Wheatland, Missouri (April 2, 2021) – The 2020 Lucas Oil MLRA season marked the first time ever behind the wheel of a Dirt Super Late Model for Lebanon, Missouri’s Brennon Willard. Now with one season of experience under his belt, combined with an aggressive early season schedule to gain more seat time, the 36 year-old is ready for his second bout with the MLRA.
An accomplished asphalt racer, who had a very limited number of starts on dirt prior to last season, Willard didn’t let the aggressive learning curve of competing with one of the top late model touring series get him down. Instead, he hopes that he can apply his experiences from what he learned in his Rookie Season to the season ahead, one where he feels he and his team are more prepared for.
“Last year was tough, and we got our butts kicked early,” commented Willard. “I had never raced at any of the MLRA tracks that we went to last year besides Wheatland, and it was basically the only place I had even seen before. We went into last year with just the one car, one motor, one rear end, and one crew guy—and a driver that didn’t know what the heck he was doing,” joked Willard.
In his first season with the MLRA, Willard logged a pair of top ten finishes and came home 10th in the final season standings. One of his best MLRA runs of the year came late in the season at Lucas Oil Speedway during the Ron Jenkins Memorial where he charged from 24th to a 10th place finish, capturing the Casey’s “Hard Charger of the Race” Award. In addition, was able to score his first dirt late model win in October at Popular Bluff Motorsports Park in non-MLRA action.
Willard will start off his 2021 MLRA campaign in a Barry Wright ICON chassis that he purchased at the end of last season from 2014 MLRA champion Tony Jackson, Jr. In addition, the team purchased a second 2021 BWRC ICON chassis along with seeking a stronger motor program with the primary help from Scott Baily Racing Engines. Willard is confident the addition of a second car, will be invaluable to the team as they set out to compete with the MLRA.
“It’s going to make it a lot easier to know that you can race a little bit harder because you have another car up top in case you get tore up or something happens. Especially when you’re on a two or three day swing, just having another car there makes it a lot better.”
One of the key differences Willard notes between asphalt and dirt racing is how you gain experience from seat time. “The only way you’re going to get better is to race and that’s especially true on dirt. You can’t practice on dirt like you can asphalt to get yourself better. With Covid last year we basically didn’t race until after memorial day, and that made it tough trying to learn your race car and the race track in the one and a half laps of practice you get. And then you go out there and try not to hit somebody and try to race hard.”
To continue building his seat time, the driver of the Hudson Feed & Grain/Willard Asphalt Paving/RK Consulting/Modern Images # 3w, ventured to Florida Speedweeks earlier this year. “We went to East Bay to get some experience and to get used to the new car. I did that after my first year of racing asphalt. I went down and raced all of Speedweeks that year on asphalt and I felt like it helped me a lot. We won a race that year and it was like a game changer for me, so I felt like if I could do the same thing on dirt and get seven or eight races in, that it would be worth it.”
The switch to dirt also forced Willard to learn and adjust to a different driving style than he had been used to. “The driving style was a huge adjustment. It seems like the harder you drive an asphalt car the slower you are, and the harder you hit the fence. But the harder you drive a dirt car a lot of times the better you are. Where I felt we were good on dirt was when the track slicked off, which was obviously feature time. We were typically good in the feature if we made it, but it was just tough to get to the features last year.”
Willard will come into next weekend’s MLRA Spring Nationals more confident than he was one year ago, and with nearly 15 nights already in the car this season it should help him get off to a good start. “We went down and got a win at the end of last year at Popular Bluff (Motorsports Park) and that was big to get a little bit of confidence going into this season, and for knowing that we can get it done and still compete. I think we should be able to run a lot better this year and we hope to be strong out of the gate."
Brennon Willard Motorsports: Hudson Feed & Grain, Purina, Willard Asphalt Paving, TJR Development & Consulting, Swift Springs, Modern Images, Penske Shocks, I-44 Winter Shootout, Lowe Boats, C&R Vinyl, RK Consulting, Barry Wright Race Cars, Scott Bailey Racing Engines.
Crew: Mike Schmidt, Dylan Bates, Randy Korte, Braden Willard, Mike Stake, Tony Wright