Saginaw, MI (Friday, March 12, 2021) - When the announcement was made that the Bristol Motor Speedway would be covered in dirt for the first time in 21 years, drivers from all over the United States signed up to head to “Thunder Valley” to compete in the Bristol Dirt Nationals. Many drivers from Michigan will be making the trek down to see how they stack up with drivers from around the country in the eight different classes that will be competing.
With no half-mile dirt tracks in Michigan, many of these drivers could be considered “underdogs”. Craig Vance (Midland,MI) and Gavin Hunyady (Fenton,MI) are two Tri City Motor Speedway drivers in the IMCA Modified division looking to experience the dirt version of one of NASCAR’s favorite short tracks.
“Bristol is a bucket list thing for me,” stated Vance. “As soon as they announced it, I knew I wanted to be a part of it, but I wanted to do it right and put everything I have into it.”
Hunyady echoed those sentiments, saying “We talked it over and decided if they had IMCA Modifieds, we had to go… I mean they’ve only done this one other time in the last 20 years.”
Once registered for the show, preparations began for both drivers.“Once we were in the real work began,” said Hunyady. “We had to go through the car and beef everything up, replace all the moving parts, suspension bolts and inspect everything; take all the lightweight and low drag parts off the car and brace the body up for 100+ m.p.h. speeds,” quipped Hunyady.
The same was going on in the Vance racing garage. “After Christmas it set in how much work we had to do,” remarked Vance. “We replaced every piece of the front suspension and most of the rear as well, along with a slower steering gear. Along with talking to everyone about where we should be setup wise to start the week. Hopefully, we are pretty close and can adjust from there.”
Travel and lodging are both a factor heading to a big event such as this. Vance stated, “For Bristol, we borrowed an enclosed trailer and a bigger truck to haul down. I have about 14 friends and family coming down to support us, either crewing or just coming for the experience. Some of us are staying in the campgrounds and some are staying at hotels in Bristol, VA.”
For Hunyady, it’s a little different. “Barbara and I and our friend Cameron are set up about as well as anyone with a pickup truck and a bumper pull trailer. We pretty much use the same setup that we have for the IMCA Supernationals. I’ve always said that the cost of a toterhome pays for a lot of hotel rooms.” Hunyady continued on “These types of deals aren’t really a smart business plan for the average guy, between the high registration and fuel cost it is going to be tough to break even, but most of us know we aren’t getting rich in this game.”
Both drivers have different feelings about strapping in at Bristol. Vance expresses signs of nervous excitement, Hunyady shows a somewhat calmer demeanor.
“It’s been a stressful two-and-a-half months,” Vance said. “I’m so excited and stressed out at the same time, I’ve only been able to sleep about four hours a night. This is the biggest race I’ve been a part of,” he finished.
“I’m not setting any lofty goals performance wise,” admitted Hunyady. “But on the other hand no one really has anything to base their setup on, so it’s sort of a clean slate. I’m just keeping my usual plan of no mechanical failures.”
With an event of this magnitude, sponsors, family, and friends are a huge source of support. Hunyady’s familiar number 187 is a clean slate.
“The 187 and sponsors don’t really happen,” laughed Hunyady. “However, I do have to thank my wife Barbara and our friend Cameron as well as Wehrs Machine and KSE Racing Products.”
The list is longer for Vance and his #42 machine. “I really need to thank my sponsors, Midland Steel, Advance Heating and Cooling, Sova Excavating, and Ross Auto. I also have to thank everyone who helped one way or another in the shop or just picking stuff up to help make things smoother: my Mom and Dad, Dale, Rich, Kyle, Don, and a special thanks to John Robbins for the badass graphics.”
Race fans can look for the white number 187 of Hunyady and the Kenny Wallace throwback number 42 of Vance on the RACEXR stream March 15th through the 20th. Vance is on Facebook while Hunyaday has a Youtube channel that is documenting his road to Bristol, plus Facebook and Instagram.
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Story by: Chuck Darling, Horsepower Happenings