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Matt Pritiko already has as many top-five finishes (four) and pole positions (two) as he did a year ago.
Problem is, he’s even further behind the APC United Late Model series points leader this time around. That’s because Brandon Watson has won six out of seven races so far.
“Brandon’s a good driver and has a brand new car with literally the best of everything on it,” said Pritiko, the Londoner and driver of the No. 21 Global Warranty Toyota. “When you have that combination — and luck’s on your side — that’s the way it is.”
Pritiko knows exactly how good Watson’s car has been humming this season. It was built at London-based McColl Racing, same as his.
“So we put a couple of new additions on ours to get it as similar as possible,” he said. “We did what we could to update our 2015 car to his ’17 edition. It’s been working well and I’d say we’ve been competitive with him the last couple of races.”
The hope is they can finally overtake that shiny new outfit at what is essentially a brand-new track.
Matt Pritiko (Thompson Photography)
Two weeks ago, the competitors got a sneak peek at the recently resurrected Cayuga Speedway — now labelled Jukasa Motor Speedway and back in the game starting with this weekend’s Late Model Summer Shootout.
Like Watson’s wheels, it’s a dandy.
“It’s the nicest facility and track probably in the country right now,” said Pritiko, a longtime Delaware regular. “It’s as smooth as glass. Incredibly fast. Going into corners 1 and 3, you just tap the brake, set the front end so it’s planted going around, then there’s that little lift and you’re back on the throttle.”
The expectation is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 46 cars will show up for the festivities, though not all of them will make the Sunday field.
There will be a last-chance race Saturday night for the slowpokes, then twin 75-lappers Sunday. The leading points men — like Watson, third-place Pritiko and last year’s monster performer Andrew Gresel — already own provisional entry into the doubleheader.
With only the series finale at Delaware Sept. 16 after it, this stop could make for either a rewarding or a devastating day at the track.
Pritiko is all for a two-race weekend, but with his own twist.
“It could get a little hairy Sunday if you do the first race and have an issue with the car,” he said. “You’re going to be racing a couple of hours later, so it would be nice to have it split up. I wouldn’t mind doing a practice, qualifying and night race Saturday, then practice and day race Sunday.
“If you run into something the first race, you could work all night and realistically, put a car back together and get out there for the second one.”
He knows the dangers. Pritiko finished second to Watson in the opening event of the season at Sunset, but blew an engine, then a coil in the second and third races, respectively.
“Great first race, then that happened, which really screwed us for points,” he said. “We would’ve been right up there, but we slumped to eighth and have been slowing working our way back up.”
He’s just running out of races now.
“That’s why Sunday is going to be the day,” Pritiko said. “This double feature could really help us (climb past Gresel and put Watson on notice). Every year, you’re going to have at least one bad race. We had ours. Now, we want to put ourselves in position to make a run at a championship.”
THREE FOR III
Londoner Pete Shepherd III is one of four confirmed drivers who will take part in a marathon three races in the Jukasa grand re-opening this weekend. He’s running the APC series twins against Pritiko and Co., but also a 75-lap event for the outlaw super late models as part of the Summer Shootout. Each race pays out $5,000 to the winner on the 5/8th mile track.
DELAWARE ON TRACK
It’s Emergency Services Night Friday with the super stocks, V-8 stocks, bone stocks and a King of the Hill on tap. Racing starts at 7:30 p.m.
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