NST: Las Cruces preview

Rilat looks to build upon second place finish LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- When Travis Rilat joins the other National Sprint Tour drivers Saturday at Southern New Mexico Speedway, he will be about 700 miles from home. For the driver from ...

Rilat looks to build upon second place finish

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- When Travis Rilat joins the other National Sprint Tour drivers Saturday at Southern New Mexico Speedway, he will be about 700 miles from home.

For the driver from Fourney, Texas, that practically makes the Las Cruces a home track.

"We're a long way from anywhere," said the 29-year-old driver of No. 29. "We're closer than some guys will be. I started racing in Dwarf cars when I was 16, and I was going out to Phoenix and other places. Ever since I've been racing, I've been traveling.

"It feels like it's a pretty close track," Rilat added of having to travel 'only' 700 miles. "It's pretty good when you can race closer to home."

The relatively close distance by itself would be enough to make Rilat upbeat for Saturday's NST show. Making things better is the fact he's coming off a second place run in the last NST race Sept. 26 in Putnamville, Indiana.

"We're looking forward to every week," Rilat said. "Every race is a new journey. It feels pretty good getting a second. It definitely gives our team a boost of confidence and extra morale. It's the same for the driver and the crew. We know we can race with these guys.

"We've known we could run up front," Rilat added. "At least you convince yourself you can. You tell yourself you can do it. Now, we have finally done it. We have proven we should be a car to contend with out there."

Rilat started competing with NST drivers such as Danny Lasoski, Steve Kinser, Tim Kaeding, Jason Meyers and others this summer. He feels like he's found a home.

"Oh for sure," Rilat said. "Those guys are a good group of guys to race with. It's a big family. Everyone has accepted us. It's been some of the best times we've had in racing. Everyone gets along, and works together."

Regardless of how he finishes, Rilat attracts fan afterwards -- especially the young ones. They don't necessarily come down to see the driver. Rather, they are attracted by the Tweety Bird with the checkered flag on the top wing.

"Fred and Jo Threatt are the car owners," Rilat explained. "Jo is a Tweety Bird fan. They've had Sprint cars for 15 or 16 years, and there's always been Tweety Bird on the car. 'Tweetjo' is Jo's license plate."

Rilat has been driving for the Threatts for four years now, and likes the mascot riding on top of him.

"It seems like every night we have people bring their kids down to our car, just because of the Tweety Bird," Rilat said. "They all come down to see Tweety."

Is it tough playing second fiddle to a cartoon character?

"As long as we can create some interest, I don't mind," Rilat said with a laugh.

Saturday's race is a make-up date from March, when the second night of a doubleheader was postponed due to high wind. Tickets already purchased for the March 11 date will be honored Saturday. Tickets for the race are $35, with children under the age of 8 admitted free. For information, call the track at 800-658-9650.

Gates open at 5 p.m. on the Saturday, with racing scheduled for around 7.

The night before, the Unser Racing Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico will be hosting the National Sprint Tour Gala. The reception begins at 6 p.m. on Oct. 6 and goes until 11 p.m. There will be live and silent auctions to benefit the Unser Racing Museum College Fund.

NST drivers such as Rilat will be in attendance as well as Al Unser Sr. and Johnny Herrera. Herrera, Unser, Al Unser Jr., NST team owner Tony Stewart and the NST drivers have donated items for the auctions. Tickets are $50 and are available by calling 505-341-1776 or by e-mailing carla@unserracingmuseum.com.

For more information on the Southern New Mexico Speedway, visit www.snmspeedway.com. For more information on the NST, visit www.nationalsprinttour.com.

-credit: nst

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About this article
Series Sprint
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Danny Lasoski , Jason Meyers , Travis Rilat , Johnny Herrera , Tim Kaeding , Al Unser