FREDRICKSBURG, Va. – Robert Bruce put together a solid finish in his ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards debut at Minnesota’s Elko Speedway on Saturday, June 3.
Bruce, driving the No. 28 Ford sponsored by CW Metals, Bugsy’s Auto and Papa John’s out of the Mullins Racing stable, overcame a pair of spins in the first half of the Shore Lunch 250 to register a 12th-place finish Saturday evening.
The 53-year-old racing veteran from Fredricksburg, Va., said overall it was a solid evening for himself and for the Mullins Racing team, which was fielding two cars for the first time on Saturday night.
The day started off a bit rough for Bruce, who missed part of practice because of inspection issues on his car. Once he got on track he found himself dealing with a very tight car.
“Once we got on the race track we found out the car was really tight. We had to go through some obstacles trying to get the car dialed in to where it needed to be. The car was hitting the race track hard and we had to deal with that,” Bruce said. “I had to learn the race track too because I’d never been there before.”
In qualifying Bruce put together a lap that left him 15th in the 22-car field for the 250-lap race. Things got off to an inauspicious start early on when Bruce nearly made contact with his Mullins Racing teammate Willie Mullins on lap 32, leading to Bruce spinning out to avoid contact and losing several laps in the process.
Bruce was able to recover from that incident and gained two laps back on subsequent cautions, only to spin again on lap 139. After seemingly getting his bad luck out of the way, Bruce settled in and was able finally get the No. 28 Ford working the way he wanted it to.
“We got the lucky dog like twice, but the hardest thing was we had to start at the end of the longest line and there were probably about six slow cars that took forever to get by, so we lost some ground,” Bruce explained. “It was a struggle. We’d start running good and get up to pace, then the leaders would catch us.
“The car finally came to me and I got my line going really well. We were running just as competitive lap times as the top cars. We were really happy with that,” Bruce said. “The folks from CW Metals had all their people there. We put on a good show. Me and Willie had some time during the race where we were racing each other. That’s good for our supporters and fans.
The race ended in dramatic fashion when several of the leading cars crashed at the start/finish line on the final lap. Bruce was able to avoid the mayhem to finish 12th, one lap off the pace. He said the crash on the final lap gave him his own personal ‘Days of Thunder’ moment.
“When I came through three and four it was a cloud of smoke. I couldn’t see. My spotter said he couldn’t help me, I was gonna have to find my own way,” Bruce said. “It felt like Days of Thunder going through that smoke, because I couldn’t see anything. I just kind of creeped through there and then the smoke kind of cleared and I was able to drive through it unscathed.”
Bruce expressed his gratitude to the Mullins Racing team for giving him the chance to race at Elko Speedway and thanked sponsor CW Metals for helping make the opportunity happen.
“It was a great experience and I would love to do it again. I can’t thank Willie Mullins and his fiancé Dinah enough for the opportunity and thank you again to the folks at CW Metals for helping making it happen,” Bruce said. “It was a great day. I was blessed to be able to finish the race unscathed. I felt like we had a top-eight car, just the circumstances didn’t work out our way. We learned a lot and we know what the car needs when it goes to the next race.”
For more information on Mullins Racing, please visit mullinsracing.net, like them on Facebook (Mullins Racing) and follow them on Twitter @mullins_racing.