BRISTOL, Va. – Josh Reeves will never forget his first experience at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Flash back to May 18 of last year and the second annual Short Track U.S. Nationals.
"It was my first race in a Pro Late Model, my first race with a new team, and my first time at Bristol. In fact, I had never even seen a Pro Late Model before," Reeves said.
Reeves overcame those obstacles, plus a flat tire, to win against a field that included former NASCAR Cup regular Mike Skinner.
"It was just unreal. And really, it’s still sinking in," said Reeves in an interview this week.
Reeves will be one of the headliners in tonight’s Pro Late Model 100-lap feature at BMS.
"We’ve done a lot of testing and feel prepared," Reeves said. "In the week before last year’s race, we will still trying to decipher several problems with the car. I must have made 150 calls to guys who made our engine and rear-end housing. We even fought problems on race weekend."
Once again, Reeves will be driving for Abingdon, Virginia, businessman and former racer Wade Lopez. Reeves picked up some knowledge during testing and in a recent Super Late Model race at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia.
Reeves can also beefit from his experienced crew chief and co-worker with the Abingdon, Virginia-based Henderson Motorsports NASCAR truck series team in Chris Carrier.
"Chris has been a big help," Reeves said. "We know where to start with the set up and what we need to diagnose. Cutting that learning curve out of the way should propel us."
Last January, the 26-year-old Reeves moved to Abingdon from his home in Bassett, Virginia. After sorting out the mechanical gremlins with his car before the Bristol race, Reeves qualified 18th.
That’s when the Disney-like scenario began to unfold.
"I drove the race very patiently, waiting for opportunities," said Reeves. "We were 10th and then we were fourth."
With eight laps remaining, Reeves went to the front when leader Jack Smith crashed with two other cars. Following a wild altercation between Smith and driver Justin South, the race was halted due to a rain delay.
"I was more excited when it started raining than at the checkered flag because I thought the race had ended," Reeves said. "When it stopped raining, I had a flat tire, so I went from the highest point to the lowest point.
"That whole range of emotions when the race was finally over kind of subsided some of the happiness, but it was still nothing like I’d ever felt before."
Reeves, who studied motorsports mechanical engineering at Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville, Virginia, hopes that his homework pays dividends tonight.
"I wrote down a lot of notes after last year’s race and tried to put back the car exactly how it was," Reeves said. "There were a few things we could have done to make the car better. We will need those things because (Mike) Skinner is going to come back just as fast. It’s going to be important that we be better and stay on pace with him."
Even if he records another victory tonight, Reeves said nothing will top last year’s Bristol Motor Speedway adventure.
"That was the most eventful race ever for me," said Reeves, who has competed in ARCA events at Daytona and Talladega. "Going in, I was just hoping for maybe a top-10 finish. To win after all the unknowns we faced, I can’t even describe the feeling.
Tonight’s racing action will begin at 5 with the Compact and Street Stock classes. The Pro Late Model and Super Late Model divisions will follow.
Over 200 drivers are entered, including Steve Wallace in the ultra-fast Super Late Model class.
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