There‘s nothing better for a racer‘s psyche and confidence than winning.
That being the case, the timing couldn‘t be better for Preston Pardus as he heads into his fifth NASCAR Xfinity Series start of the season this Saturday, Oct. 7.
Pardus rolls into Charlotte Motor Speedway‘s “ROVAL” course riding the momentum of his fourth Sports Car Club of America championship. Last Friday (Sept. 29), Pardus and teammate Nicholas Bruni finished in a dead heat for first place at the SCCA‘s annual National Championships Runoffs, held at Virginia Motor Speedway. With the victory, Pardus becomes the only four-time SCCA Spec Miata titlist.
When SCCA officials were unable to determine a winner based on photographic and video evidence, they declared both drivers first-place finishers. Pardus‘ trophy now goes alongside the Runoff hardware he claimed in 2017 and 2021 at Indianapolis, and in 2020 at Road America.
“I feel pretty good, honestly,” Pardus said of his Charlotte prospects. “We‘ve got a really good piece under us. We had really good speed in Chicago (a 12th-place finish), and really good pace in practice and qualifying at Indianapolis, though the race didn‘t go like we wanted it to. But I think we‘ve figured out some things, and coming off the Runoffs last week surely gives you some confidence. I consider Charlotte one of my best tracks, even though the results show it‘s been up or down for me.”
In Pardus‘ four starts on the ROVAL, he has posted finishes of 27th, 32nd, a career-best seventh in 2021, and 21st last year.
“If we can be there at the end — I‘ve been caught up in the mess before — and have the car that‘s at least pointing straight, I think we can have a really good day,” he said. “It‘s a road course that races like a short track. You‘ve got to keep the nose on it and stay clear of the mess. The track is really slick with the tire compound they bring there, so you‘re always on the edge. You can‘t exceed it or you‘re into a tire wall. So you‘ve got to try to stay clean there to the end.”
Staying clean to the end was exactly what Pardus did in winning the Runoffs on VIR‘s 3.27-mile course. He had the quickest car in his first practice session, and after three days of qualifying, he earned the second spot on the grid in a 50-car field. He led half the 12-lap, 39.24-mile event, and he recaptured the lead with two laps to go with a pass of Bruni, one of his three teammates from East Street Racing who made the Spec Miata lineup. All of the East Street entrants finished in the top 10, with Jim Drago in fifth and Todd Buras in 10th.
“I was in really good shape when we took the white flag and was pulling away from Nick,” Pardus said. “I had about 10 car lengths on him going into the backstretch, and I don‘t know why, but the car‘s handling started falling off. He got up to my bumper, and we had a side-drafting-fest down the backstretch. I was able to hold him off, but when we came out of the last corner, he came up on me again, and we were banging doors coming across the finish line. We didn‘t know who won, but it was cool to have a finish like that with a teammate.”
Pardus would like nothing more than to replicate his performance Saturday at Charlotte. Practice for the Xfinity Series competitors is scheduled for 10 until 10:30 a.m., followed immediately by a one-hour qualifying session. The race is set for a 3 p.m. Eastern green flag. Children ages 12 and under are admitted free with a paying adult.
— Pardus Racing —