23-Year-Old Makes Hagans Racing ARCA Debut Saturday and Wins Big SLM Race Sunday LONGWOOD, FL (July 3, 2006) -- When Tim Russell's alarm clock went off on Monday morning, he likely didn't feel the same way that he usually does when the new...
23-Year-Old Makes Hagans Racing ARCA Debut Saturday and Wins Big SLM Race Sunday
LONGWOOD, FL (July 3, 2006) -- When Tim Russell's alarm clock went off on Monday morning, he likely didn't feel the same way that he usually does when the new week is about to start. Sure the week was only beginning, but because he had just raced his way through the best weekend in his racing career, Russell probably had a little more spring in his step than on a typical Monday -- despite the much fatter wallet that he has now.
The 23-year-old Floridian flew home Sunday to his home state to compete in the $10,000-to-win Clyde Hart Memorial 200 Super Late Model race at New Smyrna Speedway just 24 hours after making his debut with renowned ARCA RE/MAX Series driver development program Hagans Racing on Saturday at Kansas Speedway. Russell raced inside the top-10 for much of Saturday's Kansas Lottery $200 Grand ARCA race at Kansas before finishing 15th, but he saved his best performance for Sunday.
Russell scored the emotional victory, also his first-career Super Late Model win, in the Clyde Hart Memorial 200 with his Rinnai-sponsored #36 machine. The thrill of victory in his rookie SLM season and in such a prestigious race, plus scoring a solid finish in his first start with Hagans Racing all within a 24-hour period makes this past weekend one that Tim Russell will never forget.
"This feels awesome, what a great weekend," said Russell. "The Hart family has been really good friends with my family for a long time and my dad's been racing with them for a long time too. It feels really good to win this race for them. Plus, the guys that we beat were some of the best guys in the nation. Wherever they run they're up front, so it feels great to beat them.
"On Saturday we had a good ARCA run, too. The finish didn't show how good we ran. We were in the top-10 for most of the race and the guys at Hagans Racing did a great job. Then to be able to go out and win at New Smyrna is awesome."
Russell's highlight moment of the weekend came when he took the lead from Jeff Choquette with 34 laps remaining in Saturday's Clyde Hart Memorial 200 and never looked back. Russell had flown to the track just a few hours after stepping from his Rinnai-sponsored #9 Dodge for Hagans Racing in the ARCA race, but the travel and the heat at both racetracks didn't faze the young driver.
"All weekend I was just trying to stay hydrated. It was really hot in Kansas and I knew it was going to be pretty hot down at New Smyrna. All the hard work and the sweat was worth it by the end of the race at New Smyrna. In practice my car was pretty good. We only ran about 15 laps in practice and the car felt great. We thought we were as good if not better than anyone else out there on old tires. We were able to put it in third place in qualifying but I thought we'd be a lot worse than that. I couldn't get the nose to turn down to the bottom because I drove the car into the corner too hard on the qualifying lap but I knew we would have a good car.
"We had a pretty decent car at the start of the race. We were running third for the first little while just saving our stuff. We got kind of tight in the middle in the middle of the race, so I had to change my driving style a little bit to try to overcome that. When we pitted we made an adjustment to get the car loosened up, and between that and changing up my line a little bit I was able to pick it up. We were able to get by Choquette and took the lead and led the last 34 laps."
All the spoils of the victory at New Smyrna were made even more special after racing with the heavy-hitters of the ARCA RE/MAX Series on Saturday at Kansas. Russell qualified the Rinnai #9 for Hagans Racing in the 23rd spot, but both he and the team knew that they'd have a stout Dodge under race conditions. Turns out they were right, as Russell finessed his way into the top-10 early in the race. Running eighth for much of the 134-lap event, Russell began developing a miss in the motor that eventually cost him straightaway speed. Russell was able to nurse the car home in 15th place.
"The race started out really good, but the car was a little tight," said Russell of his ARCA effort. "We played it pretty conservative at the start. On that first pit stop we loosened it up and the car really came alive. That's when we got up into the top-10 and right around the top-five. We hung around there most of the day.
"We were sitting in the catbird's seat. We had all of our pit strategy planned out and we were good to go on gas, but around lap 80 we started picking up a miss in the motor. I think something went bad with the ignition box. We were only turning about 7000 rpms and at about 6800 it started the miss. I could keep up with some of the guys, I think we were running eighth or so when that last caution came out. I could get side-by-side in the corners with those guys but down the straightaways they just pulled away from me. Even still, I learned a ton out here today. Everything I learned is going to help in the future ARCA races we run."
While Tim's upcoming ARCA schedule will be announced soon, he will next back behind the wheel of his Rinnai-sponsored Super Late Model at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, FL on July 22nd. If he happens to run both cars in the same weekend again, Russell will be looking for similar results as he just saw.
"I've never had a weekend like this before, but hopefully I have many more."