SKINNER, LESSARD AND BERRY ARE QUICKEST AFTER FIRST TWO PRACTICE SESSIONS IN RUSTY WALLACE AUTOMOTIVE GROUP SHORT TRACK U.S. NATIONALS

Former NASCAR Cup and Truck standout Mike Skinner set the pace during the first two practice sessions in Pro Late Model Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway during open testing for next weekend’s Rusty Wallace Automotive Group Short Track U.S. Nationals.

Skinner posted a quick lap of 15.125 seconds at 126.863 mph in the first session at the controls of his Focus Point Toyota. The 1995 NASCAR Truck Series champion bettered that effort with a time of 15.106 at 127.022 in the second practice session.

Defending Pro Late Model winner Cole Williams was second in both sessions, racing his Cardinal Services/Bordeau Metals Chevy to a performance of 15.167 at 126.863 in the first session and 15.190 at 126.320 in the second.

Raphael Lessard, who won one of the qualifying races here last year, was quickest in Super Late Model in both sessions, posting a 14.806 at 129.596 in the first session and following that up with a quicker 14.773 at 129.886 in his Kyle Bush Motorsports Toyota No. 51.

In Late Model Stock, JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry posted the fastest laps in both sessions. He drove his All Things Automotive Chevy to a first session effort of 15.663 at 122.505 and was quicker in the second practice session, running 15.548 at 123.411.

Doug Moff led the first practice session in Modifieds and Kyle Purvis was quickest in the second Modifieds session. Chuck Barnes Jr. had the quickest car in the first two sessions of Street Stocks. Steve Vore was quickest in both sessions of the Compacts division.

Race teams in six classes are expected to be in competition during the Rusty Wallace Automotive Group Short Track U.S. Nationals, including Super Late Model, Pro Late Model, Late Model Stock, Modified, Street Stock and Compact divisions. The five sanctioning bodies that will be represented are CRA (Super Late Models, Pro Late Models, Street Stock), CARS Tour (Super Late Models, Late Model Stock), Southern Super Series (Super Late Model), I-Car All-Star Tour (Modifieds), VORES Compact Touring Series (Compacts).

Tickets and pit passes for the Rusty Wallace Automotive Group Short Track U.S. Nationals start at $85 for a weekend grandstand seat/pit pass combo and $55 for a Friday-Sunday grandstand GA combo. Kids 12-and-under are just $15 for a Friday-Sunday grandstand GA combo. Individual pit passes also are available for ages 14-and-up. Please visit http://www.bristoltix.com for more information.

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Several drivers visited the media center during the open test session before the second annual Rusty Wallace Automotive Group Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway, May 18-20. Below are quotes from Mike Skinner, Danny O’Quinn, Josh Berry and Cole Williams.

Mike Skinner – former NASCAR Cup and Truck Series standout
I’m too old to do this. This is probably my favorite short track. Here and Martinsville. Completely different race tracks and this place is amazingly fast. It’s always been a lot of fun to drive in anything that I’ve driven here. This is the first time I’ve driven a Late Model car here and I’d say the center of the corner is about as fast as anything I’ve ever driven here. It’s a lot of fun. I’m really blessed that my sons said ‘Hey Dad we need you to go run Bristol for us. Dust that old firesuit off and get yourself out of retirement for a week.’

I got cold chills when I walked across the race track and I have every time I have ever come to this racetrack. I’ve ran in about every kind of condition you can run here and I’ve run three different configurations of the race track over the years. This place… the hair just stands up on my arm when I walk through the gate.  I just love it so much. We are blessed with some great partners and a lot of thanks to all those people and our owner for letting the boys race these cars.

Mark Martin told me one time if you are ever comfortable driving around Bristol you aren’t trying hard enough. There’s nothing comfortable about this place. If somebody starts to smoke up the straightaway from you, you are only two seconds away from being in that. There’s nothing comfortable about this place. You know, it’s like a bad golf game. You go out and hit the ball terrible and you can’t wait to go back and do it again. I’ve ran Bristol and I’ve won here and I’ve run bad and I’ve crashed here. I broke my neck at this place one time in a crash. And I couldn’t wait to come back. This might be the last time I ever get to run Bristol so I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity. We’ve got a lot of friends coming here next week. If we can get through the rest of the day with all the fenders on this thing we’re going to come back next week and give it a try.

