Monday’s open practice at Slinger Super Speedway provided teams an opportunity to get their cars dialed in before the Slinger Nationals Tuesday night. With the added prize of a ride in Saturday’s SRX race at the high-banked quarter-mile on the line, this year’s race is the biggest it’s been in a long time.
The race has always had big meaning for weekly warriors like Ryan DeStefano when outsiders verge onto Slinger for the Nationals. With an opportunity to compete with drivers like Tony Stewart, Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan hanging in the balance, he expects Tuesday night’s race to get even crazier than in recent years.
While he has been hit-and-miss at Slinger in recent years, DeStefano has a run at the track championship on his mind in 2021. He won the SLM feature on June 13th in a photo finish over RJ Braun and currently sits fifth in points.
After Monday’s practice session, he believes he will have a car that can contend for the win.
“The Hamke car’s really good, this thing is where we need it. We’re trying a few little tricks but we’re not sure if we’re finding any speed out of it. I think we’ll be good, I think we’ll have a really good race car to go 200 laps with and that’s all that really matters.”
Sammy Smith returns to Slinger for a second run in the Nationals with a new ride. He has joined forces with Bobby Blount to run the same No. 16 that Cayden Lapcevich took to the pole in the Winchester 400 and a runner-up finish in the Dixieland 250 in one season ago.
After his first trip to Slinger last season with Kyle Busch Motorsports, he couldn’t pass up another opportunity to return to Wisconsin.
“I wanted to run the Slinger Nationals and we couldn’t do it with Donnie (Wilson), just with Jennerstown and the Redbud next week the timing just wasn’t right to get cars ready,” Smith said. “I’ve known Bob (Blount) for a couple years and he didn’t have anyone driving it so he called and asked if I wanted to come run it. It just came up and I enjoy running this track so I said why not?”
He is coming off the biggest win of his career over the weekend in Pennsylvania, where he banked $20,000 with the CARS Super Late Model Tour in the American Freedom 300 at Jennerstown Speedway Saturday night. He hopes to stay hot Tuesday night at a completely opposite venue compared to Jennerstown.
“This is definitely different. It’s still a Hamke car but it’s a different track, the competition’s really good here this week. We’re going to have to be on our A-game like we always are and hopefully we can get the car right in practice and get another win.”
Georgia teenager Jake Garcia was one of only two drivers on the property practice day who had never turned a lap at Slinger. The day came as a culture shock for him – both on and off the track.
"This track’s a lot of fun, it’s completely different from anything I’ve ever raced at. The only thing I can compare it to is a Quarter-Midget track because the lap times are so fast. It’s been a different learning experience.
“I’m surprised with how many people have come up to me while I’ve been here these last couple days and giving me a few tips on what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong to help me get better acclimated to the racetrack,” Garcia added. “They have a lot of hospitality here and it’s been a lot of fun for me getting to try a track that’s a bit different.”
Garcia is another driver with his eyes on Saturday night’s SRX ride. He says a Slinger Nationals win would have a big impact on his career in more ways than one.
“That would be really big for me, to be able to get my name out there a little bit more and maybe to even attract a few more sponsors. The SRX deal is definitely a big part of the prize here. Not only are you calling yourself a Slinger Nationals champion, but getting to be able to be in that deal and give yourself a little more exposure.”
Tuesday night’s Slinger Nationals will be broadcasted live on Speed51.TV. Click here to purchase your PPV ticket and watch live.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo