Willie Mullins came into last year’s Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire with high hopes. After all, he had finished second in the 2018 edition of ARCA’s season opener, and had put all of his off-season focus on making his racecar even better.
Unfortunately, he and the driver he chased across the finish line the previous year, Michael Self, got tied together on the backstretch on lap three, sending both careening into the grass and out of contention for the win.
Last year’s disappointment isn’t keeping the likable Virginian down. He’s headed back to Daytona with the same sense of optimism that he brought with him in 2019.
That optimism is the result of a solid two-day open test at the World Center of Racing on January 10 and 11. Mullins and crew chief Tony Furr tested an all new setup on the team’s No. 3 Crow Wing Recycling/Bugsy’s Repair Ford, and the results left Mullins smiling.
“The test went very well,” Mullins said. “We completely changed our set up, so we spent a lot of time trying to find the balance in the car. I don’t think where we ended up on the speed chart really shows what we have at all. I think we are sitting in a good place and are confident in what we have.”
Mullins only gets a couple of chances a year to race in the ARCA Menards Series and wants to make the most of each of them. The disappointment felt after last year still stings, but it’s also the inspiration to come back and race at the front of the field. And it’s given him a very important reminder.
“I’m excited to get back for the race,” he said. “Last year was really a heart breaker for me. Not only for me, but for Michael (Self) as well. This year my focus is really to be a bit more conservative in the car. You can’t win the race if you aren’t there at the end. And we want to be there at the end.”
Mullins hasn’t put all the pieces together just yet, but he’s close to finalizing plans to bring two racecars to Daytona.
“If all goes well, we have the short track car in the trailer and you might see me pop up at another track running on Monday,” he said, referring to the ARCA Menards Series East season opener at New Smyrna Speedway, twelve miles southwest of Daytona Beach, set for Monday, February 10.
The ARCA Menards Series Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire is set for Saturday, February 8 and will be televised live on FS1 starting at 4:30 pm ET. The ARCA Menards Series East New Smyrna 175 is set for Monday, February 10 and will be streamed live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.