Jay Middleton Turns Heads in ARCA Debut at MIS Broken Spoiler Ends Super Late Model Star's Otherwise Stellar First Event LAKE CITY, FL (August 21, 2006) -- The name Jay Middleton may be a new one to the ARCA RE/MAX Series, but after...
Jay Middleton Turns Heads in ARCA Debut at MIS
Broken Spoiler Ends Super Late Model Star's Otherwise Stellar First Event
LAKE CITY, FL (August 21, 2006) -- The name Jay Middleton may be a new one to the ARCA RE/MAX Series, but after Thursday's Pork Pole qualifying and the early part of Friday's Hantz Group 200 at Michigan International Speedway, ARCA fans found out exactly what short track fans in the eastern part of the country have known for a few years now. Jay Middleton is a talented racecar driver who is not afraid to go fast.
Middleton and his family-backed team took a step up from their busy schedule of Super Late Model racing, where the 23-year-old driver has been tearing up tracks for years, to the competitive world of ARCA. After just a few weeks of preparation, Middleton made his ARCA debut at MIS on Friday, but the result did not show anywhere near the impact that the young driver had in his maiden ARCA voyage. Middleton qualified an impressive seventh and raced near the top-10 early in the race before a fluke part failure relegated him to a 37th-place finish.
For Middleton, though, just knowing that he could come out with the big guns of ARCA and turn plenty of heads was an accomplishment that he wants to build off of for the next time he hits the track.
"It was a valuable experience, and I hope we impressed some people," said Middleton. "This team hasn't been around before; nobody on this team had much experience except for our crew chief Teddy Brown. He's been around, and he's a good guy. Everyone came together to come out here to win a race. We didn't come out here to learn, we came here to win the race. That's what we do every time we go to the racetrack.
"I think I became a much better driver this weekend and everyone on the team got better this weekend in general. We learned a lot and I got some valuable lap time. It was a learning experience for all of us, but I think we could've had a top-10 finish for our first time out."
Middleton looked to be well on his way towards that top-10 finish early on. The 22-year-old made heads turn in qualifying when he took his white number-57 Chevrolet to the seventh starting position for Friday's race. When the green flag dropped in the Hantz Group 200, Middleton settled in for a long race knowing that he had a competitive car.
"We knew that we probably could've had the pole if we were a little bit looser in qualifying. The first part of the race the car was real tight, but we were just biding our time until we came into the pits to make the car better for the rest of the race.
"We were running in 16th at the time, and when I came out, I knew we made the right changes. We were back in it, and the car came alive. We passed about four cars right at the beginning after the stop, and I think we could've stayed well inside the top-10 all day long."
Middleton was flying through the field with a fast racecar. Until, of course, his spoiler was doing the flying through the air.
"I drove off into the first turn and the spoiler flew off. The car was all over the place. That will get the heart racing. It's just one of those things that you never expect to happen. It actually felt like I had a right-rear flat. I got on the radio and said I had a flat. Then I looked in my rearview mirror and said, 'there's no spoiler!' I drove into the corner at a lower speed just trying to make sure it was okay. It didn't feel right.
"I tried to run around for four or five laps hoping to catch a caution, but it wouldn't have been able to be fixed on pit road anyway. Every spoiler is different, so you can't just borrow someone else's spoiler and bolt it on there. By the time we could've put another spoiler on there, we would've been 10 or 15 laps down, so it just made more sense to keep the car in one piece and get them next time."
Even while the race did not have the ending that Middleton and his team were hoping for, they know that they made an impact in their first ARCA RE/MAX Series start.
"This is where I think I was born to be, in the big leagues like this. I'm a short track racer by trade, but I'm definitely all about these speedway races now.
"I do all my own work on the car. It's just me and another guy working on this car all day long. We put this entire car together. We've just been slaving over it. I understand how these cars work, how to put them together, and I know what to change on them. I think that was the biggest thing that helped us get better through the weekend ...the ability to give Teddy the information he needed."
Middleton plans to make the September 9th SK Hand Tool 200 at Chicagoland Speedway his next ARCA RE/MAX Series start.