Daytona: Miguel Paludo race report

Miguel Paludo accomplishes goals, comes home 13th in Daytona debut

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Red Horse Racing driver Miguel Paludo accomplished his goals in his debut on Daytona International Speedway last Saturday in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200, but like any racing driver, Paludo wanted much more.

Paludo drove the No. 28 STEMCO-Duroline Toyota fielded in conjunction with Venturini Motorsports in his first start in a stock car on a superspeedway. The goals were simple: Log laps, feel the draft, finish the race.

Check, check and check.

But Paludo wanted more than a 13th-place finish.

"From one perspective, I'm happy, but for the finish position, I'm not real happy because I knew we had a great car and we should've been at least in the top 10," Paludo said. "We had an engine problem, and we went backwards. But for the learning process, I learned what I was supposed to: Drafting, how to run in a line, how to be patient."

Paludo qualified 11th but moved up quickly as he hugged the yellow line around the bottom of the 2.5-mile track.

"I focused on restarts because I had some problems on some restarts in the truck last year," Paludo said. "I focused on that, and it went really well. I thought all my restarts went well. I gained a lot of positions." Paludo moved up to sixth by lap 17 of the 80-lap race before making a pit stop for two tires and fuel. He restarted 14th but again showed he's learning the draft quickly by gaining four positions on the first green-flag lap.

He gained three more spots to seventh by lap 25, prompting spotter and former driver Terry Cook to say, "Looks like you've done this 100 times." Crew chief Rick Gay also helped keep Paludo encouraged throughout the race.

"The car was exactly the same after the pit stop," Paludo said. "I came on the radio and said, 'Rick, it's as good as practice.' It was really nice. I was in the draft, and the car handled really well. That's why I was a little bit frustrated, because I knew we had a shot. The car was good all day - until the engine starting having problems."

After pitting for fuel on lap 48, Paludo restarted 16th when the green waved with 29 laps to go. He slipped back, the apparent victim of dirty air in the draft. But it wasn't the draft at all.

"That's when the engine started to lose power," Paludo said. "I couldn't be in the draft any more. Before that, I could be one- or two-car lengths back of the car in front of me, and I could suck up to him. I first thought it was dirty air, but it wasn't."

The caution waved again on lap 64 for a multi-car crash in Turn 4, but Paludo adeptly drove through the mess.

"Terry was really good because he told me to go low. I saw a car sideways - I think it was Steve Arpin - and he went up to the wall. I pushed all that I could to go to the bottom. I knew that because of the banking, it's hard to go to the bottom because sometimes the car spins." Paludo barely got into the car in front of him during the crash, but the damage was minimal.

With the engine down on power, Paludo did all he could to stay in the draft, and he finished 13th.

Next up for Paludo is the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Daytona, the NextEra Energy Resources 250 on Feb. 18.

-source: rhr

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