Every driver who is planning a trip to what is commonly known as Florida Speedweeks is expecting one thing from the new asphalt at New Smyrna.
“I’d say that it is going to be really fast,” said defending Speedweeks Modified champion Andy Seuss.
“It is definitely going to be fast,” said Ted Christopher, who has dominated at New Smyrna in both a Mod and a Super Late Model. “I can guarantee that.”
“I can’t wait to get out there,” said Donny Lia, the 2005 winner of the Richie Evans Memorial 100, the biggest Modified race during Speedweeks. “It sounds like it is going to be really fast.”
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“You want it to be fast, but hopefully, it won’t be too fast though,” said Seuss. “You don’t want everyone to stay on the bottom and make it hard to pass. One thing that made New Smyrna great before was that there wasn’t much grip and if you got the car to work right, you could use the outside. Not everyone did, but we made it work…Chuck Hossfeld, Eric Beers and those guys did too. So you saw them finish well. You’d slide the car that whole time and that was a lot of fun – sliding and passing up there.
“If you bumped somebody, it’s not like you would break a ton of traction once they slid out of the way. It’s always physical down there and it is going to be interesting this year if somebody does nudge you, to see what will happen on the stickier surface at the higher speeds. It might get ugly quick.”
Even with the question marks lingering in the air, the Modified racers going to Speedweeks still can’t wait to christen the new surface.
While most racers and fans have had to rely on photos of the new track surface to prepare for it, Seuss recently stopped by the track during a family vacation to Florida to check it out for himself.
“We took a ride over there,” said Seuss. “New Smyrna is an awesome track and it always has been. It looks like they did a great job putting the new surface down.”
Other drivers who haven’t seen the new surface yet are still excited about the changes. In recent years, New Smyrna had gotten to be pretty rough to get around and a fresh coat of asphalt should change that.
“I’m looking forward to the smooth surface,” said Lia. “It looks like it is going to be glass-smooth. The past three or four years there, it has been a one-lane racetrack and hopefully this will change it. It might take time for that to happen, it might not. It could start out with great racing, side-by-side or it could take a little bit of time to work in two grooves.”
There will be a fresh coat of asphalt on New Smyrna this year.
“It was time for them to do something,” said Christopher. “The old track surface was worn out, there were potholes in the track.”
As with any major changes though, there is some concern around the first time racing on the new pavement.
“New pavement is funny,” said Christopher. “How it is to race on depends on how it cures. Hopefully, it will have enough time to cure properly. Up here, you pave a track in the fall usually and then it cures all winter before you race on it. Down there, they paved it and now we’re going to go and race on it right away.”
“I’m a little concerned about it coming up and tearing apart,” said Lia. “It didn’t have a whole time to cure, but I’m not an engineer or asphalt professional, so I’m sure it will be fine.”
Andy Seuss is the defending Speedweeks Modified champion. He checked out the new track surface on a recent vacation to Florida.
“I love going fast,” said Christopher. “My style fit right in with new pavement. I’ve told everyone that I can’t wait to go down there.”
“I can’t wait to get out there,” said Lia. “It sounds like it is going to be really fast. “I’m looking forward to the speed. I imagine that track records will be set.”
Another interesting thing about Speedweeks is that driver and team combinations that are entered in the event. Pairings that race nowhere else together during the year come together for New Smyrna. Some favorites, like Christopher, Seuss and Jimmy Blewett, will race for the teams that they run withall season long. Other combinations are more geared just towards these nine nights of racing. John Blewett, III and James Civali will be teammates in cars owned by Joe Brady for example, even though they will drive for other teams on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour this year.
“There is always a little bit of a silly season for Speedweeks because people go down with different combinations,” said Seuss. “Teddy Christopher is going down with his Tour ride and he’s been tough in that car.”
That fact isn’t lost on Christopher.
“To start off down there with the team that I’m going to run with the Tour is a good thing to do. We raced together some last year, but it should be even better this year starting off in New Smyrna.”
TC won’t be the only one who should be strong at Speedweeks.
“John Blewett, Jimmy Blewett, Eric Beers and Chuck Hossfeld are always good too,” said Seuss. “Everybody who will be down there will be tough, so there’s no shame in finishing fifth down there. But we’re going for the win just like everyone else. It really just depends on how the week plays out and who can adapt the quickest.”
This means that for some competitors, checking out the entry list before heading south is important.
“In the back of your mind, you look and see who is going to be there. You wonder who you are going to be racing against. If you win down there, you want to make sure that you win against some good guys. So when you hear that this guy has a ride or that guy has a ride, it only makes it that much better. If you win down there, any year, it is quite an accomplishment. This year, with the added competition, it should make it even more fun.”
Then again, some competitors don’t even bother to keep
up with who is going to race at New Smyrna – they just want to beat everyone.
“Nah, I don’t really care who shows up,” said Ted Christopher. “I don’t really get on the Internet too much. I don’t pay attention to the BS. I just want to beat everyone who is there.”
Donny Lia (#18) and Chuck Hossfeld (#22) are just a few of the top Mod pilots who go to Speedweeks.
The Tour-type Modifieds are always fast when they race at New Smyrna Speedway as part of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. This year, things will be even faster. The Modifieds will be racing in warp speed thanks to a new track surface at the half-mile track.