Preston Pardus has had his dad, Dan, calling the shots on his SCCA Spec Miatas for the past eight years, which included two national championship.
Saturday, though, for the first time, Dan will serve as his son’s crew chief in NASCAR Xfinity competition in the B&L Transport 170 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Preston will drive the No. 90 Danus Utilities/Chinchor Electric Chevrolet owned by fellow Floridian Mario Gosselin.
The 75-lap race wasn’t originally on Preston Pardus’ schedule for 2021, but Gosselin offered the seat to the 24-year-old driver late last week.
“He does a good job, and he’s a good kid from a good family,” said Gosselin, who fields three cars in Xfinity competition. “We’re excited to have him onboard for the weekend. He has the ability to road race and get himself up near the front when it counts.”
The race on the 15-turn, 2.258-mile layout will be Preston’s third NASCAR start of the season. He finished 33rd in the road-course event at Daytona International Speedway when a top-10 run was ended by a broken rear end. He came home 14th on May 22 in NASCAR’s debut at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
“Mario called us and said, ‘Hey, I’d love to have Preston in the car. I need to get a decent finish with that 90 car to keep it up there in points,’” Dan Pardus said. “It’s a good opportunity. Mario’s got some good equipment and runs a real good show as far as I’m concerned.”
Pardus has two top-10 finishes in eight career Xfinity starts. Both of those came last year, when he was 10th at Indianapolis and eighth at Road America. Despite his extensive road-course experience across the country in SCCA competition, Pardus has not competed at Mid-Ohio, which opened in 1962. The course’s 2020 Xfinity race was cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, but its previous seven Xfinity shows produced seven different winners.
“It’s a road course that races like a short track,” Preston said. “Super narrow. It’s a sports-car course, so it has very tight turns, and is kind of single file through most of the sections. There are only two or three really good passing opportunities, and because of that, track position is huge.
“You’ve got to stay patient and stay precise on how you set up a pass. If you try to rush it, you’ll make mistakes. You’ve got to be in line with them coming to the passing zones because if you get off line, you end up losing spots. Having a good race strategy will be a benefit.”
Conceiving a strategy for Mid-Ohio will fall to Dan Pardus and Gosselin, who said they “will collaborate and talk strategy beforehand.”
Dan Pardus has served as an Xfinity crew chief once, that coming in late February when he called the shots for driver Dexter Bean, who finished 17th at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Gosselin’s No. 90.
“It was nerve-wracking, to say the least, trying to make the right calls,” Pardus said. “If the caution comes out, do we come in? Do we short pit? Do we not short pit? Do I leave him out there and try and make a fuel run? That kind of thing.
“It was just a lot of pressure that you don’t realize. You’re responsible for the crew, you’re telling them what to do — two tires, four tires, a round of wedge in the right rear, take air pressure in or out — that as a driver you never have to make. This will be a little easier, I think, with Preston being my son. We communicate pretty well, but we don’t have live pit stops in SCCA racing, and NASCAR’s a whole different deal with three opportunities to make some adjustments. Hopefully it’ll be a good weekend.”
Dan’s voice will be a familiar one for Preston, who said, “He’s always been on the radio with me.”
The elder Pardus, who competed in NASCAR Cup and Xfinity races, as well as ARCA events, said he expects his son to pick up Mid-Ohio’s intricacies in short order.
“I think it’s going to take him 10 laps and I think then he’ll take off. … He adapts really quick, and I think that’s a real talent of his,” Dan said. “He doesn’t get spooked. I think after that first stage, by the middle of it, I look for him to be in the top 20, and hopefully by the end we can get him up there in the top 10.”
Mid-Ohio’s action includes the 1,500th race in ARCA history on Friday afternoon. Racers in the Yokohoma Drivers Cup series will be in action Friday and Saturday, and dashes for Stadium Super Trucks competitors will precede and follow the Xfinity race.
— Preston Pardus —