By BILL FOLEY
Volusia Speedway Park isn’t an easy place for a new driver.
On opening night of the DIRTcar Nationals for the Modifieds Alex Payne and Ryan Arbuthnot were getting their first taste of the speedway.
The final stats might not be overly impressive as Arbuthnot finished 18th one lap down and Payne cracked a piston that saw him drop out with four laps to go to finish 24th in his first appearance.
For Arbuthnot his qualifying heat saw him lineup sixth and he chased Peter Britten for the majority of the race and eventually got the fifth and final spot while Payne, who started seventh, came home fourth with his trademark high road run.
Payne spoke with DTD and when asked about his impressions of Volusia, he quickly said, “It’s fast. It’s real fast.”
Continuing on how he was getting accustomed to the place, he said, “It’s tough. Down the backstretch where all the vehicles come across is really rough and throws you all over the place.”
As far as qualifying in his heat he said, “That’s good. We started out the heat a little rough, but I’m getting comfortable and I finally settled in there. By lap four we got to fourth. I think we had a pretty good car. Just learning the track and that this is a new car there is a lot of new things to learn.”
He’s in Florida for the first time and a week ago he was at All Tech for the Short Track Super Series event. Volusia is significantly different.
Alex said, “All Tech is very slick all of the time and there is not much bite and here it’s hammer down, tacky.”
Volusia is noted for speed and when asked about it, Payne said, “I sort of expected it, but you don’t realize it until you are out there.”
His expectations for the main event, he said, “I’d like to run top 10 and that would be really cool. I want to put together a solid run and have something to build off all week.”
Arbuthnot is a regular at Brockville which is a quarter mile bull ring. The transition to Volusia is something totally different. He has run big tracks in his career, but of this one he said, “It’s fast. It took me a couple of laps to get adjusted. It has walls all the way around and that seems to increase the relative speed in your head at least. It definitely took a couple of minutes to get adjusted, but once we got going I felt much more comfortable.”
In regards to the speed on the track, he said, “It’s hard judging it watching it on DIRTvision and, when you get here, it is definitely quicker than it looks like on TV. So it did catch me off guard a little bit.”
Qualifying was critical to his confidence and team morale as he told DTD, “It is all we can ask for. Coming down here we were just hoping to make the show. We did that so the rest is gravy from here on out. I just want to move forward and be competitive, have a good balanced car that we can move around. Try to get some notes and build a notebook for this place so we can progress through the week.”
So one night is in and two “Volusia rookies” found mixed success.
Now it’s on to night two.