Thursday’s practice session saw a number of drivers over all the divisions at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) make gains after not having the speed to compete for wins over the first six nights of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
In the Super Late Models, Wisconsin’s Justin Mondeik was very positive about what he experienced in the final practice. After toying around the past few days, it was found that a bad set of tires had fouled up what was an otherwise sound setup on the No. 44 SLM.
“We put a new setup on a day and a half ago with practice tires, and the car has just not felt as good. We put on an older set of practice tires today and we went two-tenths faster. I think we had a bad set of tires there that really threw off the balance of the car, but I think we found it again in this last practice. Hopefully we can qualify better, get a good draw, and go for it,” Mondeik told Speed51.
In his first visit to New Smyrna, the Kulwicki Driver Development Program finalist has been very happy with the progress he has made since arriving a week ago.
“I think we’re getting better every night. Having Mike Herman Jr. as a spotter has really helped me as far as getting the car where it needs to go on the track. We’re extremely happy for the first time being here at this point in the week. Being fifth in points is something to be very proud of and we’re going to keep making gains on the car. Hopefully we can contend for some wins tonight and Saturday.”
In the Tour-type Modifieds, Eric Goodale made similar gains on Wednesday, with the No. 58 carving through the field early on in the John Blewett III Memorial 76. While he burned up the tires towards the end, the signs were encouraging, with the speed sticking around into the final practice on Thursday. He feels that circumstances permitting, he can be in line for a win in Thursday’s 35-lap feature.
“I certainly hope so, if we go out like we did last night we should be alright for 35 laps. We were just too good too early last night. That’s the best speed we’ve had all weekend and today. We’ve just got to try not to screw it up,” said Goodale.
A four-time race winner in the Tour-type Mods at New Smyrna, the Long Island native was able to maneuver his No. 58 in places where no other driver could go Wednesday. He thinks he can do it again Thursday.
“It could turn really well, I was able to keep it down on the bottom a lot, people were running up top, and I was able to run a little lower than a lot of people. If that’s the case again tonight, hopefully we should be alright. We also got to qualify well, you need a good starting spot tonight, 35 laps isn’t that many laps around here, and it goes quick.”
In the Pro Late Models, there are a couple of drivers that are making their first appearance of Speedweeks 2020. This includes one who has called the New Smyrna Speedway home during his time in racing. Chad Akins is making his first start of 2020 Thursday night with the Skinner racing team, it is also his first start in around a decade, and knows he has a lot to do to get in contention for Friday’s 100-lap feature.
“We got a total of 15 laps so far, but the car feels great, I just need to shake it down a little bit, and get reacclimated to it. I’ve been out of the seat now for 10 years, so it’s going to be on me the next couple of nights to get a little faster. We’ll start in the back tonight and use the race as a test session for the 100-lapper tomorrow night,” Akins explained.
No matter what happens, Akins is just happy to be back in action.
“It’s home for me, I live right down the street, and grew up right around the corner. I’ve won here probably at least a hundred wins, I got about 60 or 70 Late Model wins for sure. All the trophies are sitting at the house. It’s good to be back for sure.”
For more, go to Speed51’s Trackside Now coverage.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor -Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51