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Willis ready to do battle at SBS

South Boston News / March 04, 2013
NASCAR limited sportsman veteran Danny Willis Jr. calls 2012 “a good year and a tough year.”

Willis ultimately lost a close race to Bobby McCarty for the South Boston Speedway track title. McCarty took the SBS crown with 349 points, while Willis had 328.

“We started off the season real good and we won five straight races, and got seven poles (in 2012). We wound up getting the car torn up in one wreck ... and had to put a front clip on. Right after that, we couldn’t ever get the car back quite like it was,” speaking of the mid-season trouble.

Willis had several inconsistent, middling runs (by his standards) and could not reel in McCarty, who had an excellent year. “Bobby ... picked up his game and started winning a lot of races.

“It’s just racing, it’s how it played out. Me and him battled hard all year,” Willis said.

Naturally, with short track racing, there are always those bumps in the relationship between the top two drivers. “We had a little controversy going on there for a while,” conceded Willis. But he does not harbor bitter feelings, shaking it off “as good, hard racing. When you have two cars that competitive with each other every week, you’re going to have a little controversy going on. It wasn’t any hard feelings between neither one of us.

“He (McCarty) did what he had to do to win the championship. My hat’s off to those guys,” said Willis, the 2011 title holder in limited.

McCarty is moving up to late model this season.

McCarty and a host of other drivers from late model, limited sportsman and pure stock were on hand Saturday for open practice and media day as South Boston Speedway tuned up for the season opener.

The season kicks off Saturday with Twin 100s for the late models.

Could Willis be the logical pick to return to SBS championship form this season?

“I don’t know, it’s hard to say. See how the competition stacks us. This group of guys come, that’s going to be there, that everybody’s talking about, you’re going to have six to ten cars capable of winning every week. It’s going to (come down) to who’s got the best setup and who can manage the stuff well,” said Willis.

The limited sportsman warriors crank up with a 50-lapper Saturday.

Willis isn’t sure how many cars will show up for the limited opener. But he said, “the rumor is, we’re going to have right many cars this year. I think they expect the number of cars to between 18 to 20. If we have that, that’ll be an awesome field. I know we’ll have a lot of good competitors.”

Willis believes there will be a number of impact players on the limited series, including Tommy Peregoy, Justin Snow, Garrett Bunch, Matt Taylor, Blake Stallings, Joey Throckmorton and Mike Jones.

Stallings, from Danville, won the last points race of the season and should be competitive again, in Willis’ view.

“It’s going to be a tough, competitive field,” Willis said.

“The biggest challenge is figuring out the race track.” Drivers and teams need to get a good balance on the car. And the teams have to make the best decisions on tire wear, given the limitations in that area.

“For us, we don’t get but two new tires every week, so you have to really watch what you’re doing on your tires, and try to take care of your tires every week so you’ll have some tires for the next race,” said Willis.

Willis, now 37, has extensive experience now. 2006 was his first full season. “We’ve been pretty steady since then.

“I like running in the limited division. You get to travel around some and run at different tracks. Competition is just as tough in limited as late model,” said Willis.

He said if the season goes well, the team might try to run a couple of late model races. Financial considerations are a factor. “It just costs so much more to run a late model than limited. It just makes it tough,” said Willis, who is relatively low budget driver.

Willis might try a couple of late model races in 2012. “I’m pretty happy in limited. If the opportunity came along for me to run a late model full time, I would do it. But right now, on the budget we’ve got, and the way we’re running things, I’m just as happy and content running limited.”

Willis will concentrate on SBS, but might race at a couple of tracks across the region. “We’ve got to concentrate on South Boston first, make sure we’ve got our stuff running good at South Boston, try for this (limited) title again,” Willis said.

Willis will be driving the no. 23 car in limited sportsman, with considerable help from Stacy Puryear and A&E Race cars. Willis also has a dedicated team helping the racing effort, including J.D. Jones, Ronnie Chaffin, Clint Hazelwood, Chris Clark, Gary Leksell, Chance Daniels, Tom Worley and Willis’ wife, Kim.

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