Mullins finishes 20th, Laster 27th in Daytona ARCA 200
Mullins Racing drivers Willie Mullins and Brayton Laster both survived a chaotic qualifying run and all 80 laps in Saturday’s Daytona ARCA 200 to score a 20th and 27th place respectively.
The ARCA Menards Series utilized group qualifying at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway on Friday afternoon. Mullins and Laster both qualified in the same group, and were the only two cars to escape an incident, triggered by mechanical problems on two other cars.
“Qualifying was a catastrophic, epic failure, just because, once again, we got the short end of the stick,” Mullins, who owns the cars driven by himself and Laster, said. “We didn’t get torn up but we were part of everybody else’s mess which put us toward the back of the field. With only two cars in our group, and we only got two laps at speed, it completely shot our chances to have a top-10 qualifying effort. We didn’t have a chance to have a good qualifying lap.”
Mullins and Laster both tried to work their way up through the field, often drafting together, but often found themselves either in the wrong line, or their momentum would be stalled as a handful of drivers played pinball toward the front of the pack.
“You get in the wrong line and, instead of going forward, we were going backward because of wrong line and wrong choices,” Mullins stated. “The line would get choked up. It was frustrating the whole time because we never got through where we were trying to get to go forward.”
Laster’s race played out the same as Mullins’ run.
“It was definitely a weekend that didn’t go the way we expected,” Laster said. “The Mullins Racing team prepared an awesome hot rod for me to go out there and run up front, but it just seemed like the race never went our way. We’d hope in one lane and fall back or just get a really badly timed caution.”
Despite the misfortune, Laster was relieved to be running at the end of the 80-lap, 200-mile race.
“We’re just going to kind of keep our heads up and move on,” Laster explained. “I don’t think there was anything out there I could’ve done different. It’s always a good thing when you can load up a racecar with minor damage after a superspeedway race like this. We’ll just take our losses and learn.”
The Daytona ARCA 200 was won by Greg Van Alst, an independent driver who made a handful of starts in 2002 before having to walk away from the series the same year, returning nearly two decades later.
“It’s awesome, us small guys finally got one,” Mullins remarked. “That’s how I look at it. The guys who work at home in their garage day and night finally got one. We finally got one of these guys to win and we’re very proud of him and his team.”
Mullins Racing will return to action when the ARCA Menards Series East heads to Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, on March 25. The team will also compete in the ARCA Menards Series race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama on April 22 with Mullins and Laster both behind the wheel.
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