Four national championships and 13 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts have given Preston Pardus plenty of time behind the wheel of race cars.
But the 24-year-old from Daytona Beach, Fla., will tackle something new Saturday when he makes his short-track, and oval, debut. The last time he raced on a track with only left turns was as a kid in quarter-midget competition.
Driving for DGM Racing at Martinsville Speedway, Pardus will start on owner parts near the rear of the field in the Dead On Tools 250. And while he hasn’t raced on a short track, Pardus’ Martinsville outing will be the capper to a stellar month. Over the past 30 days, Pardus has won NASA and SCCA championships, and he notched his career-best Xfinity finish of seventh at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL on Oct. 9.
He’ll be competing on Martinsville’s .526-mile track will zero laps of experience under his belt prior to the 6 p.m. green flag.
“No practice, no qualifying. Oh, yeah, we’re going in cold,” Pardus said.
His biggest asset will likely be crew chief Tony Furr, who has served as Pardus’ crew chief for most of his Xfinity road-course starts.
“I feel like he’s a great crew chief overall, and he loves being able to show and have good cars,” Pardus said. “Short tracks show when you have a really good car. I think he’ll be able to do stuff mechanically to adjust on it as the race unfolds. He’s been to Martinsville plenty of times over the years, and I’m sure he’s got a good notebook.”
Furr has called the shots for drivers in more than 550 NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck series events. He said that Martinsville Speedway is a good place for Pardus to make his oval-track debut.
The difference from road-course competition, Furr said, will be that “he’s going to have cars around him the whole time — the front, the sides, the back. You’re in traffic pretty much the whole lap. It is a different style of racing, and there’s a lot more rubbing than normal.
“But I think he’ll do good. He understands braking very well, and braking is 85 to 90 percent of Martinsville. He understands tire management. So, the basic things, I think he’ll do well with. The problem is going to be a lot more traffic around him the whole time.”
Pardus’ first concern will be moving forward in the field as quickly as possible. His starting position means that the leader will be in Turn 2 before Pardus crosses under the green flag.
“He’ll have to have a little more ‘bark’ in him than he does on a road course,” Furr said, “because there’ll be wolves out there.”
Pardus said he understands he will have to take a more aggressive approach early on than that to which he’s accustomed.
“If you’re going to be messing around and taking your time passing people, you’re going to get lapped quicker — or get set up to get lapped quicker,” Pardus said. “You’ve got to always make sure you’re going forward. We have to focus on track position all day because it’s so crucial to be up front and not get lapped.
“It is what it is. You’ve just to get going.”
Pardus on Sept. 26 captured the NASA Spec Miata title on his hometown track, Daytona International Speedway. He led all the way until being passed on the final lap, then battled back using the draft to regain the top spot off of NASCAR’s fourth turn and dashed to the checkered flag.
Five days later, Pardus blistered the Spec Miata field at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. By the end of the 19-lap event, Pardus was almost seven seconds ahead of the second-place driver.
At Martinsville, he’ll be playing catch-up from the get-go.
“It’s going to be something, but it’ll be fun,” he said with a laugh. “No matter how it goes, it’ll be a learning experience, and that’ll be cool.”
— DGM Racing —