Fredericksburg, VA: Saturday at Five Flags Speedway proved to be a special evening for Willie Mullins.
By finishing fifth in the Pensacola 200, Mullins earned his first career Top 5 across the three ARCA Menards Series divisions outside of the restrictor plate event at Daytona International Speedway. The path to claiming a fifth place finish at Five Flags was far from an easy process for Mullins, who had to battle his way through adversity after an early incident with Daniel Escoto put him two laps behind the leader.
“We certainly had our struggles in the beginning,” Mullins said. “[Escoto] pretty much wrecked us and we battled back only for him to get me again. Thankfully, we came out fortunate on that one and got a lap back. Once we got our second lap back, we were there to play.”
The only other Top 5 Mullins had claimed in ARCA prior to Saturday’s Pensacola 200 came in the 2018 Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona. Mullins finished second behind Michael Self in the event after staying in the lead draft all day and avoiding two major late-race accidents.
With support from Fast Track Racing and a car borrowed from Michael Diaz, Mullins knew that Saturday evening presented a perfect opportunity for him to showcase the speed of the equipment and finally add a Top 5 at a short track.
Despite the early issues, Mullins and his crew relentlessly adjusted on his No. 11 Crow Wing Recycling Toyota throughout the night to keep him on pace with the leaders. By the time the checkered flag was displayed, Mullins’ lap times were consistent with the Top 3 in Taylor Gray, Leland Honeyman and race winner Sammy Smith.
Mullins said that Saturday’s Top 5 at Five Flags was a culmination of all the hard work he and his crew have put in since joining ARCA back in 2008, adding that the improvements made are only going to result in more strong runs moving forward.
“This really means a lot,” Mullins said. “So many people came together, and Saturday showed that we had the capability of running with the big teams. If we put a great car out there that stays in one piece, we’re more than capable of running in the Top 5 now.”
Now that he has his first Top 5 of the 2022 season under his belt, Mullins is turning his attention back to superspeedway racing when he makes the long trip to Talladega with a two-car armada consisting of himself and Brayton Laster.
In the team’s most recent outing in the main ARCA division at Daytona, Laster and Mullins brought home finishes of 13th and 14th respectively even though the latter was forced to climb from the back of the field after sustaining damage to his car while preparing for a qualifying lap.
Mullins does not anticipate a similar incident to take place at Talladega but said that the natural unpredictability of the race will put a heavy emphasis on qualifying near the front and maintaining track position so that he and Laster can be in the best possible position to win.
“A Top 5 at Talladega would be great,” Mullins said. “The biggest thing is not getting wrecked on pit road when we’re qualifying and end up starting at the back. We need to have a good qualifying effort and do what we can to run up front.”
Mullins Racing would like to thank all of its sponsors, including CorvetteParts.net, Crow Wing Recycling, CW Metals, Bugsy’s Auto, Snap On by Timmy Brann and Dinah Marie Photography.
For more information on Mullins Racing, please visit mullinsracing.net, like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mullinsracing, follow them on Twitter at @mullins_racing or on TikTok at @williemullins.3 and @dinahmmullins.