Few people in racing have heard the name Willie Mullins, but if things go as he plans, everyone will know it when the checkered flag falls in the Lucas Oil 200 ARCA race on Saturday at Daytona.
The Lucas Oil 200 is the season-opener for the ARCA Racing Series and is the second superspeedway attempt for the Mullins Racing team — a group that traditionally competes in SCCA racing across the East Coast. Mullins, an accomplished racer in his own right, is making his Daytona debut on Saturday after qualifying 26th on Friday.
While the qualifying result wasn’t what he expected, Mullins, 35, from Fredericksburg, Virginia, is confident about his chances in Saturday’s race and has good company around him in 10-time ARCA Racing Series champion Frank Kimmel.
“We had a very good run on Thursday,” Mullins said. “We got up front yesterday and that car stuck up really good. Today, we didn’t get put in such a great pack. We’re happy, we’re in the race, we’re back with Frank Kimmel and he’ll get us close to the front. He’s a legend. We’re excited for tomorrow. Everyone did hard work at the shop and we can’t wait.”
Mullins Racing made the field for last year’s Lucas Oil 200 with J.J. Pack driving the car – but there was a big difference. Last year, the team raced with a legacy motor. This year, they’re running with the ARCA Ilmor 396 spec motor.
“This new engine, we have a lot more horsepower than we had last year and I’m an aggressive driver, I want to run up front,” Mullins remarked. “With our determination and hard work, we got in the field. We’ll have to see the results tomorrow and see how it works. I think we can get to the front if we have a little racing luck on our side.”
Another thing going for Willie Mullins and his team is an alliance with ARCA Racing Series veteran Darrell Basham. Basham is a veteran of the series who has been competing in ARCA since 1972.
“Good people helping us,” Mullins commented. “Andy Belmont as a crew chief, Darrell Basham as the car owner. Who would’ve thought with their combined expertise they’d give us help and they have. We can’t wait to get this thing in and make them proud. I remember being a little kid and watching him finish 10th. That tells you how long that man’s been doing it.”
Along with Daytona, Mullins plans to compete in one of the Illinois dirt races in the summer as well as, possibly, at Talladega in April and New Jersey Motorsports Park in May. Mullins will also race at road courses throughout the season all throughout the season.
Right now, however, Mullins has his sights set on victory lane at the World Center of Speed. And, a small group of crew members have gotten him this far at Daytona.
“Everybody back at the shop has worked hard — Bugs Mullins, Darrell Ferre, Donny Thompson and Dinah Thompson. Being my first time here driving, this is pretty exciting. I can’t wait to see what happens.”
The Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona can be seen Saturday afternoon at 4pm live on FS1.