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Willis looks to regain his momentum

Danny Willis Jr. had won five straight Limited Sportsman Division races at South Boston Speedway prior to the twin races on June 16 twin races at the .4-mile oval.

Ninth-place and tenth-place finishes in those twin races dropped him to second place behind Bobby McCarty in the division points chase, and Willis is looking for a return to form in Tuesday night’s 100 Limited Sportsman race.

The extra-distance Limited Sportsman race is part of the three-race NASCAR Whelen Late Model 200 racing program, South Boston Speedway’s annual pre-Fourth of July racing event which is headlined by a 200-lap Late Model Stock car race that pays $5,000 to the winner.

“It’s our big race of the year, kind of like our Daytona 500, and I can’t recall anyone winning it twice in a row,” said Willis, the defending Limited Sportsman Division champion.

“I’d like to get us another win in this race. It’s been about five years since I’ve won it, so if I can pick off another one, it would be awesome.

Prior to the June 16 twinbill, the Cluster Springs resident had been ecstatic about his strong run to start the season. Willis had reeled off five straight wins, and enters Tuesday night’s 100-lapper with five wins and six top-five finishes in his eight starts.

“We never have come out of the gate so strong in the many years I’ve been racing,” he said before the events of June 16 unfolded.

“To be able to get five (wins) in a row is a huge accomplishment for us, and we just hope we can keep things going on the same track and stay ahead of these guys in the chase for another championship.”

Willis can’t pinpoint the exact reason for his strong early-season success, except for possibly a few changes he and his team made to his car over the winter.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know if it’s the tire combination we’ve been running this year or what it is,” said Willis.

Consistency had been the key to Willis’ run, and he has led 276 of the 400 laps of competition thus far despite his troubles on the track June 16.

“You never know what could happen in the middle or back of the pack,” he pointed out.

“Everybody gets to racing hard and racing next to each other, and all it takes is one little bump to wreck somebody. It’s always good to qualify on the front row, and if you can get a good run in clean air, you can run your own line and be smooth.”

The key to running well in Tuesday night’s 100-lap race is patience, Willis says, is patience.

“You just have to be patient and be smooth, and you can’t be all out from the get-go,” he pointed out.

“A 50-lap run is kind of like a sprint run, especially when starting mid-pack or worse. But, in a 100-lap race, you just take your time and be patient and save all your stuff until the last 20 laps.”

Willis and his race team still are taking things one race at a time.

“That’s our plan right now, and that’s the goal we’re sticking to, take it race by race and see how we stack up at the end of the year” he pointed out.

“The guys have worked hard all year. Hopefully we’ll have something to show for it.”