NASCAR Season Kicks Off At New Smyrna Saturday
In short track racing there isn’t much of an offseason. While most people are relaxing or preparing for the holidays, Super Late Model racers are preparing their cars for the Red Eye 100 on January 3 at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida.
“The Red Eye comes really soon,” said the defending winner of the Red Eye 100, Travis Cope. “Everybody is getting prepared for the year, but races don’t usually start until February or March. That’s the biggest difficulty is just the timing of the race. It’s called the Red Eye for a reason.”
Saturday night marks the kickoff of the 2015 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season. In its third season as a NASCAR-sanctioned track, New Smyrna features the Super Late Models as its Division I. The Super Late Models, as well as the tour-type Modifieds, will also be in the spotlight from Feb. 13-21 as part of the track’s 49th annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
“We have four or five road racing cars to build by late February and it’s kind of in the middle of everything for us,” said Cope. “It’s one of those deals where we have to leave the night before and then get back to work as soon as we get back from that.”
But Florida race fans can rest assured that Cope will be ready for this race and should be contending for the win. Cope has won just about every big race at the fast Florida half-mile. He just added the Florida Governor’s Cup 200 to his resume this past November.
“For the Red Eye it’s really the same strategy as the Governor’s Cup,” said Cope. “But we just have 100 laps less to do it.”
Another driver who will almost definitely be a contender is Stephen Nasse.
Nasse is a two-time winner of the Red Eye 100, but more impressive than just that stat is that he’s only made two starts in this race.
“This will be the third time I’m running it now,” said Nasse. “I’d like to win it again so that I could say every year I’ve been in the race I’ve won. That would be awesome. Any competition you enter and you win every time you enter that’s pretty big. I’d love to make it three in a row for sure.”
Nasse said that the key to this race is being fast right away to have a chance at the win.
“You don’t have much time to let your stuff come in because if a long run comes and your car has to work into the night to get better,” said Nasse. “It’s very important to have a good car at the beginning of the race and keep it consistent.
“The whole object in the shorter race is just to get out there and get the lead as soon as possible. We just need to get it to where we have a good car right off the bat and we can jump out in front right away. Once you’re up front you just maintain a consistent pace.”
Cope seemed to agree, but added one other key point.
“You hope to get in the top 10 and from there just try to stay out of trouble,” said Cope.
Staying out of trouble might be the most important point either driver has made. New Smyrna Speedway is a track where being able to survive is almost as important has having speed, but it’s still a race that seems to get everyone excited.
Other contenders will include Spencer Davis, who won the Limited Late Model portion of New Smyrna’s World Series, and Southern Super Series champion Bubba Pollard.
“Any time you go down to New Smyrna, you know you’re going to be up against some stiff competition,” says Pollard. “There aren’t a lot of teams down there that don’t take their programs seriously. It’s a fun spot to go and race at”
While the Red Eye 100 will mark Pollard’s first career appearance in the January race, the Georgia veteran is no stranger to high-prestige events at the half-mile, having earned a top-five finish in the 2013 running of the lauded Florida Governor’s Cup.
“New Smyrna is a win that every racer wants,” explains Pollard. “It’s an unforgiving track and it attracts some of the best of the best competitors. Any win at New Smyrna is something to be proud of.”
NOTE: This feature is re-printed with permission of Speed51.com; Follow @Speed51dotcom for all the Red Eye 100 news and updates.