Byron, Majeski Amongst the Fastest in Berlin Practice

The Money in the Bank features Cup contenders versus Super Late Model stars.

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For an hour after Money in the Bank practice at Berlin Raceway, the pit area was opened up for fans to hang out with drivers, and the marquee attractions were not NASCAR Cup Series drivers Erik Jones and William Byron.

Instead, it was our old friends EJ and William.

Jones, of course, is a native of nearby Byron, Michigan while Byron has acclimated himself to the short track community since joining Donnie Wilson Motorsports for about a dozen Super Late Model starts beginning in February.

Coincidentally, both should be contenders for the win on Wednesday night at the Marne, Michigan bullring as Byron was fastest in practice and Jones is a two-time Late Model winner at his home track.

Byron was the only driver to break into the 15 second bracket with a best lap of 15.999 after mocking up late in the three-hour evening session. The current Cup Series playoff points leader had never seen the track until Tuesday.

"It's really tough," Byron said. "I've watched videos, seen the ARCA races, watched Kyle (Busch) win the Rowdy 251. It's way different in the car than I thought it would be. It's hard to figure out where the center of the corner is. I'm constantly turning and if I'm not in the right position, I slow way down. Just trying not to go too hard and let the car do the work."

Despite winning Super Late Model races at New Smyrna, Hickory and Nashville this year, Byron said Tuesday was especially challenging because both the driver and car needed a little bit of work, but he was in no position to lead the team due to how immediately tricky Berlin is.

"This is the best field we’ve raced against and it’s the toughest track I’ve been to," Byron said. "We had a good notebook for all the tracks we’ve been to together and I’ve raced there and knew what we were getting into.

"So here, I feel like I was way off, and the car was way off after unloading too, so I spent all three hours trying to get those two elements married together."

And yet, Byron still mocked up fastest of all 33 drivers that took a lap.

Jones, meanwhile, posted the 14th fastest time without mocking up while spending the day experimenting with various packages in his first race driving for Wimmer Motorsports.

"I thought it was a good day," Jones said. "We made a lot of changes, good changes. We got the car closer to what I feel we need to be. I’ll be curious to see where we’re at when we mock up. It was a good day."

Jones also has an ARCA victory at Berlin, and while the cars have all changed over the years, Jones said today felt immediately familiar.

"There are a lot of things that still feel the same, but these cars have a lot more motor than what I remember from back in the day," Jones said. "That’s different, but also the handling characteristics of the car. The tires have changed, so everything is a little different and it takes a little bit of time to feel that out."

"But the track itself, and how you get around here, that still feels pretty close. It felt good to just get back on track here, because I think it’s been five years, and it doesn’t feel that long."

The 7/16-mile has various turns within the turns. It’s a tricky place.

With that said, Bubba Pollard called it his favorite race track and one he would replicate if tasked with building his own short track.

"You can race all over the track," Pollard said. "You’ll see it tomorrow night when you get this many good cars on the track. It’s a drivers race track. You have to be good, car has to be good, you’ve got to take care of your tires. A whole list of things."

Pollard won the tune up race for Money in the Bank on Saturday and says he’s still working out the bugs on his new Port City Racecars program.

How did he begin targeting which area of the track to focus on first?

"You just have to work on all of it," Pollard said. "You just got to get it to turn left. Every track is different in how you get it within your comfort zone, but you’ve just got to get it turning left. It’s hard to explain but this place is tough."

Of note, two-time and defending race winner Carson Hocevar is recovering from a Truck Series crash at Gateway on Saturday afternoon and will not attend the event. Butch and Johnny VanDoorn raced at Jennerstown on Saturday night and asked two-time World Series of Asphalt champion Derek Griffith if he would be interested in taking over the TK Racing No. 71 on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Pressure is on.

"There are always a lot of eyes on this car with what Johnny and Carson have done, but even more so with what Carson is going through," Griffith said. "They beat me last year. So first and foremost, we all hope Carson gets better soon and gets back to this car and his Truck team. But I’m excited to get out there tomorrow and see what it’s like here in this car."

Ty Majeski spent most of the day turning laps on right side scuffs that were last used at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway in 2016. Naturally, they didn’t show a lot of speed, but Toby Nuttleman and his driver were working on race pace.

Then they mocked up and went to fourth on the charts.

"We were just working on drivability," Majeski said. "The last time we raced on F50s was 2016 at Nashville so that’s where they came from. We wanted to get the drivability decent. That was kind of a half-mock because we didn’t tape up. It was decent.

"This place is different and interesting for sure. You don’t know what to look for, for sure, which end of the track to work on. I think we’re okay but not where we need to be."

That’s the story for a lot of folks when they come to Berlin.

Gates open on Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET with two 50-minute practice sessions (1 p.m. ET and 2 p.m. ET) preceding qualifying at 5:30 p.m. ET. Racing begins at 6:30 p.m. ET. The Money in the Bank airs on FloRacing.

Practice times can be found below.

  1. William Byron 15.999
  2. Terry Senneker 16.085
  3. Tyler Roahrig 16.100
  4. Ty Majeski 16.137
  5. Bubba Pollard 16.139
  6. Dylan Stovall 16.183
  7. Eric White 16.236
  8. Sammy Smith 16.248
  9. Kyle Crump 16.253
  10. Evn Shotko 16.262
  11. Brian Campbell 16.284
  12. Michael Simk 16.304
  13. Boris Jurkovic 16.330
  14. Erik Jons 16.332
  15. Mike Garvey 16.336
  16. Derek Griffith 16.345
  17. Austin Hull 16.370
  18. Kevin Cremonesi 16.383
  19. Nate Walton 16.396
  20. Joe Bush 16.419
  21. Austin Nason 16.428
  22. Blake Rowe 16.453
  23. Scott Thomas 16.464
  24. Andrew Scheid 16.469
  25. Cole Butcher 16.476
  26. Luke Morey 16.483
  27. Austin Thom 16.488
  28. Kaden Honeycutt 16.500
  29. Derek Kneeland 16.504
  30. Trevor McCoy 16.567
  31. Chase Burda 16.596
  32. Brian Clay 17.012