FREDRICKSBURG, Va. - A strong night for Willie Mullins was derailed by a bad pit stop during Saturday’s ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Shore Lunch 250 at Minnesota’s Elko Speedway.
Mullins, who was making his fourth ARCA Racing Series start this year behind the wheel of the No. 34 CW Metals/Bugsy’s Auto Ford, finished Saturday’s race in the 14th position. It was the first start for Mullins in a composite body car, which he added to the Mullins Racing stable prior to the race at Elko
He said were it not for a bad pit stop midway through the race, he could have easily earned a top-10 finish on Saturday evening.
“It was a good weekend, we had a good car,” Mullins said. “Obviously having the new composite body car we were able to be in the mix with everyone. We qualified 13th and were able to run with the leaders all night until a botched pit stop. We had a terrible pit stop that cost a lap in the pits.
“It was an unfortunate miscue with our pit crew. We lost that lap and it changed our strategy and we spent the rest of the race trying to dig out of the hole.
Mullins soldiered on and finished a respectable 14th Saturday night, but things were nearly much worse. Robert Bruce, driving a second Mullins Racing entry on Saturday night, nearly made contact with Mullins early on in the race before spinning out. Bruce was able to recover to finish 12th, but it was a heart-stopping moment for Mullins.
“We were having some radio issues with our spotter and he was in the middle of changing batteries. That was when Robert dove down underneath me,” Mullins explained. “I turned it down into the turn on him and he tried to avoid me and he spun himself out trying to keep from hitting me. Thankfully both cars were fine and we both kept on going, but it was a close one for sure.”
The race at Elko was just Mullins’ second start on a short-track in his career. The first came earlier this year at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville in Tennessee, where he finished 17th. He said he was happy with his performance on Saturday, but wished things had been a little different in the pits.
“Our team as a group put in an A effort. Me, as a driver, I think I put in a B+ effort. None of that showed in our finishing order after that pit stop,” Mullins said. “That’s what lost us a top-10 finish. It wasn’t what we wanted, obviously, but we’ll take it and we’ll move on and turn our attention towards the next race on our calendar.”
The Shore Lunch 250 served as a milestone event for Mullins Racing as it was the first time the team fielded two cars in a single event. Mullins said without the help of sponsor CW Metals, it wouldn’t have been possible.
“We did exactly what we needed to, which was put on a good show for the staff of CW Metals,” Mullins said. “They were there to watch and the family that owns the company was there as well. We were very fortunate to put together a good showing other than to not finish on the lead lap.”
Mullins will take the next few months off from the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards before making his fifth and final start of the year at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on Aug. 27.
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