Since bursting onto the scene of the Pro All Stars Series South, Matt Craig has made a habit of winning races and championships in his No. 54 Super Late Model. Still at the fresh age of 19, the Kannapolis, N.C. young gun is now looking for that big signature race win, and that next opportunity is just over a week away in Richmond, Virginia.
Though it has been many months since PASS announced the first running of the Commonwealth Classic to be held at the ¾-mile Richmond Raceway, Craig’s anticipation has not waivered. Not when you get a chance to run the same track that hosts the best Stock Car drivers in the world twice a year.
“I was pretty excited when we heard, it’s going to be the biggest track I’ve ever raced on. Just to be able to go to a NASCAR Cup track will be pretty cool. It will be neat to get some experience on a track like that, and it should be a good race,” Craig told Speed51.com.
“Yeah, nothing we’ve raced at can even compare to Richmond. It’s going to be a whole new thing, it’s hard to imagine what it’s going to be like. Hopefully it’ll be fun.”
With so little to go on, the 54 team has taken an entire month to freshen up for their date with Richmond, and they still have more to do in the next week.
“We last raced at Orange County in September, so we’ve had some time off to get everything ready, and prepared the best we can. Nobody gets to test there before, so we all just come in blind, and try to do the best we can with what we got.”
At the same time, Craig knows that every other team is in the same boat as they are, and that one of the keys to victory will be who figures out the track and the rules for the race, first.
“Everybody is going in not knowing anything about it, what these cars will do there, how they will handle, and we all have to run a lot less power than what we’re used to. That’s going to change the game a lot to.”
Of course winning the race to the race-winning setup will be just as hard as winning the 100-lap competition itself, with teams from both the South and the North filing entries for next week.
“It’s a good field with a lot of competition. Some of the Northern guys are used to running shorter tracks, I think the South has a little bit of an advantage since we’re used to running the bigger tracks. But there’s a lot of experienced guys from up there and I know they’ll figure it out very quickly.”
At this point, there is still a lot of guess work involved, but Craig believes the other key to victory lane lies in who best manages their race over 100 laps. The driver that does this, will take home a lot of money, $10,000 worth, and even more in prestige.
“I think it’s going to come down to managing track position there. My guess is that it might be hard to pass with everybody running on fast. I don’t think we’re going to be wide-open all the way around, but you never know. 100 laps is a little more mileage than we’re used to other than all the All-American 400 and the Winchester 400, so you also got to take care of your tires. But I think we got what it takes to get a big win.”
Race fans from all up and down the East Coast and beyond can see the inaugural Commonwealth Classic featuring the PASS Super Late Models, Tour-type Modifieds, Late Model Stock Cars, Limited Late Models, and Street Stocks live on Speed51’s PPV broadcast. Click here to order.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com