Experience paid off for “The Gunslinger” Mike Skinner during Friday’s Short Track U.S. Nationals practice day at Bristol Motor Speedway. The former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series winner at “The Last Great Colosseum” recorded the overall fastest lap (14.951 seconds) in Pro Late Model practice for the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour.
After five weather delays throughout the day-long practice session, Skinner set fast time during what ended up being the final practice session of the day.
“Pretty fast. We were first the first practice and second the second practice,” Skinner told Speed51.com. “Every time you get ready to go it starts raining but that’s what you get in the mountains. This race track is so spectacular that we don’t care. We just stay patient and get done here while we can.”
Despite the showers Friday afternoon, a perfect forecast is in store for Saturday’s 3rd Annual Short Track U.S. National. This has every racer in attendance, including Skinner, eager to battle for a Bristol sword.
After being sidelined early during last year’s event due to a crash involving a lapped car, Skinner believes that patience and being around at the end will be a key to success.
“I think as the race goes on you won’t have that luxury as much as you’ll have in the first 50 or 60 laps,” he stated. “If you’re in the top four or top five when it gets sixty laps in, you’ll have a shot; you’ll have a chance. If you’re not, it’s going to be hard to get there after that. I think everybody is going to be running as hard as they can.”
Another driver who believes patience will pay off in the end is defending Pro Late Model winner Josh Reeves, who used a patient strategy to secure the victory one year ago.
“The main thing is just knowing you have a car that drives good,” Reeves said. “You really don’t have to worry about the raw speed because you’re more focused on the mistakes the other people are going to make. If you just watch practice, you’ll see some of these guys aren’t as charismatic about how the car handles as much as how fast they go. That was one of the biggest things we focused on last year and honestly I believe that is what made the difference at Lap 100.”
Overall, Reeves is pleased with where his car is but hopes to continue making improvement during Saturday’s morning practice sessions.
“(Today) was eventful with the rain and then we had issues that we fought all day, just never really had the speed that we needed to,” he said. “We fought different problems but right there that last practice we were actually able to go the speed I thought we had. We were starting to make gains on it right before the rain hit. All in all, we had a good car. It’s a lot better than it was last year, and I think tomorrow we’ll be able to capitalize even more on the speed that we’re still able to show.”
Mason Keller, a winner last year with the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour, set the fastest time in the second practice session of the day.
An on-demand replay of Friday's practice sessions can be viewed by premium subscribers on the Speed51 Network by clicking here.
The Pro Late Models will have a practice session at 11:45 a.m. ET before qualifying at 2:15 p.m. ET. Racing is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET Saturday night, with the 100-lap Pro Late Model race third in the lineup.
Race fans unable to make it to Bristol Motor Speedway will be able to watch a live pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51.com. Live video tickets can be purchased today for $19.99 by clicking here.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com