Daytona Beach, Florida (February 21, 2016) – After surviving multiple incidents and conserving fuel in the closing laps, driver Willie Mullins scored a career best 8th place finish at the Daytona International Speedway, on Saturday afternoon.
“We finished 8th in Daytona,” Mullins stated. “Enough said.”
With power from the new Ilmor 396 engine under the hood, Mullins knew he had a good chance at running well throughout the weekend. And he took advantage of that.
In the first practice session, Mullins took to the 2.5-mile superspeedway for eight laps, checking the car for how it would handle the 31 degree banking, in addition to racing surrounded by other cars.
He quickly showed some muscle, jumping inside the Top-10 early in the session.
This turned the heads of his fellow competitors, as Mullins, an established road course “Ringer”, was comfortably inside the Top-10 in his first career superspeedway start in the ARCA Racing Series.
After completing eight laps, he brought the car to the attention of crew chief Andy Belmont, as he and the crew made adjustments to the No. 34 Bugsy’s Auto Repair Ford. Mullins then returned to the track to gain more drafting experience with other fast cars.
After a few laps, Mullins picked up his pace, jumping to 3rd quickest on the leaderboard.
His time stood for most of the session, until the last 15 minutes of practice, slowly falling down the leaderboard. By the end of practice, his time ended up as the 15th fastest time, with a lap of 47.885 seconds.
In final practice, windy conditions upset the handling of the car, as Mullins struggled to be fast. He was able to run a lap of 48.299 seconds, falling into the 26th position.
As qualifying approached, the entire team grew nervous, as they made final adjustments to the car, hoping to improve their lap time and make Saturday’s 80-lap race.
Because of the new Menards Pole Qualifying procedures for superspeedways, Mullins was grouped into cars that were similar, in reference to their overall lap times.
In the qualifying session, Mullins and two other drivers from his group lined up with hopes of recording a fast lap using the draft. The line of cars was able to record three solid laps before time expired for their group. Now, it became a waiting game.
Mullins’ best lap was a lap of 48.726 seconds.
After all of the 46 cars took time, Mullins and his No. 34 Ford found themselves with the 26th starting spot for the Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire.
On race day, both driver and team were excited for the race to get underway.
While still navigating the pace laps, Mullins brought his car down pit road, topping off the car with Sunoco racing fuel, as crew chief Andy Belmont wanted to try and stretch his fuel to give the team a chance at a good finish. This moved him to the back of the field for the start, which proved to be the right call.
On lap 3, some of the leaders collided, causing a multi-car accident right where Mullins was originally slated to start the race.
When the race finally restarted, Mullins settled in, as he began to work his way through the pack.
Then 14 laps later, chaos once again fell upon the field as a lapped car got into three cars in front of him, causing a wreck. Mullins found himself directly behind the accident, as he successfully navigated through the accident with no damage.
During the caution, Mullins visited pit road to check his tires and once again top off his fuel, as he tried to make it the rest of the race without stopping.
After the race returned to green, Mullins once again made his way up to the lead pack, using the draft to help conserve fuel.
With just under 30 laps remaining, the caution flag once again waved over the superspeedway, as Belmont made the call for Mullins to stay out to gain track position, with hopes that he had enough fuel in the car to finish the race.
Mullins found himself in 6th as the race returned to green. He tucked up behind the leader to help propel him to the top spot.
On the last lap, several drivers pulled out of line and got by him. Fortunately, he was able to keep up with them, crossing the finish line in the 8th position, giving Mullins his career-best finish in the ARCA Racing Series.
ABOUT MULLINS RACING
Mullins Racing is an all-around motorsports team, racing in the ARCA Racing Series and in the Sports car Club of America (SCCA). This will be the team’s second year competing in the ARCA Racing Series.
For more information on Mullins Racing, visit their website, www.mullingsracing.net, or connect with the team through Facebook (Mullins Racing) and on Twitter (@mullins_racing).