Feburary 25th marked my very first race of the season, and my first race in a 410 sprint car. Perris Auto Speedway is home for the Swanson Motorsports Team, but we haven't had the opportunity to race there on a frequent basis because the USAC Midget Series doesn't travel there very often. However, we have been successful at Perris in the past. I won my first Ford Focus Midget race there in my first start in the class, and had more success when we ran the track later throughout the year.
Perris is a big half-mile banked clay oval that's home for the USAC/CRA 410 Sprint Car Series. As a kid I can remember watching in awe as these guys tear up the PAS in some of the best dirt track racing you will ever see. I only hoped one day I would be fortunate enough to race against these guys. Finally, I got the chance.
My dream was made possible thanks to car owner Larry Henry and crew chief Tony Jones. Larry is no stranger to car ownership and running a race team. He and good friend Bubby Jones (Ol' Bub) had a great deal of success in sprint car racing in the past. My new crew Chief, Tony Jones is the son of sprint car legend Bubby Jones. Tony also has a very impressive history in sprint car racing, winning many races races including the oval nationals, and also a championship at the PAS. I feel extremely fortunate to be teamed up with such awesome guys for my 410 debut.
Before race day we only had a session of practice, which took place a couple weeks before, to shake down the car and try to get acclimated. I felt pretty confident after I had a few laps under my belt.
My mindset going into race day was simply to log laps, gain experience, and learn. If we could make the feature in our first night, I would feel accomplished. And sure enough, we did just that. Hot laps went well, I was still learning the car and the driving style it needed. Qualifying wasn't the best. I laid down 2 smooth laps, but they weren't fast enough. I Q'd 26th out of 37.
Next up was the heat race. I was starting outside pole in a 9 car heat race, 4 transfer. At first I was a little nervous about it since I hadn't had much experience racing closely around other cars, but I gained confidence quick as soon as the green dropped. I jumped to an early lead, and fought hard to hang onto it. The #41 was feeling good, and so was I with nobody out in front of me. I continued to fight off the pack as the laps were winding down. Finally the #2 of Williams and #37 of Mitchell got by me in the closing laps, but I was able to hold onto 3rd ahead of Bernal. This put me straight through to the A-main. I was so happy we were able to accomplish that on our first night.
In the feature I was starting 21st out of 23 cars due to my qualifying time. I continued to focus on logging laps and staying out of trouble. Keeping my nose clean was important in securing a good finish. The race went well and I got as high as 16th on the heavy track. With only a hand full of laps remaining, welds failed on the front axle. This sheared off the RF wheel as I entered turn 1. Thankfully, I got the car stopped without hitting anything and the damage was very minimal. It was just a weird part failure.
I gained so much more knowledge and experience from this race. I absolutely can not wait to hop back in the #41 on March 31st for my 2nd USAC/CRA Sprint Car race. Unfortunately, we will not be able to attend many more races in this car due to lack of funding. We have lots of empty space on the bodywork of this race car for sponsors and partnership opportunities. Any and all help is accepted, so please help the #41 team reach it's full potential! I would like to thank all of our current sponsors on this car; Zanzabuku Sports Lounge, VGI Graphics, Goodwine Glass, K&N Filters, and Lucas Oil. I also have to thank Larry Henry and Tony Jones for giving me such a huge opportunity. I know we can run well and I'm excited to show everybody what the #41 team can do.
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