ARCA/CRA Super Series teams and some of the country’s top Super Late Model talent took to the track on Sunday for practice leading up to the 52ndAnnual Redbud 400 at Indiana’s Anderson Speedway. It is the first of three crown jewel events for the ARCA/CRA Super Series in 2018, which also include the Battle at Berlin 251 and the Winchester 400.
Steve Wallace is back after fighting off Raphael Lessard over the final five laps to win last year’s installment of the Redbud 400. He tells Speed51.com the keys to winning such a grueling race and how he felt after practice Sunday.
“There’s not really a certain key,” Wallace told Speed51.com, “but the thing I really focused on last year was just staying out of trouble and keeping the nose clean. I don’t think I was the fastest car by any means, but I didn’t have any dents on the car and all the fenders were on it, the hood was on it, the rear tires were on it. A lot of fast cars just kind of got over their head and either drove over people or put themselves out of the race. You’ve just got to preach patience like no other.
“I feel good about it. We raced at Slinger Tuesday night and both these tracks share some similarities with the banking and grip level, that type of stuff. We kind of brought the same kind of setup we had last year and it was pretty dang good, so we just got to tune on it just a little. You can’t always show up with the exact same stuff; people get better and teams get better, so you’ve got to tune on it and I feel like we have improved too.”
Wallace expressed his confidence in coming back and repeating as Redbud 400 champion.
“I really do,” Wallace said. “We’ve had fast cars all year long and the Jet Tools guys have been working their tails off and I feel really good about tomorrow night. I’m calm right now, really chilled, and I feel like that’s the way you’ve got to go into this race. Someone’s hitting you in the tail or in the left rear, someone’s door banging you, but you can’t get mad. You’ve just got to calm down and chill out and let them go because you’ll get your turn back. I definitely feel like we will have a shot at it tomorrow night.”
Raphael Lessard was on the losing end of the fight with Wallace for the win last year. He comes back with Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2018 looking to avenge last year’s loss.
“It’s a long race and you’ve just got to go for it,” Lessard stated. “You don’t really (have) to save the tire, it just doesn’t wear that much, so we’ve just got to be patient and keep the fender on the car and just be there at the end.
“It wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be at the start of the day, but we got it better,” Lessard said about his practice. “The guys at Kyle Busch Motorsports worked hard on my Mobil 1 Toyota Camry and made a lot of changes. In the end, I think we got it pretty good to start the day tomorrow. We got more stuff to work on but I think we will be pretty good.”
Dalton Armstrong is making his second start of 2018 and first since the Rattler 250 in March. Armstrong, of nearby New Castle, won the Redbud in 2016, the last year the race distance was 300 laps.
“I guess just being fast and staying out of trouble,” Armstrong said. “That’s pretty much the key to most races, but for this one a little more. Four hundred laps, just got to keep the fenders on it and stay out of trouble. That’s what kind of got us in trouble last year. Hopefully we can qualify out front and not have to worry about being in the back. I think we’re pretty good and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
“This is pretty much my home track, so anytime you run good close to home it means a little more. If I win this one, it’ll mean a lot since I’ve sat out for so long. And being able to beat my brother (former NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Dakoda Armstrong) will make it a little better for me. It’s hard to come out and do this stuff. That’s why I haven’t been doing it; it’s just expensive to come out and run with these boys, but we’re going to give it our best shot.”
After competing in CRA over the past few years, Armstrong has been unable to compete full time in 2018 due to a lack of funding. Speed51.com asked him about the demanding nature of 400 laps at Anderson.
“I think I’ll be okay. Having been out of the car for a little while, it might be a little challenging, but it’s been pretty good today. Hopefully it’s not too hot tomorrow, but it’s Anderson and I’ve turned a lot of laps here so I think I’ll be good. As long as we have a fast car, I think I can get it done.”
Fans can watch Monday night’s Redbud 400 live on Speed51.com’s pay-per-view coverage for just $19.99. The pay-per-view broadcast will begin at approximately 4:45 p.m. ET with qualifying. Fans can purchase their pay-per-view ticket by clicking here.
For an on-demand replay of Sunday’s Trackside Now coverage, click here.
-By Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (Indiana and Michigan) – Twitter: @KGeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com