Friday, June 5, 2009
A New Face in the Crowd, and Maybe in the Winners Circle
by Jack Smith
OCALA, Fla. -- Kevin Durden, the Archer Florida racer better known for his asphalt success and an occasional street stock race on clay, will be one of the drivers to watch closely this weekend. Kevin will be starting his first Powell Memorial on dirt at Ocala Speedway on Friday night, June 5th.
Durden, who has raced and won in just about everything on the hard track, began his dirt late model career in April of this year. His first outing was with the United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series at Penton Raceways in Alabama. He wrecked and really didn't get to run, but the next night at East Alabama Motor Speedway, Durden drove his #56 late model to an 11th place finish.
Two weeks later at North Florida Speedway he took his B-Main race and then finished 9th in the feature. Durden said, "It's a lot of fun. I've raced just about everything else, asphalt, I've run some street stocks on dirt, but this is a new challenge, definitely a lot different than anything else I've done."
A challenge it will be when the United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series takes the green flag for the 75 lap, $5,000 to win 14th Annual Powell Memorial. Top guns in the UDLMCS such as Jason Fitzgerald, Johnny Collins, Russell Brown Jr, Ivedent Lloyd Jr, Dillon Wood, Clay Bedenbaugh and Tyler Ivey are just a few of thetough competitors. Then there is Mark Whitener who has won three of the five races run this year in the UDLMCS.
But anyone who knows Kevin Durden knows he is not one to be intimated by other's successes. "There's a lot of good guys out there, and there's a lot of good competition. The guys that run that series are probably the best there is around here on dirt. I want to get up there and contend for the win, that's why we're doing it", Durden explained.
"The awards are nice, but I'd rather win races, you win races you get the awards. We've always run to win and that's what we are going to do. Whatever it takes to get up front that's what we are going to do, that's just the way we are." Kevin Durden is one of the drivers eligible to win the just announced Pace American Newcomer of the Year Award to be presented at the end of year United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series Banquet.
The Durden #56 machine is a 2006 MasterSbilt Chassis with a Koury power plant, a car he got from Wayne Anderson, who raced with dirt late models a bit last year. Durden and Anderson each had something to offer the other. "I had an asphalt late model sitting here I wasn't running, because it wasn't feasible to run with what they pay around here. So, we worked out a trade, pretty much done a swap, car for car."
Durden went to Jacksonville, a hotbed for successful dirt late model teams, and found Tony Graham to help him with that learning curve. "He does all my suspension work and stuff like that, and I think it definitely will help get us there a lot faster". Graham last year worked with Johnny Collins and Richard Ferry. Collins won the UDLMCS Championship and Ferry won the Volusia Speedway Park Championship.
Durden sees the cup as more than half full, "I think we got the car right, got a good motor in it, the driver has got to catch up to the car, but we're making ground on it."
"The main problem we have been having is just getting forward drive off the corner. But we found the problem on it last week and got that corrected and I think we will be in a lot better shape now, I believe we can get up there and get us a top five this week, maybe even a win."
As always with the Powell Memorial, there will be drivers who come to race to show respect for the Powell family, led by Florida late model star James Powell. "James is a good competitor too, he is a nice guy, it's a bad deal to have to have this race, and I'm glad somebody put it together for him. It's a big deal, one of the biggest of the year."
Last year the race drew at least 5,00 fans and 50 plus race cars, a race won by the eventual series champion Johnny Collins. Durden thinks it will be just as big this year. "I would definitely say there's going to be between 40-50 cars and if the fans come out, they are going to see one heck of a show Friday night."
For more on the Powell Memorial, use this link!
To listen to the latest interview with Kevin Durden use this LINK!
Keep up with the United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series at www.uniteddirtlatemodels.com
Ocala Speedway's web site is www.ocalaspeedway.com
The race Friday night will be broadcast broadcast live by www.realracinusa.com beginning at 7:00 PM sponsored by C.F.R in Opa Locka, Fl and Adams Used Auto Parts in Tampa.