Tim Russell's 2011 season kicked off on January 8th at the Red-Eye 100 at New Smyrna Speedway (FL). The result, a second-place finish, was the same result as his final race of 2010 - the Governor's Cup 200 at the same track. But, this time, a strong runner-up finish will serve as a kick-start to what Russell hopes will be a huge 2011 season.
"This is a good start," said Russell after the Red-Eye. "I'm looking forward to more now."
Russell's #36 Super Late Model, much like at the Governor's Cup back in November, did not qualify as well as he hoped it would for the Red-Eye. He timed in eighth-quickest, which is not up to his standards, but the luck of the post-qualifying invert put him on the outside pole for the start of the 100-lap feature.
"I don’t understand that yet. So far in the five races that we’ve run with this car, I don’t know why it doesn’t qualify as well as any of our other cars. Over the past couple of years, we’ve had a ton of poles and I’m just not used to qualifying outside of the top five. But this thing races awesome.
"We were good in the race early and I was just riding. I got knocked out of the groove by (Justin) Larson and I had to back out of the gas and got passed by two cars. From there, most of the night, we were restarting third on the inside."
Russell stayed in the hunt throughout the feature, eventually closing to leader Stephen Nasse's back bumper in the closing laps. Russell tried both the inside and outside grooves, but he wound up just about a carlength short at the checkered flag.
After the race, Russell and Nasse made contact off the second corner, but the contact was not intentional.
"I didn’t mean to run into him at the end of the race, but I thought we were still racing. We both went off into one still hard and I really wasn’t paying attention to a checkered flag. My mind was set on beating him. When I came through (turns) one and two, the scoreboard still said (lap) 99. He picked the gas up like he was racing, so I picked it up and coming off two he stopped. I hated to run over him like that."
Russell will look to build on the second-place result in the Orange Blossom Pete Orr Memorial 100 at New Smyrna on February 5th. This race, which will be held the week before its usual Speedweeks date, means a lot to Russell and his entire team and family, as the late Pete Orr was a friend and racer that was extremely close to them and Russell will be out to honor Orr with a victory.