Florida, February and racing have gone hand-in-hand for decades, as racers escape the cold and snow of others parts of the country to open their season in the “Sunshine State.” For the first time in her career, Taylor Ferns will have the chance to be part of the Speedweeks activities as she heads to Florida to compete in a pair of events with the USAC National Midget Series.
The opening two races of the pavement portion of the 2013 USAC National Midget Series season are set for Sunday, February 17 and Monday, February 18 at New Smyrna Speedway, a high-banked, half-mile in New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
“It’s going to be great to get back in the race car,” said Ferns. “It’s been quite a while since I’ve last raced in the Chili Bowl. To be able to race a midget at New Smyrna is going to be a lot of fun. I’ve been watching some videos online of races from there to get a good feel for it.”
While the 2011 USAC D1 Midget Series champion will be making her first start in a midget at New Smyrna, she has turned some laps at the track previously. Ferns tested a late model at the half-mile last year. Also, when she was younger, she raced on the quarter-midget track, which is located on the inside of the half-mile at New Smyrna.
“It certainly helps having been to a track before, because you go in having a feel for the track and kind of know the rhythm of it,” she explained. “The laps in a late model should translate into the midget and give us a good baseline to start at. Having back-to-back races on Sunday and Monday will be a plus as well. You can try a few things on the first night and use what worked best then on the second night.”
Ferns, who is the winningest female driver in USAC history, scored her best-career USAC National Midget Series finish last season in a pavement event at Plymouth Speedway in Indiana, coming home ninth, after a career-best qualifying effort of third. She raced seven times on paved tracks last season with the USAC National Midget Series, pulling double duty in three of those events, also competing with the USAC Traxxas Silver Crown Series, finishing among the top-10 in her debut with that series. In addition, Ferns made four starts in a pavement late model with the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour, also recording a top-10 finish in her first-ever start in a stock car.
“Starting position is always important in the pavement races, especially when there is a very strong field of cars expected like at New Smyrna,” Ferns noted. “You always want to qualify well so that you can get a good starting position in the main event and you don’t have to spend as much time passing cars to get to the front.”
Ferns, who has signed with Venturini Motorsports to compete in seven ARCA races this season, turned some laps in Florida at the end of last year prior to the holidays, testing an ARCA car at the famed Daytona International Speedway. She also turned some laps in Florida at the end of the 2011 season in a USF2000 car as part of the Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine. The two-night event at New Smyrna Speedway will mark her first race laps in a full-sized race car in the state of Florida.
A total of eight races will comprise the USAC National Pavement Midget Championship this season beginning at New Smyrna, while 22 dates are tentatively scheduled for the USAC National Dirt Midget Championship. Ferns is scheduled to compete in a majority of those events aboard her family-owned No. 55 Dea Eyewear Beast on the pavement and Spike on the dirt, with a Stanton Mopar engine under the hood.
“I haven’t raced a pavement midget since last summer, so being consistent and running up front is the main goal at New Smyrna,” said Ferns. “Having fun in the race car is important as well. I am so competitive that sometimes I forget to have fun and when you are having fun in the race car, you usually do better as well. If we can get a couple of top-fives, it would be a great start to the season for us.”
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