License to Pass: Tony Bruce Jr. Looks for Another Strong Run at I-55 Raceway Nobody passed more cars at I-55 Raceway last season in the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series event than Tony Bruce Jr. While, he would have liked to...
License to Pass: Tony Bruce Jr. Looks for Another Strong Run at I-55 Raceway
Nobody passed more cars at I-55 Raceway last season in the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series event than Tony Bruce Jr. While, he would have liked to have gotten around three more cars, he was very pleased with a fourth-place finish, after lining up 23rd for the 40-lap contest. After all, he had never seen the track until just a few hours before the event.
The native of Liberal, Kansas will have his first of two chances to compete at the track which is co-owned by NASCAR star Ken Schrader this weekend, as the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series invade the high-banked 1/3-mile on Saturday, April 5.
"We're really looking forward to getting back to I-55 and back to World of Outlaws points racing," said Bruce, who pilots the Best Well Services Maxim. "We just need to qualify a little bit better and maybe start in the Top-10. I think we can pull off another Top-Five there."
Bruce powered his way past six formers winners at I-55 last season in his march to the front of the field. Late in the race, he battled Steve Kinser for the third spot for a number of laps, trading the position with 20-time champion a couple of times, before finishing fourth.
"Patience was a key," Bruce noted. "I didn't abuse the car. I let a lot of the guys kind of beat down the wall, and I rode around for maybe the first 10 laps and then started picking them off one by one. I noticed that our car worked well on the bottom and I didn't abandon it. I stayed patient and everything fell our way."
Bruce's fourth-place performance was no easy task, after a late draw in qualifying relegated him to being one of the last cars to take to the track. In the second heat race, he came up just one spot short of transferring to the A-Feature, which put him in the B-Main. He had a solid run in that event, to race his way into the A-Feature, where he would easily earn the KSE Race Products Hard Charger Award.
"I really like the track," shared the native of Liberal, Kansas of his first visit to I-55 Raceway. "I had seen it on television and always thought it would be a real fun place to race. I couldn't wait to get there in the first place and I can't wait to get back there this year."
With Mother Nature having interrupted the Advance Auto Parts World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule over the last few weeks, with a combination of rain, snow and cold, Bruce made a couple of trips up to the sprint car racing hotbed of Pennsylvania to turn some extra laps in preparation for the series three visits to the famed Williams Grove Speedway this season. He also was able to compete twice at Lincoln Speedway in Pennsylvania, against very tough competition, including several fellow World of Outlaws drivers.
"We have six full point races up there at the Grove (Williams Grove Speedway) and it's real important," explained Bruce of his long distance trips. "If you are 0 for 6 in making the shows up there, that is a big blow to your points and a big blow to your confidence. It's a tough place to get around and there are a lot of big money shows there and it is a real important race track. Our whole focus was to go up there and get as many laps as we could and to get up to speed as quick as possible."
Bruce also raced at Devil's Bowl Speedway in Texas, the site of the inaugural World of Outlaws event in 1978. He won the first night of the Spring Nationals for the American Sprint Car Series on Tour on March 14 and followed that up with a runner-up performance the next night, with several fellow World of Outlaws drivers competing in a field of over 50 cars.
"Any win is a win," stated the second-year driver. "It doesn't matter where it comes from. If there are 50 cars in the pit area you have to be doing something right. It was definitely a good confidence builder. We've always been really good at that track and it was good to get to victory lane and to prove to people that we can win races."
On top of all the racing he has done over the last few weeks, Bruce and his team also completed moving their shop from Kansas to the Indianapolis area in Indiana, to be more centrally located for the always demanding World of Outlaws season. Last season, they were only able to make it back to the shop a handful of times over the course of the nine-plus month schedule, prompting the full-time move.
"We began to move over there at the middle part of last year and it really seemed to help out," Bruce said. "It's a lot less stress and a lot less travel. There is not as much wear and tear on your body and the equipment. It's a central location and there is a ton of things here. If we need parts, we can get them. It's a central hub and it's good to work out of here."
Having raced almost nearly every weekend since the season opened back in February, Bruce has stayed extremely sharp, as he and his team have been trying a number of different combinations this season to make their cars as fast as possible. While he is in just his second full year on the road with the World of Outlaws, he thinks like a true veteran and knows that once everyone returns to the track at I-55 Raceway on Saturday night, that all the rust will quickly be knocked off for the drivers that have not competed as much as he has the last few weeks.
"It will be an advantage having raced, but for some of the guys, like (Steve) Kinser and (Donny) Schatz it won't matter much," he said of the time away from the track. "Come the first hot lap session, they'll be cars to beat. We just have to worry about what we have to do and not beat ourselves. Then we can definitely try to beat them."
With the momentum that he has built over the last several weeks, Bruce looks to turn in another strong run at I-55 Raceway this weekend. He has a simple plan as heads to the track located just outside of St. Louis for just the second time in his career.
"We need a good qualifying run," he said. "If we can get started up front, we'll be in good shape. Last year we were about the last car to go out for qualifying and ended up having a bad time. That made us start at the tail of everything. I don't want to pass as many cars as I had to last year. If we can start 10th I think we'll be in good shape."