Three good reasons to catch the 2nd Annual "Battle on the Blacktop"
By Jack Smith - UDLMCS Media
We thought we would give fans some good reasons to see this year's installment of the "Battle on Blacktop".
We came up with three good ones: Rick Pratt, Mike Bresnahan and Johnny Collins.
We sat down with each of these drivers and talked about the upcoming race at Charlotte County Motorsports Park, pitting some of the top dirt late models drivers against not only each other but the track itself.
If you missed it or just want to watch it again, here's the link to the race video from last year's race courtesy of Florida Video:CLICK
Now three great reasons to pack up the family and head to Charlotte County Motorsports Park this Saturday night, August 22.
Rich Pratt has fans all over Florida, both asphalt and dirt late models fans have seen him in the spotlight after winning big races.
This will be the first time Rich has raced a dirt car on asphalt, though as veteran race fans know, he is no stranger to the winners circle running asphalt late models.
Pratt's slogan this weekend is "I get by with a little help from my friends." One of those is Mike Bresnahan. "Mike is a pretty good friend of mine and we have an arrangement. In 2006 I bought a brand new asphalt car and he helped me get it going, and when he decided to go dirt racing I helped him get that going."
Pratt's approach to this weekend's race is simple. He explained, "What if I had to take this car and run the regular show at Citrus next week, what would I do? That's kind of how I have been approaching it. I'm just taking what I have learned to be true on asphalt and apply it to my dirt car."
Pratt has reason to be optimistic about his chances at Charlotte County.
"We'll be down first thing Saturday morning for practice. I haven't even been to an asphalt track since the last time I raced at one and that was over two years ago. I've only been to Punta Gorda twice and the last time I was there I won the race, so I'm looking forward to it."
That was in 2004 when Pratt won the Pro Late Model Series race, fans will recall that was the series under the direction of Bert Ashelman. Pratt won on dirt at Ocala Speedway on July 25 with a field of 22 cars, outgunning the likes of Jeff Mathews, Jason Fitzgerald, Dillon Wood and Shan Smith.
Pratt has the right attitude going into this race: "My hat's off to all the dirt guys that have never ran on asphalt that go do it. The ones who go do that are the ones who are really enjoying racing. They are ones who say, 'Hey I'll go do something different because I enjoy racing'. That's why I do it."
For the asphalt fans, Pratt has this to say, "The cars look so different from what they are used to seeing, and quite honestly they are pretty darn fast too, you can tell by the lap times they are just as fast as any other full bodied car down there."
One thing is for sure with Rich Pratt, he is not going to run second. That's what makes him fun to watch. He is passionate behind the wheel and it shows in his results.
Last year in the first "Battle on the Blacktop" Mike Bresnahan ran 2nd to Johnny Collins in the caution free 50 lap race that left race fans speechless and breathless.
Mike still says a year later his car was no where near good in that race. "The car did not handle well at all last year, we were lucky to finish second. I still think we had one of the best cars, but it could have been ten times better that what it was."
This year Bresnahan will do some things a little differently. "We are putting a lot more emphasis on making the car more like a pavement car, and not so much like a dirt car. Now that I've ran it down there, I have a better idea of what the car wouldn't do, so now I'm trying to make it do what I want it to do."
Does Mike Bresnahan think he can win this race? "Yes I do, and now that I know Rich [Pratt] is coming I'm even more focused and putting even more effort into it." Rich and Mike talk a lot together on the phone, especially this past week. "We have been talking three or four times a day, bouncing ideas of each other, to make these cars work better on asphalt, so its going to be a fun race."
Is there a little bit of teamwork going on here? "Yeah, in a way, until we get on the race track. I guarantee you once we get on the race track and the stop watches come out, then we will definitely be watching each other without a doubt. That's the fun part of racing with friends."
This race, as it was last year, requires everybody to be on the same tires. The tires are from a leftover batch of old Hooters Cup bias-ply tires.
How old you ask?
Bresnahan thinks he knows, "They say Hooters on them and I don't know when the last time Hooters ran bias-ply tires, but I certainly don't think it was in the last ten years, so it has been a while. The Hooters late models I think is what these tires were from and that was ages ago".
But Mike is a veteran winning racer and he knows you have to play the cards you are dealt.
"They are as hard as rocks, I got them sitting in here soaking right now in some chemicals trying to soften them up to make them handle. I don't think it's any secret. Every team out there that is going to be there is going to be in the same boat."
Affordability of the tires is one of the key elements that make this race viable for the drivers, given the work required to prepare the car for asphalt and be competitive.
To Bresnahan it is quite simple.
"But it's the same for everybody, that's what I like about it. The tires are cheap, they are only 24 bucks a piece, everybody has got the same ones to choose from, they are all right side tires, there's really no stagger that comes into play, it's the same for everybody. In dirt there is such a tire guessing game as to what tire you need and how you need to tread it and all that kind of stuff."
Saturday, Mike Bresnahan will take a break from the work a day world, pack up the kids and show up for practice on Saturday morning with one objective in mind, and you can be sure second place is not an option.
Last year "The Locomotive" Johnny Collins dominated late model dirt racing, but there was no race he was more dominant in than the "Battle on the Blacktop", held at Charlotte County Motorsports Park on August 15. The Jacksonville ace put on a clinic lapping much of the field and winding the #5 converted dirt car through traffic like a magician.
What does one of the very best dirt late model drivers in the south do to prepare for a race on asphalt?
"Everything, every shock, spring every piece of lead, every bar angle, you name it, you have to flip-flop the whole car," Collins explained. After debating whether to invest the time to prepare for Waycross a few weeks ago, (A track that almost qualifies as an asphalt track), Collins decided "It ain't nothing but a little bit of work, and it paid off for me."
Collins seemed slow to get started this year, compared to last year. But it looks like the tide may be turning, Collins won at the bad fast Waycross Motor Speedway, then last weekend won two features in one day at Volusia Speedway Park against a field of 29 cars.
Since Collins dominated in the dirt racing circles last year, especially the United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series, we asked him what's it been like this year, getting your first win in August?
"It started out so slow. Last year we were kind of able to float right through, and everything just clicked all year long. This year we haven't been off bad, maybe a couple tenths, or a couple of calls here or there just went the wrong way or whatever. We have been right there, just not dominating as were last year."
Collins is really no stranger to asphalt tracks, just asphalt race cars. So last years performance at Charlotte was really not that much of a surprise.
"Back a few years ago we used to run two to four asphalt races a year with the National Late Model Series [a dirt series] with the stock clip cars. So once we got a few rounds of testing on Friday, it eased my mine and we just went out and took care of business."
We asked Collins about his drive to win the United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series championship again this year.
"You always try. Each week you go into these races and you just try to win the races. The pointz are going to fall how they fall. If it works out that's a heck of a bonus. I just try to win that race, and if I can't win I am going to rustle that sucker to the best finish I can get it."
On the recent Volusia wins Collins said, "It wasn't easy pickings, by no means", They really wet the track, and then a shower came through". That made for a very sloppy first race that, though Collins one, he didn't find nearly as memorable as the second one.
"In that second feature me and Jason [Fitzgerald] passed each other back and forth four or five times. Thankfully, knock on wood, everything was straight when we left there and hopefully it will be when we get back from Charlotte."
With three wins in the last two weeks under his belt, Collins will be the man the other drivers have to beat at Charlotte on Saturday night.
There will be drivers capable of pulling that off, so "the Locomotive" will have to bring his 'A' game in order to repeat.
Going into this event Jason Fitzgerald leads the United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series points chase with a 20 point lead over Mark Whitener. Collins sits back another 90 from Whitener. Russell Brown, Jr and Dillon Wood are fourth and fifth in the standings.
The action gets underway at Charlotte County Motorsports Park in Punta Gorda, Florida at 5 PM Saturday. Gates open at 4 for spectators. Also on tap for fans Saturday night is the local Outlaw Street Stocks 50 Laps, plus Road Warriors, Pro 4 Cars and the always insane Fan Participation races.
There will be a practice session on Friday night.
The United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series 50 lap event will be broadcast live over the Internet courtesy Real Racin USA.com. To listen to the race on the Internet with announcer Rick Anges, log on to the United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series web site at www.uniteddirtlatemodels.com
For directions and more information about the race venue log on to Charlotte County Motorsports Park at www.charlotte countyracing.com
TO WATCH VIDEO of the 2008 Battle on the Blacktop
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