sunday sweep. Fittingly, Dutilly summed up his day with just one word.
The next Sunoco Challenge Series race will be held at Florida’s DeSoto Speedway February 6.
For an on-demand replay of Speed51.com’s Trackside Now coverage presented by Progressive Racing Engines, click here.
- By Melissa Strahley, Speed51.com Correspondent
- Photo credit: Speed51.com/Melissa Strahley