SALEM, Ind. (April 21, 2017) -- Apparently Salem Speedway has become a benchmark for the other tracks on the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards tour.
"They basically told me that if you can run Salem, you can run anywhere," said rookie Tony Mrakovich.
The "they" part came from Ken Schrader and Frank Kimmel, both of whom took turns driving Mrakovich around the historic high-banked short track in southern Indiana before the Elizabethtown, Pa. driver went out for testing.
"They said…'Salem is Salem and don't try and compare it to anywhere else. Don't be afraid of 3 and 4…trust the car…and be careful in 1 and 2.' "
Then Mrakovich had to jump over his first Salem hurdle.
"We had a tire go down about lap six. They were trying different shocks and I guess a welded edge cut into the tire. It happened coming right out of 2. We didn't bend anything underneath…just scraped the wall. We got lucky…it was only cosmetic."
With that little episode behind him, Mrakovich went back out to learn the track.
"When we went back out, we improved a lot. I think we gained a second-and-a-half on our lap times."
Mrakovich, whose background is mostly dirt racing in Legends cars, thought he was ready for the rough surface at Salem he had already heard so much about.
"I'm used to rough surfaces...racing on dirt...but that track really throws you around. I felt like I was a bobble-head inside the car. It's definitely rough, especially in 1 and 2.
"At the same time, it's definitely an aggressive track. For me, 1 and 2 was probably harder…getting over the bumps. 3 and 4 takes a lot of guts, trusting your car is going to stick because you're pretty-much wide open through there. But 1 and 2 is really rough. 200 laps over that is going to be the biggest challenge for me."
At the end of the day, Mrakovich, who had never seen anything like Salem, let alone raced on it, was grateful he got to test before he comes back for the race next weekend.
"Oh yeah…I wouldn't want to race there without testing first…no way. I'm extremely happy with the test. I learned a lot over the day. We changed a lot on the car and were able to move around and learn the track. We were just a little bit off our teammate (Austin Theriault), and he's got a lot more experience than I do. I can't wait to come back for the race…I have a feeling it's going to be an experience I'm not going to forget."
That would probably be a fairly-safe bet.
The Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 at Salem marks round 2 for the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge, one of 11 short track events in 2017 that make up ARCA's Short Track championship.
The Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 will spread out over two days, Saturday and Sunday, April 29-30. Practice is Saturday afternoon from 12:00 noon to 1:30, with General Tire Pole Qualifying following at 3:30. Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 raceday festivities get underway Sunday morning with an on-track driver autograph session from 11:30 to 12:30 followed by the Great American Stock feature event at 1:00. Pre-race ceremonies, ARCA driver introductions and the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 follow.
For ticket info, visit SalemSpeedway.com