FREDRICSKBURG, Va. - After a successful test three weeks ago at Daytona International Speedway, Mullins Racing and driver/owner Willie Mullins are gearing up for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire on Feb. 10.
Mullins, 37, will be back behind the wheel of the No. 3 Ford for his third start at Daytona in the ARCA Racing Series as he looks to improve upon his best finish of eighth in 2016. Mullins is full of confidence entering the ARCA season opener after setting the sixth fastest time during the annual Daytona open test on Jan. 10-11.
After a disappointing finish to the ARCA opener last season that saw Mullins finish 40th after being collected in a crash not of his making, the team and Mullins expect to be among the front runners on Feb. 10.
“We’re very confident in the car we’re taking back down there,” Mullins said. “We’re nervously excited I guess you could call it. We’re ready to go back down there and hopefully have a better result than last year.”
Mullins believes the key to avoiding a fate similar to last year will be to manage risk and be mindful of who he is racing around.
“We’re going to need to be a lot more calculating at the beginning of the race,” Mullins said. “We’ll need to calculate our risk as we go forward through the race and hopefully we’ll avoid any nonsense and find ourselves at the front when it matters the most.”
The Mullins Racing team will again be led by veteran crew chief and former racer Andy Belmont, who has worked with the team since 2015. Belmont believes a top-10 result is more than attainable for Mullins and company on Feb. 10.
“The first goal is to be rolling at the end. The second goal is to be a top-10 car and we’ve done that before with this chassis. I am hoping for a clean race and good pit stops,” Belmont said. “If we’re in position at the end to race at the end that would be great, but there are a lot of things that have to go our way for that to happen.”
Much like Mullins, Belmont believes managing risk will play a major role in how the 80-lap race will play out.
“History shows that usually about 38 laps of this race are run under caution,” Belmont said. “It would be a blessing of course if it didn’t go that way, but my plan is fairly conservative. We don’t need to be in the big group in the big wreck. If we can find a partner we can hang with and not completely lose contact with the front group but also not be in the hornets nest, I think that would be a good plan and give us something to work with at around 20 laps to go.”
For Mullins, the Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire is equivalent of the Super Bowl. Many of his friends and family are going to be in town for the race, so Mullins is excited and ready to put on a good show for them as well as his sponsors.
“We’re going to have so many family and friends down there in Daytona, so it’s a special race for us. This our biggest race of the year,” Mullins said. “We’re geared up and ready to put on a big show.”
The No. 3 Mullins Racing Ford will carry support from a number of sponsors, including Crow Wing Recycling, CW Metals, Bugsy's Auto, Snap On by Timmy Brann, Morgan Lumber, County Waste, Sherwin Williams, Belmont’s Garage and Dinah Marie Photography.
The Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire is the season opening event of the 2018 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season. Action gets underway on Thursday, Feb. 8 with a two-hour practice session from 4 to 6 p.m. Final practice will take place on Friday, Feb. 9 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., followed by General Tire Pole Qualifying at 3:30 p.m. The Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire is scheduled to begin at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10 and will be televised live by FOX Sports 1. ARCARacing.com will provide live timing and scoring.
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