NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. – It was a weekend of highs and lows for Willie Mullins and Mullins Racing as the team competed in two races in three days at two vastly different race tracks.
Mullins and company opened the weekend with the annual visit to Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., for the Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire on Saturday afternoon.
“With the new tech processes and NASCAR being a part of the series, everything was operating really well leading up to the race at Daytona,” Mullins said. “We’re really pleased with what Joe Wells and Bobby Thomsen and Gadget have put together to make it a much simpler and easier tech process now.”
After a pair of strong practice sessions, Mullins qualified his No. 3 Crow Wing Recycling/Bugsy’s Auto Ford in the 21st position for the 80-lap race. Mullins spent the first portion of the race hanging back away from the main pack, choosing instead to be patient and wait to join the fray.
Mullins’ patience was rewarded when disaster struck on lap 40 as half the field became collected in a massive wreck in turn one. While Mullins’ Ford did sustain damage during the incident, he was able to continue after minor repairs on pit road.
The 39-year-old spent the remainder of the race battling for a position inside the top-10, crossing the finish line eighth to earn his third-career top-10 finish in ARCA Menards Series competition at the historic 2.5-mile superspeedway.
“Our goal is to come out of there with a car that rolls on the trailer. We achieved that, then we achieved a top-10, which is good for our small team,” Mullins said. “I’d say we had modest results and we’re very pleased with how things played out.”
Following his top-10 result at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Mullins Racing made the 12-mile trek to New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., for a day of testing Sunday ahead of Monday’s ARCA Menards Series East Skip’s Western Outfitters 175.
Sunday’s test helped Mullins get acclimated to the tricky New Smyrna track. A pair of fellow drivers, Connor Hall and Travis Braden, were also present and graciously offered to lend a hand to help Mullins prepare for Monday’s race.
Unfortunately race day didn’t go as planned for the Mullins Racing team as they found themselves battling new car bugs. The rear axle broke on the No. 3 Ford as Mullins was pulling on track for qualifying Monday evening, putting the team behind.
The Mullins Racing crew jumped into high gear, replacing the broken rear axle so Mullins could start the race from the tail of the field at the .480-mile asphalt oval. Mullins’ luck didn’t get any better during the race, as a broken sway bar bolt forced the team behind the pit wall for repairs around the lap 100 mark.
Mullins was able to get back on track and finish the race, but his time spent repairing the broken part resulted in a 20th-place finish in his ARCA Menards Series East debut.
“We destroyed this car at Dominion Raceway during a test a year and a half ago. We rebuilt this whole car and we just had little issues that popped up and it cost us some time,” Mullins said. “We didn’t get to qualify because it broke the axle as soon as it rolled on track. It was a bunch of just little stuff. Then we broke a sway bar bolt halfway through the race.
“We were going to have an OK day and we were OK with that because I’m learning these short tracks, I’m learning how these things should drive. I’m getting the feel finally. We were able to race some lap down cars at the end and we had a good time.”
All-in-all it was a good weekend for the Mullins Racing team and Mullins made sure to thank his entire crew for bring their to help him throughout both races.
“I want to thank every crew member that took time out of their lives to be a part of this,” Mullins said. “This was a very big week for our small team and without our crew chief Tony Furr, our spotter Kevin Belmont and all of our crew members, this would not be possible. Everybody was a major, major part of making this happen.”
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