NNS: Kwasniewski leads Sunday morning testing at Daytona

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Judging from his efforts this weekend in NASCAR Nationwide Series testing at Daytona International Speedway, 18-year-old Dylan Kwasniewski (pictured) appears to very much be a “morning person.”

For the second day in a row, the reigning NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion led the morning session for Preseason Thunder on the 2.5-mile oval. Driving for Turner Scott Motorsports, Kwasniewski topped the charts with a lap at 190.022 mph, just ahead of Saturday leader Chase Elliott (189.950 mph) of JR Motorsports and former Camping World Truck Series champ James Buescher (189.921 mph) of RAB Racing.

According to Dustin Long of Motor Racing Network, Kwasniewski is aiming to run the ARCA Racing Series’ season opener at Daytona on Feb. 15 in order to gain approval to run the NNS’ 300-mile curtain-raiser one week later on Feb. 22.

Last year, in addition to his K&N East duties, he ran in a sole ARCA race at Kansas Speedway. But he made it count, converting a pole position to a fourth-place finish on the 1.5-mile oval.

Former Cup champion Bill Elliott continues his testing work for JRM this weekend, and he posted the fourth-fastest lap in the morning run (189.885). Richard Childress Racing’s Brendan Gaughan, returning to a full-time role in Nationwide this season, was fifth-fastest (189.881).

NATIONWIDE PRESEASON THUNDER – SUNDAY MORNING TIMES

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

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