Practice day at the World Series of Asphalt was a busy one with one of the largest entry lists the event has seen in several years. It also saw breaking news from two short track racing titans in different disciplines.
Six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby is returning to the World Series for the first time since 2019 and his third trip overall. During the day, he announced he will be competing the entire week – with Austin Pickens driving the No. 10 on Monday and Tuesday while Coby will jump into the machine the rest of the week.
Both drivers spent Thursday’s session was spent by both drivers getting reacclimated to the high banks of New Smyrna.
“We wanted to try a few little things here during the middle of the day. We went out and got some refresher laps here at New Smyrna Speedway, it’s quite a fast place and you definitely have to get reacclimated to everything,” Coby told Speed51. “It seems pretty good so far, I’m excited to be here and have some fun racing this week.”
With 45 entries for the Tour-Type Modified division, qualifying will be more important than ever for drivers throughout the week. Coby’s focus has already been turned to each race, feeling comfortable with what he has for qualifying runs.
“You have to qualify good and we normally have a good qualifying package so I’m not worried about it. There’s a redraw every night so as long as you’re in a redraw number you should be okay. Hopefully it transfers over to the race and we can race good.”
Bubba Pollard is also making a return to the World Series, but with two familiar sights. The first is his familiar No. 26 he has taken to countless wins. The other is TM Ranch, longtime sponsor of the late Florida legend David Rogers.
After taking Rogers’ famed No. 11 to the World Series championship in 2019, they jump on board Pollard’s machine for another crack at the David Rogers Super Late Model championship, which has since been named after the legend.
“The TM guys have been doing this deal for almost 30 years. It’s really cool and I’m honored to have the TM logo and David on the hood of this race car and keeping the tradition alive with TM and David being here,” said Pollard. “We’re letting the fans in the stands know we’re still racing for him and we’re coming down here to try to win some races.”
Seven races in nine nights gives Pollard the perfect opportunity to get the bugs out of a new car. He heads into the event three months removed from an emotional Florida Governor’s Cup win earned last November.
“It feels pretty good, just working some things out. It’s a new race car so we’re just getting familiar with it and where things need to be. I feel like the car has speed for no more laps than we had on it, I feel like there’s a lot more improvement and gains we can go off of today and work on for the rest of the week. That’s our biggest thing, just coming here and learning.”
One year removed from a Super Late Model championship and an ARCA Menards Series East runner-up, Derek Griffith returns to the facility that saw him become a breakout star. With last year’s success still on his mind going into Friday night’s opener, he has another championship on his mind.
“I’ve come down here for a long time and last year was a pretty fulfilling moment, to end the week with a championship and a bunch of good runs,” Griffith said. “I’m hopeful that we stay clean this week and come out with a good run and take it from there. It’s a tough week so if we can come out in one piece that’ll be a good deal.”
For Griffith, winning the World Series championship comes down to survival of the fittest. Seven races in nine nights provides a challenge to competitors, but it’s not the only wrench the event throws at drivers.
“To run nine nights in a row, it’s amazing really to survive that long. People come from all over the country to run this race so you get a lot of people who don’t race each other normally. It’s an interesting combination and it’s cool to see such a cool tradition continue on.”
One driver’s week came to an end before it ever began after Chris Munson suffered a hard crash in turn three during the final Pro Late Model session. The Michigan driver was okay, but that spells the end of the World Series for he and car owner Jon Beach as they will make the 17-hour trip back to the Wolverine State.
“I felt the throttle stick funny coming down to one and two. I came out of two and down the backstretch and lifted when I got to my lift point and I was still on the rev limiter. I pulled the throttle up with my toe, hit the brakes, hit the killswitch and into the wall we went. We killed it pretty good so we’re going home, unfortunately.”
The World Series of Asphalt is set to kick off Friday night with David Rogers Super Late Models, Pro Late Models Sportsman and Bombers. Racing is slated to begin at 7:15 p.m. ET live on NBC TrackPass.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo