Friday was a day of optimism for the field of nearly 20 late model drivers who assembled at Showtime Speedway for practice ahead of Saturday’s $15,000 to win Super Late Model Florida Fest feature.
Many teams spent the four hours of practice Friday afternoon, and the additional nightime practice Friday night, to either fine-tune their machines at a familiar facility, or make wholesale changes to adapt to a unique venue that Showtime Speedway provides.
Michael Goddard, who won the first night of Showtime Speedway’s Triple Crown event a few weeks ago, spent the time making a few changes to find a good baseline for the car.
“We are still on the race tires from the last race. You don’t really pick up the speed on sticker tires since you aren’t going as fast as you are at the bigger tracks. Stickers aren’t as big on an advantage. It’s going to mess with the balance of the racecar. We’re just trying to look forward and get the car as good as we can.”
For Jake Garcia though, his visit to the D-shaped oval near St. Petersburg, FL has taken a bit of an adjustment.
“Definitely a different track that I’m used to. I don’t think there’s another track out there like it. It’s taken a little bit to get used to it but after the first few runs, I think I have it figured out. Working on the car at this point, trying to get a bit more grip in it.”
With the tumultuous turns that the event took throughout the last week, many drivers took time to thank Robert Yoho for making the event happen and expanding the purse.
Steve Dorer, who was originally looking forward to running both his Super Late Model and his Pro Late Model this weekend, gave Yoho and Showtime praise for adding a $15,000 to win event to the Florida racing calendar.
“It’s really cool that Robert does it, he’s one of the few people in Florida putting up a lot of big paying races. It’s nice to race for big paying races like that.”
Rich Bickle spent most of the week practicing at Showtime following last weekend’s ARCA test at Daytona. He’s happy to support the event at a track that he has had success at previously.
“For him to do what he did, to raise the purse and do everything. The last time I raced for a $15,000 to win was 1987 in Calgary, CA and I won that race. So maybe some fortunes are going to look down on us and get us another $15,000 win.”
While there were no major incidents on-track Friday during the afternoon practice sessions, Jeremy Pate did have some contact with the wall to buff out.
“I just ran out of real estate a little bit.” Pate went on to describe, saying: “Nothing bad, just scuffed the quarter panel a little bit. Just trying to get all you can here, it’s so small and grip is so limited. One little issue and you’re there, it’s a very interesting place to race. Race conditions will be a whole different animal.”
Saturday’s event, which will be live on Speed51.tv for subscribers and also available as a one-time PPV option, features 150 laps on one set of tires. While drivers agreed that tire wear is not likely to be a factor, most were excited about the format.
“Hell, I wish it was 300 laps on the same set of tires.” Bickle quipped when discussing the format.
Michael Atwell will be focusing on saving his equipment for the end of the race, saying: “The strategy will be to backup the corner, don’t use the brakes up. It’s a quarter mile, so The first 100 laps we will be emphasising keeping the fenders on it.”
Jesse Dutilly is looking forward to capitalizing on the event distance.
“I’ve run mostly 100 lap or more races my entire time racing late models. I’ve been very successful in long races with one set of tires. The pit stop races seem to get us with the strategy a little bit. The short 50 lap races, burning it down, I used to be really good at that but I’m a little older now so I feel like this is right in my wheelhouse.”
For Goddard, he knows that the only safe place at Showtime is to be up front.
“I need to ride a little bit, I need to be a bit more patient over the run. There’s no real safe spot on this track other than being up front with some good track position. If you are sitting sixth on back you’re in a bad spot and could get caught up in anybody else’s mess. I want to control my own destiny. You don’t fall off like you do at other places. You can go harder, longer here and not see the falloff.”
- Patrick Hahe, Technology Coordinator, Speed51
- Photo Credit – Will Bellamy, Contributor, Speed51