At one time, Jesse Dutilly was one of the most dominant drivers in the state of Florida. However, some were not impressed by his accomplishments and the level of competition he was up against – including Speed51 President Bob Dillner on Speed51’s Unfiltered Podcast.
In victory lane on Saturday night at Five Flags Speedway, Dutilly quickly spotted Dillner before his post-race interview and was eager to share how much those criticisms influenced his decision to take on the Pensacola half-mile in recent years.
“We were down here winning two or three years ago, probably about 75 percent of our races over a two-year span. You had this podcast, which has turned into the Bullring,” Dutilly said while speaking with Dillner on Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring” on Monday. “On there, you said ‘Who is Jesse Dutilly?’ You had this podcast about us, it was really cool to be on Speed51 but you didn’t know who we were.
“You didn’t think our winning was quite relevant enough because we were racing the local shows. We were proud of what we were doing around here and it’s hard to win races wherever you’re at.”
The suggestion was that, because Dutilly didn’t compete in the Blizzard Series or the famed Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL), it was impossible to see how he truly stacked up against the greats of Super Late Model racing. Dutilly was eager to prove he was up to the task after a little prodding.
“I won’t say it was entirely because of Bob, but you were one of the reasons we pushed to do something harder and better. That’s really what got us going to Pensacola in the first place. It’s such a long drive, eight and a half, nine hours, especially on Fridays when people have to get off work.
“Once we got out there we loved the place. It’s one of the hardest places I’ve ever raced. If I cut back to four or five times a year, we’d go there. It’s a super-cool place to race at.”
Dutilly proved he can indeed hang with the stars of the Blizzard Series last Saturday night, winning the 150-lap season finale and finishing seventh in points, narrowly outside an incredibly competitive title fight claimed by Giovanni Bromante. Dutilly passed Bromante on a restart with eight laps to go to take the checkered flag.
“It was really cool to win that race,” Dutilly said. “It’s a hard place to win at. That race was 150 laps long. We were able to have a different plan to save our equipment. Our pit stop went really well, our tire stagger stayed where we wanted it. Everything went the way we wanted it. We were able to stay very consistent and the driver went up there and got it in the end.”
The race proved to be a challenge early, with a new spotter and a surprising equipment issue dropping Dutilly from an eighth-place starting spot to mid-pack of the 30-car field.
“My spotter was racing the Street Stock at 4-17 [Southern Speedway in Punta Gorda, Florida] so I had a different spotter. My driver-side mirror came loose at the start of the race, so I wasn’t able to get down,” Dutilly explained. “Joey did a great job filling in, but we lost a lot more position than we planned on. We ended up all the way back to 16th but our car had speed in it all weekend.”
While the start was not what the Bradenton, Florida racer envisioned, he quickly worked his way through the field while managing his tires on the abrasive Five Flags Speedway surface.
“The car was fast and we’ve had speed there all year. We just tried to keep the tires on it, manage the tires for 150 laps. I almost thought we had run up there too late to get up front. A couple of cautions worked in our favor. When the caution came out with eight to go, I felt we had a good shot at it when we restarted on the front row.”
The win is a major accomplishment for Dutilly and his team. While Dutilly believes his equipment is on par with anyone’s in Super Late Model racing, he knows they lack in track time compared to the top-tier teams, which adds pressure to quickly get up to speed on race day.
“We have an equal opportunity once we get to the race track, but we’re just behind on the track time. A lot of those guys run Pro races and race every weekend. They’re in the cars more than I am. We’re on a bit of a limited schedule, we run maybe 15, 16 races a year. We just don’t get in the seat as often, so we have to be quick getting up to speed every time.
“I don’t ever view ourselves as the David against Goliath, but I’m sure that’s how it is. The car is in the back of a transmission shop in Sarasota, Florida. We work all day, then we work on the race car every other evening. If a team that works on their car all day long, we have to put in the extra work to be on equal footing. I feel like our car, once we get to the race track, I have a car as good as anyone around us. It’s just a matter of doing good things with that.”
Fans who missed Dutilly’s appearance on “The Morning Bullring” can watch the full video on-demand by clicking here. “The Moring Bullring” is a weekly short track racing talk show which broadcasts on Speed51.com and Speed51’s Facebook Feed presented by Five Star Bodies every Monday starting at 7 a.m. ET.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztvans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo