With one of the largest fields of Tour-type Modifieds in a decade expected to take aim at New Smyrna Speedway for the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing next week, it should come as no surprise that the roster includes some Speedweeks rookies. One rookie is Ellington, Connecticut’s Ronnie Williams, who will soon be entering his sophomore year driving for the Bertuccio family on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Williams showed great promise on the Tour in 2017, but did not have Lady Luck going in his favor much of the time. Now he is ready to turn the odds in his own favor, especially with a team that went to victory lane with J.R. Bertuccio at New Smyrna Speedway last year.
“I’m very excited. It seemed like it was going to be a little while before we went back racing, but it’s come really quick. We got some bad luck out of the way last year, but we also had some good runs with the number 21 car. I’m definitely looking forward to this year. I know last year J.R. put it in victory lane at New Smyrna on the first night, so we definitely know it’s capable of doing that,” Williams told Speed51.com.
Williams is going all in for the month, starting off with the ‘Kickoff to Speedweeks’ at Bronson Speedway this Saturday, February 10, before moving east to New Smyrna Speedway for five straight nights of racing February 12-16. His biggest challenge, though, is he has never raced either track. The solution? Two days of practice, this Thursday at New Smyrna and Friday at Bronson.
“I’ve never been to New Smyrna or Bronson, but we’re going to be practicing both tracks Thursday and Friday. I’ve seen some videos and they’re both some neat places. My grandfather always used to go down there with my grandma. I know back then the Modifieds raced pretty much every night. But it’s going to be pretty cool going down there since they always did, and I’ve heard some great stories about it.”
While Williams has indicated that J.R. Bertuccio will be stepping away from driving at Speedweeks this year, Williams will have support with Al Emmarino stepping into another team car to run the week.
“Al Emmarino is going to be driving one of the cars down there. He’s been down there a few times, so hopefully he can give me some pointers if he has some.”
Running the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was a big focus in 2017 for Williams, but so were Connecticut’s SK Modifieds, where Williams has become a weekly threat the past four seasons, particularly at his home track Stafford Motor Speedway. While there are differences, the SK’s have been another great step to take on the crucible of Speedweeks.
“It’s definitely different than the SK’s. A lot of the guys that are on the tour, I’ve raced with the SK. I know how most of them race growing up, but last year was a great building block.”
The Bertuccio team is also coming in with what Williams feels is better organization, something which will be a payoff for both Speedweeks and Whelen Modified competition.
“This year we are going in with everyone knowing their jobs, that’s one thing I don’t think we had last year. Me and Joe (Bertuccio) talked about it over the winter. We need a set group of guys, one guys doing this, the other guys doing that. We’re definitely confident going into Speedweeks and the Tour this year.”
As for the key question, can Williams win during the week? He is a big believer, given with what the team has brought to the table. The rest is on his shoulders.
“I would love to get a win down there, for those guys especially. I’m not saying I have pressure on me, but I’m definitely putting some on myself to go down there and win at least one race. I know they’re not giving me bad equipment to work with. They have the best of the best. It’s just in my hands now.”
Speed51.com will be on-hand at both New Smyrna Speedway and Bronson Speedway for coverage from Speedweeks 2018, so be sure to stay tuned.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen