ARMSTRONG RUNS FASTEST TIME IN SUPER LATE MODEL DURING FINAL DAY OF SHORT TRACK U.S. NATIONALS OPEN TESTING
Dalton Armstrong raced his Super Late Model to the top of the practice speed charts following the first two sessions of the final open test day for the Inaugural Short Track U.S. Nationals, May 19-21.
Armstrong ran a quick lap of 14.501 seconds at 124.129 in his Winfield machine. The Alexandria, Ind., native improved from his first practice run of the day, a 15.292 at 117.709, which was good for 13th in Session No. 1.
Armstrong's run was even more impressive for the fact that his quick lap was faster than the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series record of 14.573 seconds at 131.668 mph, set by Denny Hamlin in August '16.
"I think some of it is just being more comfortable in the car this time," said Armstrong on why speeds were faster during the second testing day. "We thought we could be this fast and we think it can get a little faster, but so can everybody else."
The extra practice was one of the main keys for Armstrong who cautioned that The World's Fastest Half-Mile is one-of-a-kind for the short track, late model world.
"It was so scary just not knowing what to expect," Armstrong said. "It doesn't take but a little hiccup here and you're building a new car."
Tyler Ankrum was second quickest with a 14.704 at 122.416 while Chandler Smith ran a 14.619 at 123.127 for the third best time.
NASCAR XFINITY Series competitor Darrell "Bubba" Wallace was on hand to test his Super Late Model today. While he has experience at The Last Great Colosseum, today's test was Wallace's first ever run in a SLM. His No. 6 was fifth-quickest in the first practice and seventh-quickest in second practice, with a fast lap of 14.818 at 121.474.
"I think I just now caught my breath," said Wallace, who races for Roush Fenway Racing in the XFINITY Series. "I definitely couldn't pass up this opportunity when it presented itself to come up here and have some fun. The speeds are outrageous."
Las Vegas racer Noah Gragson is looking forward to the Short Track U.S. Nationals. He had one of the fastest cars during the first test day here two weeks ago and played spotter today as fellow Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Kyle Benjamin tested Gragson's No. 51 SLM machine. Despite not being in the car today, Gragson is pumped for next weekend's races.
"It's definitely a lot of fun to go around here," said Gragson, who pilots one of KBM's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series entries. "It feels like you are in a flying saucer around this place. Your eyes can barely keep up with how fast you are going and looking at the track. It's such a blast to drive here."
In Late Model Stock, local favorite Danny O'Quinn led the way after two sessions with a 15.653-second lap at 114.994 mph. The Abingdon, Va. resident has raced at BMS before and is thrilled to be back behind the wheel at his home track.
"When I saw they were going to add this race to the schedule, I was pretty excited," said O'Quinn. "There's no place I look more forward to coming to than Bristol. It's like riding a bike, but it took a few laps to get back in the swing of things."
Late Model Stock veteran Deac McCaskill was quickest during the first session and posted the second best overall lap of 15.676 seconds at 114.825 mph. Craig Stallard was third quickest from the first two sessions with a 15.723 at 114.482.
In other classes, Cole Williams (Pro Late Model) ran a 14.968 at 120.257, Jeff Lane (Modifieds) was fastest with a 16.395 at (Modifieds), Chuck Barnes Sr. (Street Stock) ran a class best 18.196 at 98.923 and Steve Vore (Compacts) posted a 19.494 at 92.336.
Two practice sessions remain for the day.
Nearly 500 race cars split among six classes are expected to be in competition during the Short Track U.S. Nationals, including Super Late Model, Pro/Crate Late Model, Late Model Stock, Modified, Street Stock and Compact divisions. The five sanctioning bodies that will be represented are CRA (Super Late Models, Pro Late Models, Street Stock), CARS Tour (Super Late Models, Late Model Stock), Southern Super Series (Super Late Model), National Short Track Alliance (Modifieds), VORES Compact Touring Series (Compacts).
Tickets and pit passes for the Short Track U.S. Nationals start at $85 for a weekend grandstand seat/pit pass combo and $45 for a Saturday/Sunday grandstand GA combo. Kids 12-and-under are just $10 for a Saturday/Sunday grandstand GA combo. Individual pit passes also are available for ages 14-and-up. Please visit http://www.bristolmotorspeedway.com/tickets/us-short-track-nationals/ for more information on ticketing for the race.
For those who can't attend, Bristol Motor Speedway and Speed51.com are partnering to offer customers a webcast pay-per-view experience of the Short Track U.S. Nationals. The early bird weekend combo price of $44.99 is available until Friday, May 19. The PPV also will be available for $24.99 on Saturday and $29.99 on Sunday of race weekend. To purchase the PPV package, please visit: http://speed51.com/bristol.
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BUBBA WALLACE, a NASCAR XFINITY Series regular who will compete in Super Late Model for FatHead Racing
I think I just now caught my breath. Whew, it's a lot of fun. I can't thank Jamie Yelton and Fat Head Racing enough. Jamie and I go way back, to probably around 2008, and he always had the nicest equipment and really fast cars. I definitely couldn't pass up this opportunity when it presented itself to come up here and have some fun. Bristol has always been a good track for us. I got to get a little redemption for the Xfinity race (here last April), so it's good to relive what it's like in a Late Model Stock car.
It's such a blast. I'm trying to find my way. It's the first time in it for me so you drive these things totally different. You drive these things till you can't drive 'em into the center of the corner, get off the gas for a second and you are right back into it. There's a lot going on in the car and it's totally different from what I have ever drove. I always gave (Ryan) Blaney and Chase (Elliott) crap for driving these cars, because you don't drive an Xfinity or Cup car like that. We always went back and forth on it and now I'm the pot calling the kettle black and stepping my feet into it and having a lot of fun.
It's not even comparable. The speeds are outrageous. The grip level is insane. You are driving them in three or four car-lengths deeper and then getting back on the gas five or six car lengths earlier. The off-throttle time here is minimal. I've just got to man up and lay it all out there. At the same time I have to remember I have an (Xfinity) race coming up in two weeks at Charlotte, but we're just out here to have a good time.
Jamie had texted me about the Snowball Derby, but I was in Colorado skiing and wasn't able to race at that time, so I told him maybe something else another time. At the beginning of the year this popped up and when I saw it I texted Jamie and said let's put it together and run Bristol. Two weeks later he said he had my Super ready. I wanted a Late Model Stock, but he said a Super, so I said why not. I figured I could check something off the bucket list. It's Bristol. It's a short drive up and a lot of talent is going to be here so hopefully we can rise to the top. I went out there and was P5 right off the bat, so I think I was doing all right. I just need to keep working inside the car.
NOAH GRAGSON, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular who will compete in Super Late Model for Kyle Busch Motorsports
It's really good. Everybody with Kyle Busch Motorsports has worked really hard. We came here two weeks ago and we tested. I thought it was pretty good. We were the fastest. They changed the tire. We went to a harder compound tire and it made the speeds a little bit greater. It's definitely a lot of fun to go around Bristol Motor Speedway, this place is really fast.
I came into the media center earlier this morning and I was looking at the times from practice at the Cup race here last month and Kyle Busch had the fastest time with a 14.985 and right now they are turning 14.65 second lap times. They are three or four tenths faster than what Kyle was in that last practice of the Cup race. It doesn't compare to any other race track but when you go to an amusement park and that ride where you lap up against the wall and it spins you in a circle, I call it the 'Spinning Ride 3000.' That's what it feels like. It feels like you are in a flying saucer around this place. You are going so fast. Your eyes can barely keep up with how fast you are going and looking at the race track. This place is so cool and so fast. It's such a blast to drive here.
The last time we were here two weeks ago, everybody was riding on the bottom with the grip strip and we knew that it was going to all be washed away when we came back here. We were actually practicing two weeks ago in the middle groove and everybody was laughing at us saying we didn't know what we were doing. Now I look out there and everybody is in the middle and at the top. We were just one step ahead of them. I think we are definitely pretty good. The car is really consistent and has a lot of speed in it. I am really happy with it.
It's kinda hard to tell because Super Late Models haven't run here at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kyle is I'd say definitely the best here in a Truck, Xfinity car and Cup car, so coming off here and being able to ask him what to do on restarts and coming down pit road and little stuff like that really helps.
It's a huge amount of confidence. We came here and tested the car was really fast. The car is super consistent. My guys they really know how to get around this place. My crew chief Cody Glick used to be the car chief on William Byron's truck last year so he's been here for a while running races and he really knows this track good. It really shows on the speed charts. I mean, we are really fast. I really have a lot of confidence coming in here. I've been running Super Late Models the last couple years and its right up in my wheelhouse than the mile and half stuff in the Trucks. Coming here in the Super Late Models is definitely in my comfort zone.
DANNY O'QUINN, competing in Late Model Stock and a Southwest Virginia native
It feels good. I grew up here. I was born in Bristol and I've been coming here many years watching races. I always dreamed of getting to race here. Several years ago we got to come up here in a Late Model and race and I've kinda fell in love with the place ever since I've been here. I don't get to race a lot anymore so I actually haven't raced since 2015. When I saw that they were going to add this race to the schedule I was pretty excited. I knew were going to get our opportunity to come back out here and play.
It's absolutely a blast. Like I said, I love this place. There's no place I look more forward to coming than Bristol. Not only is it home for us but I really do love these kind of tracks. It's like riding a bike, it took a few laps to get back in the swing of things. I haven't raced here since 2010 with Nationwide, but it all came back to us pretty quickly and we have a really good car, so that makes things really easier.
I fortunately had the luxury of racing here after they changed the track. I got to drive it before and after. The track hasn't changed a lot. The grip stuff they put down the last couple of seasons is slowly wearing off between the two practices from the last test to this one. Not a lot has changed. It's just trying to adjust to driving different cars. A Late Model here races more like a mile and half, where as a Cup car, an Xfinity car or a Truck, you are out of the gas and using the brake a whole lot more. It's two different mindsets, but it's still bad fast no matter what you're driving.
It's cool. It's always fun to be a part of something for the first time. Certainly it would be nice to put our name on that first trophy coming out of here. That would be really special. But there's a whole field here trying to do the same thing. Everybody's going to have work hard and give it our all.