By MIKE MALLETT
Florida doesn’t make or break your season, but having a good week can certainly boost the confidence when you head back north.
Erick Rudolph left last year’s Super DIRTcar Series portion of the DIRTcar Nationals with a destroyed race car after competing just one night.
This year, he left Saturday night with the final spot on the podium and solid week of DIRTcar Nationals action.
“It didn’t take much to do better than we did last year,” said Rudolph. “We are really happy. Something that we’ve struggled with these past few years, not just here, but everywhere is qualifying and heat races. It seems like when you have really good time trials all the time and good heat races you are always in the redraw, which is important at these races.
“There’s just so many cars that are good. You gotta give yourself a chance to start somewhere near the front and this week we did that. I think each night we got better and better. I would have liked to get in last night too because I felt like we were rolling pretty good, but Mother Nature had different plans.”
Rudolph had a chance to make Saturday even better. He was locked to Jack Lehner’s rear bumper on the bottom of the speedway on the final lap. Williamson went by Lehner on the top and Rudolph was left with a third place finish.
“I got by (Mat) Williamson at one point, maybe a handful of laps before the end there,” said Rudolph. “Lehner seemed like he was coming back a little bit. At the same time the lapped cars played a factor too. All three of us had a shot at it. The cards fell Matty’s way tonight.”
Changes for Wrong for McLaughlin
With the strength of field at Volusia Speedway Park, being off a little bit can determine how your night is going to go. Max McLaughlin ended up fourth in the finale after making some changes in an effort to get better. Unfortunately, those changes took him the wrong way.
“I wasn’t bad in the heat,” said McLaughlin. “I was just a little free off. I tried to soften up a little bit and see if I could get a little more on the race track off the corner and that just killed my grip. So I don’t know. Maybe you had to go the other way. You live, learn and move on to the next one.”
Britten Short on the Draw
Peter Britten had a fast race car in the finale, he won his heat race going away. That put him in the redraw. That’s where things went south. He ended up picking the eight pill. The worst of the bunch. From there it was an uphill fight. He battled his way to fifth.
“It was a fun race,” stated Britten. “I wish we could have started further up front. I think we had a car to beat there, but it’s just one of those nights where things didn’t seem to work out in our favor from the draw to everything else in the race. I feel bad too because someone came up to me and said hey,’I wouldn’t mind drawing for you.’ I actually felt confident in myself and I thought I got this one. Then I pulled the fourth row.”
It wasn’t for lack of effort by Britten in the 50-lap affair. He tried about every lane on the speedway to make up ground. There wasn’t a lane on the track he didn’t make an effort to run. He also wasn’t fortunate enough to get a restart in the outside lane, which was the preferred groove.
“The top was definitely the place to restart and I just couldn’t buy a restart on the top,” said Britten. “I think I had one early on when I was beside Stewart (Friesen) and then the next three or four were just all on the bottom. I feel like we were better than where we ended up, that’s for sure. I was always that one spot out of where I needed to be. I kept getting pinned down on the inside on restarts.
“We found something there late. The middle was really good for me because the top was just too treacherous up there. It’s so far around that you need a hell of a lot of momentum to keep it going. When it’s treacherous like that it’s almost impossible to keep my head.”