Donny Lia Dominated Night Two In Modifieds by Jason Buckley
Aggression Leaves Some Drivers Fuming
The second night of racing action at New Smyrna for the Tour-Type Modifieds proved successful for some and frustrating for others. In the end, it was Donny Lia leading wire-to-wire to win his first race on the new fast asphalt surface.
Donny Lia found Victory Lane on night two.
"The car was really good," said Lia. "It stayed the same, which is what we were working on, trying to keep the car consistent throughout a run. I think we figured out what we needed to do for the most part."
During a blistering fast qualifying session which saw Friday night's winner Eric Beers smoke around the track in 16.526 seconds, Lia timed in fourth fastest. After the inversion, he started from the first position.
At the green, Lia pulled the field around with Beers hot on his tail. In the first few laps, Beers pressured Lia for the top spot. Behind those two the field tightened up as the tires came up to temperature. Andy Seuss was running a strong third ahead of a charging Ted Christopher. Going into turn three on the fifth lap, Christopher pressured Seuss for position when the two made contact, sending them both into the wall, bringing out the red flag to clear both damaged cars from the track.
The break in the action appeared to have hurt Beers chance to pass Lia as he dropped back a few positions on the restart.
"We had a long red there, and we went back green the car got tight," said Beers. "I don't know what happened - if the right rear shrank down and never came back up or if the left rear just grew after that. I just couldn't keep it on the bottom."
Lia wasn't in the clear as numerous restarts challenged his skills.
Lia (#18) battled with Eric Beers (#9) early. (Dupont photo)
"The restarts were great all night," explained Lia. "I think we got as good of restarts as we could get every time. They never really outsmarted me."
Lia also had to survive challenges by the brothers Blewett. As the two swung around traffic behind Lia, John Blewett III took aim first but could not catch him. Younger brother Jimmy Blewett worked his way around his brother's car to see what he could do. In the end, no one could catch Lia before the checkered flag fell.
"It seemed like a pretty uneventful race leading the whole thing," said Lia. "But when you have the opportunity to sit on the pole you have to make the most of it and not make any mistakes and make it so you do not beat yourself. Let them beat you.
"We started on the pole, stayed out front, won the race and I've got a car in one piece for the next night."
Jimmy Blewett crossed the finish line ahead of John Blewett III, followed by Beers and Zach Sylvester.
The Modifieds take a night off before returning to action at New Smyrna on Monday night.
MOD NOTES: NIGHT TWO
Tempers Flare Between Seuss and Christopher
Patience on a newly-surfaced track where only one groove of racing occurs is sometimes hard to find. With only a few laps in the books, Andy Seuss felt the frustration as contact from Ted Christopher's car sent both into the turn three wall and out of the race.
Neither driver was too happy with the other.
This accident between Andy Seuss (#70) and Ted Christopher (#36) left both drivers steamed. (Hodge photo)
"He dumped me," said Seuss. "He went down on the apron way too hard. We both ended up in the fence. It was pretty much typical Ted Christopher. It happens all of the time. You got to expect it."
Christopher explained his take on Seuss.
"I guess he has to f**king learn it," said Christopher. "Sometimes when the faster guy is there, it’s give a little more. I had a pretty good run there."
The Modifieds will not be back in action until Monday, giving both teams time to fix their damaged cars.
"We will see if he wants to fix his car again," said Christopher.
Lia Tackling Another Track In A Smaller Form
This weekend Donny Lia is racing in multiple events. When he isn't wheeling the #18 Modified around the New Smyrna track, he has been in Orlando for a big radio-controlled (R/C) car national event.
"I am running the Snowbird Nationals in Orlando," said Lia. "It is one of the biggest R/C races of the year. It's just a hobby I've had since I was really young. I've never been to a big race for them, so I just wanted to experience it once. It's a lot of fun."
While many might consider these radio-controlled scale cars 'toys', the R/C racing industry takes the racing serious.
"They are little race cars," said Lia. "They react to changes just like these big race cars. It is a pretty cool thing."
Lia jumped right in and showed he was fast in the opening rounds of the event.
"I qualified ninth overall," said Lia. "That puts me in the 'A' Main. There are a lot of guys running, so it is something to be proud of. I have been practicing back home during the winter and I made the 'A' Main. That was my goal, but I didn’t think it was a realistic one. It is very competitive, so I am really happy about that. I have a shot to win.”
Logano's First Modified Race An "Adventure"
Joey Logano's Modified (#6). (Hodge photo)
Joey Logano made his first-career Modified race Saturday night, but the night didn't go as smooth as he would have liked. But despite that, Logano said the experience was “sick,” and not in the bad way.
Logano’s up and down day started with troubles in practice when a mechanical failure sent the team scrambling.
"We were running decent and the left front tie rod broke," said Logano. "I put it in the wall and bent all the right front suspension."
The team chose to skip qualifying so they could work on the car. Starting from the rear of the field, Logano was moving his way up through the field when his power steering failed.
Logano managed to muscle his car around the track despite the challenges the car gave him to an eighth-place finish. More important than the finish for Logano was the experience and knowledge he gained on the track.
"It was definitely the most exciting 25 laps I’ve ever run," said Logano. "There was stuff going on everywhere. I think I almost got in about three different wrecks. These guys have a different mentality out there compared to what I’m used to.
"My first Modified race was an adventure for sure. It was sick out there. I learned a lot about these guys and how they run. They were even trying to pass me under caution. We were three-wide at one point."
Logano is confident he will improve over the Speedweeks.
"I think we are a top-five car. Tonight we didn’t prove it, but I think we will get better as the week goes on."
Blewett Brothers Show Talent Runs In The Family
John Blewett III (#00) races with younger brother Jimmy (#19) on Saturday night. (DuPont photo)
Donny Lia might have stole the show, but the Blewett brothers showed the racing blood runs deep in their family as well.
"My car was good," said second-place finisher Jimmy Blewett. "It started to tighten up just about halfway through the race and I couldn't get the run I needed off the turn to make the passes as quick as I wanted to.
"The car was good from the drop of the green. My brother, I don’t know if he got tight or loose. I don't know what it was but I got underneath him. I set my sights on Donny after that. He had just a little too much on us there and I couldn't close back up on him."
John Blewett III's car appeared decent, but he still struggled with some handling issues.
"We got tight again today," said John. "We are chasing the track just a little bit. The track is getting faster and tighter as we go. I kinda anticipated that tonight, so we set it up freer, but not free enough."
John also complimented his brother's driving style and its improvement.
"Jimmy is a tough customer," added John. "He doesn’t give an inch. When him and I were racing there, that is as hard as you can race.
"Jimmy is learning as he goes. Tonight is a perfect example of how he can race every week. He was patient and didn’t push the issue. When he needed to go, he went. He caught me sleeping.
"Tonight he definitely had the best car."