To win anywhere when you are 60 years old is cool. It would be really cool to win, but as long as we are competitive and we have a good time… no that’s bullshit. I want to win.

I’ve said since day one, the Saturday night racers are the roots of racing and the backbone of our sport. NASCAR wouldn’t be here without these late model guys doing what they do everywhere from Hickory, to Bowman Gray and New Smyrna Speedway and the list goes on and on to every short track across the United States. I’ll never forget people complaining about the Cup drivers coming into the lower series. Ron Hornaday and I loved it in 1995 because they would come in and we would beat ’em. That’s how we made our careers. If you can run with those guys, even if you don’t beat them, you will learn a lot from them. I’d like to see more tracks do it.

There’s a ton of talent out there. You can go to any short track on a given night and find a ton of talent. You see the Erik Jones’ of the world come through. I think it’s really cool that they get to come here to Bristol to race.

Danny O’Quinn – drives in Late Model Stock for Abingdon, Va.’s Wade Lopez
We’ve been working through little things. Mainly the typical things that you check for here at Bristol. Just checking your clearances, travels, keep it from bottoming out and things that you don’t see at other race tracks. You are carrying a lot of speed here. They don’t call it the World’s Fastest Half-Mile for no reason.

It’s always fun to get back here. This is the first race of the year for me. I love this place. Getting back out there making laps sure puts a smile on your face.
It’s even more special now since we don’t race a whole lot. We only run five or six times a year. Usually when we do race it’s out of town. It’s even a bigger deal to get out here and race. We are going to have a lot of friends and family here and Im driving for Wade Lopez in Abingdon and they will have a ton of sponsors and family and friends, so it’s really a big deal for all of us.

Last year we actually had a really good car. I think a lot of people really didn’t know what to expect here. The track was a lot faster than I recalled back in the day running late models and things here. It was a really neat race last year with how much throttle you carried but unfortunately we got swept up in a little accident. We had a lot of speed and it gives us a lot of optimism this year coming back. We learned a lot and made a few changes and hopefully we can contend for a win here.

The cars are a lot of different. Any time you go to a track that you just naturally like and enjoy coming to you will run good in anything. Having a few extra laps here even though it is a little bit different but you still have that general feel for it and it makes the comfort level makes it easier to get up to speed.

There’s a little extra pressure. Having a lot more people and running a limited schedule puts on a little pressure. Practice days like this are important to us, because we’ve got to get caught up and that’s the cool thing about this open test to have other cars here to gauge ourselves off of and see how we stack up against the competition.

Cole Williams — defending Pro Late Model winner of the Rusty Wallace Automotive Group Short Track U.S. Nationals
It’s not as intimidating as it was last year. We came in here last year and this place was just kind of overwhelming, really fast, high speeds and I didn’t really know what to expect.  This year we know what we have, we came in with a different car and hopefully it’s better than what we had last year. So far in this first practice it’s been solid and hopefully and it can be like this the rest of the weekend.

It’s been a huge support for me, the whole program, the KDDP, Kulwicki Driver Development Program, has been a really good program for me that I got to participate in and it’s a huge honor to be able to represent Allen. It’s just opened some doors and furthered some things and helped me.  And kind of living along in Alan Kulwicki’s legacy, as a smaller team, I always go with one of his famous quotes, “if you don’t believe you don’t belong.

Josh Berry – drives a Late Model Stock car for JR Motorsports
This place is fast. It’s unlike anything we run at. It tests us in a different way than we are used to. We run at a lot of slower short tracks. It’s a challenge for me as a driver, it’s a challenge for our team and our race car’s equipment. There’s a lot going on here.

I spoke with Elliott Sadler on Monday. He gave me some pretty good advice that I tried to apply in that first practice. He’s been a good help. Justin Allgaier has always been there to help if I’ve needed him. We’re just trying to learn as much as we can today.

BMS PR/Photo Former NASCAR Cup and Truck standout Mike Skinner led the way in Pro Late Model during the first two test runs for the Rusty Wallace Automotive Group Short Track U.S. Nationals

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