Some of Dirt Late Model racing’s top stars have at one time or another driven Warrior Race Cars. Scott Bloomquist, Freddy Smith, Dale McDowell and Tim McCreadie are among those who have pulled one of the Tennessee company’s machines into victory lane. Even NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson scored a victory in the “Prelude to the Dream” at Eldora Speedway while driving a Warrior.
But the past few seasons have seen a bit of a dry spell for that brand on the Super Late Model scene. However, driver Ryan King and new Warrior owner and veteran chassis builder Mike Nuchols are working to put their car back at the front of the pack.
Nuchols took ownership of Warrior following the retirement of longtime owner Sanford Goddard last fall.
During Georgia-Florida SpeedWeeks held earlier this month, King demonstrated speed that placed the No. 1G machine in contention for top qualifying honors and heat race wins during the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series portion in the early part of the Dirt Late Model season. Further, the Comanche chassis showed the ability to run in the top-10 among the best competitors in the sport.
The two nights spent at Golden Isles Speedway near Brunswick, GA were marked by King placing third in his group during the Friday night qualifying session and fourth in his group during Saturday night’s time-trials. Also on Saturday night the Warrior house car placed second in its heat race just behind former series champion Josh Richards.
After a couple of failed attempts to qualify while using a different car at Florida’s East Bay Raceway Park on Monday and Tuesday, the Brian King-owned team put the newer Comanche back into action and again moved closer to the top of the qualifying charts. The Wednesday and Saturday sessions saw King place second and third respectively in his group during those runs.
The car definitely had the speed to compete while on the somewhat unfamiliar turf of Georgia and Florida. As a result, King and Nuchols look forward to racing on east Tennessee soil in the upcoming World of Outlaws Late Model Series show at Smoky Mountain Speedway on March 9th.
“That’s what we said while we were down there,” King declared in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “If the car ran that good while we were down there then we ought to be real good when we come back home and be really good now. We’re kind of anxious to see how we do around here.”
Nuchols points out that with the car showing obvious speed, he is not having to make big adjustments throughout the night. Rather, his efforts can be focused within a smaller and more exact window.
“Exactly, especially since we used the same setups for both race tracks and were quick at both places,” the chassis builder stated. “We know we don’t have much to improve on.”
Where the Warrior crew struggled, however, was when the green flag waved to start the feature races at Golden Isles and East Bay. Either the setup choices they made proved to not work in their favor or mishaps occurred to ruin their chances at a good finish.
“That was the thing,” King explained. “What would happen would be the features that nothing bad happened in we hurt ourselves by making bad decisions- one night was a tire choice and another night was the shock setup option we deiced to go with- but in both features we finished our results should have been better than what they were if we hadn’t messed with anything. And in the times we were moving forward it seemed like something would happen.”
In the Thursday night main event at East Bay, King was indeed moving forward. Already well into the top-10 and looking to pick off even more spots, his car was collected after Brian Shirley spun. In that instance, the rear of the Warrior was damaged badly enough that the team’s night came to an early end.
“One night I started around seventeenth and was up to eighth, but that’s when Shirley got turned around and it wiped the whole back deck off the car,” the driver remembered. “I mean I was following Richards up through there and he wound up third and that night. We felt like we would have been in the top-five. We’re really optimistic and hope we can have a little bit of luck on our side.”
Although the finishes during SpeedWeeks were not what they were looking for, Nuchols is encouraged by the gains made by the team since last fall. And much of that turnaround is due to the relationship of the driver and car builder along with the testing and experimentation they have done during their time together.
“That’s what we’ve done the last couple of years is experimentation and we’ve put it all together pretty quick since last November,” Nuchols pointed out. “With everything we’ve applied since November, we’ve been quick all the way up until last weekend. A lot of that comes from his feedback. When we fix what he’s having issues with, it improves the car.”
And more, Nuchols says that the notebook they are building is making a difference.
“It’s all about the notes and results,” he insisted. “Like I said, since last November we have applied a lot of stuff we learned during the middle of last year and really applied them hard. We were good at 411 both times(Leftover & Hangover). During SpeedWeeks we were good so we’re going to keep applying those same things until we fall off a little bit.”
King recalls that it has been a big task to translate what they know from the cars they have had success with in the Crate Late Model class to the Super Late Model division.
“We had the old 1G car and we felt like it was a good crate car and that sort of thing but we knew what everybody else was doing with their cars as far as design and making the cars stiffer and relying more on shocks and springs,” King said. “We decided we needed a stiff race car so we built a stiff race car but when we took it to race it was way too stiff. I feel like with this new car we have now we have kind of merged a little bit more between the two options and it seems like it has made a huge difference. So this 2019 car is a little different as far as that aspect because we didn’t make the car quite as stiff and it really helped.”
And the 27-year-old racer believes things are only going to get better for the Warrior program.
“That’s the thing. We feel like we’ve hit on something right now. Like we said, right now we’re working in small circles and as long as that’s working, that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”
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