Elizabethtown, PA (April 25, 2018) -When Tony Mrakovich got the opportunity to compete in the Xfinity races at Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway, he knew they would serve as excellent learning opportunities that would enrich his career. As it turned out, his maiden voyage into the series would offer several lessons in overcoming adversity along the way to eventually running in the top-15 for a portion of the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond. Before that moment, Mrakovich had to endure multiple spins, withdrawing from a race and a subpar qualifying position.
The 19-year old from Elizabethtown, PA teamed up with sponsor Extreme Energy Solutions and JGL Racing to pilot the No. 28 Ford Mustang. To prepare for his first stock car race outside of the ARCA Racing Series, Mrakovich spent many hours in a simulator to familiarize himself with the high banks of Bristol. However, the simulator cannot replicate the VHT resin placed on the concrete surface, meant to increase grip in the bottom lane. The placement of the resin gave the sport’s veterans their share of problems while Mrakovich himself wrecked twice in practice.
“You lose so much grip if your tires are just outside of the resin. We were making good progress but if I had to move up the track to avoid traffic, the back-end would come around on me.” recalled Mrakovich. NASCAR officials meet with the rookie and they collectively decided to delay his debut until the following week. “It was disappointing but everyone at NASCAR was so supportive and they had my best interest in mind. At the end of the day, it felt like the right thing to do,” elaborated Mrakovich.
Bristol’s disappointment left Mrakovich even hungrier for the 250-lap event at Richmond. Unfortunately, a spin while avoiding another car forced the newcomer to miss valuable time behind the wheel during first practice. Mrakovich made strides during the second practice and qualified 35th in a car that he described as “loose in”, which prevented him from getting back to the throttle in the corners as soon as he would have liked.
The team took their driver’s feedback and adjusted the car for the start of the race and it paid off. Mrakovich methodically advanced through the field, picking off competitors one at a time and gaining 10 positions before the end of the first segment. When asked if the handling had improved since qualifying, he confirmed with a resounding “Oh hell yeah!”.
A fast car and pit strategy had the No. 28 Ford Mustang running as high as 13th following the end of the second segment. On lap 166, a multi-car accident broke out on the front straightaway, right in front of Mrakovich. He did masterful job slowing down and narrowly avoiding the wreck but the incident raised concerns about flat spotted tires. After a lengthy conversation between driver and crew, the decision was made to stay out and not sacrifice track position.
Eventually, the tires started to “chatter” and Mrakovich was forced drive conservatively to preserve the remaining rubber. Since the final 80 laps of the race were caution-free, Mrakovich never had the chance to pit and his slower pace ended his chances at a possible top-20 finish. In fact, he ended the night in the 24th position, two laps off the pace. The post-race examination revealed that the right-front tire was so worn, the metal chords, normally under the rubber, were showing. Mrakovich accomplished quite a feat by driving the car across the finish line without blowing the tire.
“In hindsight, we should have pit after avoiding the wreck, but the tires did not feel bad at that moment. It’s disappointing as the car was capable of a better finish. Still, I’m very happy that we finished the race and gained valuable experience in my first Xfinity event. I can’t thank the guys enough for all the work they put into the car and the adjustments they made after qualifying to give me exactly what I needed to run in the top-20” reflected Mrakovich.
Extreme Energy Solutions and their flagship product, the SMART Emissions Reducer also made their NASCAR debut after supporting Mrakovich in ARCA season-opener earlier this season. “I’m very thankful for Extreme Energy’s support. They are a great partner and a good fit for the sport. I hope we can work with them again in the future” said Mrakovich.
Mrakovich and team are actively seeking new marketing partners for other events in 2018, including at Pocono Raceway, where he competed in the ARCA race last June, finishing 15th.
PR and Business Contact:
Tony Lumbis – Business Manager, Tony Mrakovich Racing