Willie Mullins returns to site of career-best ARCA finish
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – No matter what happens in Saturday’s ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season-openingLucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200 driven by General Tire, Mullins Racing driver Willie Mullins will always be a fan of Daytona International Speedway.
Last February, the Fredericksburg, Va. native played a very smart race and when the checkered flag flew in his fifth career ARCA race, the 35-year-old driver was awarded with a career-best eighth place finish.
Fast forward nearly 12 months later, Mullins and his team have set their goals on matching or bettering their performance at the “World Center of Racing.”
“Last year was a big deal,” said Mullins. “We were a small team who partnered with some great people and went from competing on road courses to the fast and demanding superspeedway of Daytona. The race wasn’t physically demanding, but it was more mentally challenging. I learned a lot which I think should play into our hands the second time around.”
For the second straight year, Mullins is preparing to compete against some high dollar, big-budget teams, and doing so from a corner of Bugsy’s Auto Shop, where his day job entails around servicing and repairing fleet vehicles for companies.
“That’s what makes any good finish that much better,” added Mullins. “Knowing how we’re preparing our cars and working with great people like Darrell and Sandy Basham, as well as my friend Andy Belmont. Success is possible when you surround yourself around good people and I feel like I’ve done that.”
In preseason testing last month at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, Mullins proved that their success at Daytona was no fluke when Mullins maneuvered the 10th quickest lap overall in two days of testing in preparation for Saturday’s season-opener in a session that saw over 50 drivers complete a minimum of one lap.
Mullins says he feels like he’s coming back to Daytona with a better car than he had a year ago.
As for his hot rod, it has some clout as well. The Ford Fusion was built by Robert Yates Racing and utilized in NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series racing with Elliott Sadler. Mullins Racing purchased the car several years ago and has utilized chassis No. 65 for three straight Daytona ARCA events since 2015 with driver J.J. Pack.
“We had speed ever since we unloaded at the test and that was important,” he said. “Thanks to a good car, our Illmor 396 engine and the team we’ve assembled our confidence has never been higher. We do realize though that this is superspeedway racing and there are going to be good and bad races. But we’ll take the positives while we have them. We’re just thankful to be at Daytona.”
After competing in three races last year at Daytona, Talladega and the road course of New Jersey Motorsports Park, Mullins says he hopes to increase his limited ARCA schedule a little more in 2017,
“Of course, we’re at Daytona, but we hope to go to Talladega then Elko Speedway, Road America and maybe one or two more from there,” he said. We have some partners that are based in Minnesota and that’s going to allow me to get on a short track. I’m awfully thrilled about that too.”
With a positive outlook towards the future, Mullins and his team are focused on the job ahead Saturday afternoon. Though without the support of primary sponsors Bugsy’s Auto Shop and Crow Wing Recycling, Mullins knows his expensive hobby wouldn’t be possible.
“I’m someone who does it for a hobby,” he said. “I’m not trying to get sponsors (everyday), I’m not trying to do everything to become bigger, I just want to go race. That’s what I want to do.”
In addition to Bugsy’s Auto Shop and Crow Wing Recycling, Mullins Racing welcomes Morgan Lumber, Crawford Sprinkler of Raleigh, Timmy Brann Snap-On Tools and Belmont’s Garage as associate sponsors for his eighth career ARCA race.
For more information on Mullins Racing, please visit mullinsracing.net, “like” them on Facebook (Mullins Racing) and follow them on Twitter @mullins_racing.
The Lucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200 driven by General Tire (80 laps / 200 miles) is the first of 20 races on the 2017 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards schedule. Practice begins Thurs., Feb. 16 with a two-hour session from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. A final practice session has been etched in on Fri., Feb. 17 from 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Group qualifying is set for later in the day at 3:30 p.m. The preamble for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ “Clash” is set to take the green flag on Sat., Feb. 18 shortly after 4:00 p.m. The event will be televised live on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), while ARCARacing.com will stream live timing and scoring throughout the entire weekend festivities.