DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Eager is an accurate description of Preston Pardus’ outlook toward his next NASCAR Xfinity Series start.
The Daytona Beach, Fla., native tackles the road course at Daytona International Speedway again this Saturday in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Super Start Batteries 188. He will be one of the few drivers in the field who has been on that course this year, having notched finishes of eighth and seventh three weeks ago in his firs Mazda MX-5 Global Cup starts.
“It could be to my advantage,” said Pardus, who celebrated his 24th birthday Monday. “Some of the signage around the track has changed, and that’s big for a driver because that’s the kind of thing we use as reference points for braking. The first time we’ll be on the track in the car Saturday will be the pace laps for the race, so I’m hoping the familiarity with the course I gained in the MX-5 races will give me a little bit of an edge.”
Pardus will be making his seventh Xfinity start when the 52-lap, 188-mile race gets under way. He’ll be wheeling the same Chevrolet in which he’s run the previous six.
Last year, Pardus made four Xfinity starts, all on road courses. He finished 10th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, then improved with a career-best eighth at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
That was followed by a trip to Daytona in mid-August, when the two-time SCCA national champion spent much of the day in the top 10. He was contending for a top-five finish when the field took the green flag for the final time, but was swept up in a crash started by other drivers and was saddled with a 31st-place result.
On Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL in October, mechanical problems knocked the No. 90 entry out after 41 laps.
Since that time, the car has received multiple upgrades that Pardus is eager to put to the test.
“The car has been looked at in every area” since Charlotte, he said. “With the good results last year, we were able to run around fast cars and get a good gauge on the areas we needed to improve in.”
The powerplant from ECR Engines in Lexington, N.C., has also been freshened in the offseason. Pardus was especially pleased with the way he was able to use ECR power to advance past other drivers at Daytona last summer, and he called that race his best performance in dry track conditions.
Pardus has done more racing in 2021 than his Xfinity competitors. He finished first and second in the SCCA Spec Miata events at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway, and he won both starts in the same series a few weeks later at Sebring. Those helped him land the MX-5 ride that produced top-10 finishes, and he led all but the final lap of one of those.