Freezing temperatures Wednesday night failed to cool a hot run by Jerick Johnson in The American Legion/David Law Firm 76 Freedom Car at the New Smyrna Speedway in east central Florida.
Johnson started the 25-lap race in the seventh position on the grid and crossed the finish line in fifth place - the best finish for the 76 Freedom Car in three races at the half-mile asphalt oval near Daytona.
"We have been fighting a racecar that just doesn't want to turn left in the turns," Johnson said after climbing from his car in the garage area. "We got a late start here at New Smyrna because we were attempting to make the ARCA show at Daytona. But after three days of testing here I think we are getting close to having a very fast racecar."
Weather has plagued drivers and race fans at New Smyrna. Freezing temperatures Wednesday followed a Tuesday rainout at the track. Hooded sweatshirts, winter jackets, and gloves replaced T-shirts, and short pants - typical garb for Florida this time of year.
Plummeting temperatures also did little to dissuade race fans, although their clothing suggested they were at the track to witness snowmobile races. It was also apparent that the concession stand had a record night for hot chocolate and coffee sales.
It was so cold at the track that officials permitted each race class a few hot laps before lining up double file for the green flag. Had they not done so, tires on the racecars would have had little grip - not a good thing when drivers and their cars are bumper-to-bumper for the start.
"By the end of the race, we had the fastest car on the track," said Jack Johnson, owner of Team Johnson Motorsports, the team that drives the 76 Freedom Car. "Yellow flag sort of interrupted the flow of the race, but Jerick was holding his own on the restarts and moving up through the field. A little more work on the setup should give us a really fast racecar."
Johnson is competing in the Crate Late Model class of the 44th Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at the New Smyrna track - a nine-day racing event that includes a number of class races by drivers from across the country. Johnson and the 76 Freedom Car has finished 13th, seventh, and fifth in three races.