Story By: NICK GRAZIANO / DIRTCAR – BARBERSVILLE, FL – There’s no physical trophy for winning practice, only the award of confidence.
For Demetrios Drellos, it’s the confidence he can win his first golden gator trophy this week during the 51st DIRTcar Nationals.
After three, three-lap, practice sessions Monday at Volusia Speedway Park for the Super DIRTcar Series – before five full nights of racing at the track – Drellos led the field of 41 cars with an overall fastest lap of 17.290 seconds.
He led the field for two straight sessions, setting the fastest overall lap in the second and then backing it up with his fastest lap of the night in the third session.
“The track is unbelievable from that we saw at the beginning of the week,” Drellos said. “It is smooth as glass. I’d say it’s smoother than any year I’ve been here. It’s actually really impressive what the track crew did.
“We tested a few things with our shock program and bounced some ideas around. It was really good. We made some improvements off and on and we’re really happy with it.”
The Queensbury, NY driver has four starts at Volusia with a career-best finish of eighth in 2020. However, his early small victory for the week has visions of a gator trophy circling in his head.
“My car turned really well on entry, and I felt really comfortable with it,” Drellos said. “This Bicknell Chassis that we have, we put it together before World Finals at Charlotte last year and had a couple of good runs down there (with two fourth-place finishes). It’s been a good car for us. It’s a car that fits me well right now and I kind of bond with it.
“The track has been consistent, if the track crew keeps doing what they’re doing, I don’t see any reason we shouldn’t be able to get a gator this week.”
Of the more than 40 cars that participated in the practice sessions, only 14 other drivers joined Drellos in the 17-second bracket around the half-mile track. The next two closest behind him were Steve Bernard with a 17.340-second lap and Jim Britt with a 17.381-second lap.
For Bernard, of Granby, Quebec, this year is his third visit to Volusia and first time back since 2019. The laps were also his first on a newly freshened motor. With an improvement in speed each session, Bernard is optimistic – albeit cautiously – about maintaing that speed throughout the week.
“We’re happy no smoke, no nothing, everything is fine (with the engine),” Bernard said. “The car feels good. We improved a lot through the three rounds, so I feel that we can be fast tomorrow, but tomorrow is going to be another track. No rubber, no nothing, so let’s see how it is going to be tomorrow.”
Having watched how the track was last week with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series and the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds, Britt said he thinks the track drivers got to practice on Monday night will be the same, if not similar, track they will be racing on throughout the week. So, with a few suspension changes, Britt said he thinks he was able to learn a few things he can apply as the week goes on.
Last year’s Big Gator champion Max McLaughlin, back behind the wheel of a Heinke-Baldwin Racing Big Block for the first time in two years, ended the night seventh fastest overall with a 17.699 second lap.
TOP 5 FASTEST OVERALL TIMES
- Demetrios Drellos – 17.290 sec.
- Steve Bernard – 17.340 sec.
- Jim Britt – 17.381 sec.
- Peter Britten – 17.401 sec.
- Darren Smith – 17. 674 sec.
The 2022 Super DIRTcar Series season will kick off Tuesday, Feb. 15, for the first of five Features during DIRTcar Nationals with drivers accumulating points from every Feature toward the Big Gator Championship, which will be awarded on Saturday, Feb. 19.