Pardus Eager For Return To Action At Road America

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Preston Pardus (36) in action on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this year. (HHP/Andrew Coppley Photo)
Preston Pardus (36) in action on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this year. (HHP/Andrew Coppley Photo)

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Three starts into his NASCAR career, Preston Pardus is eager to put together another run like he and DGM Motorsports delivered in their last outing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

On July 4, Pardus wheeled his NASCAR Xfinity Series Chevrolet to a career-best 10th-place finish on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That’s the same track where the 23-year-old native of Daytona Beach, Fla., claimed an SCCA national championship in 2017.

This Saturday, Pardus makes his first return visit to an Xfinity track on which he’s already competed. It was nearly one year ago that Pardus made his NASCAR, and stock car, debut, qualifying 15th at Road America. Unfortunately, suspension failure 14 laps into in the CTECH Manufacturing 180 ended his day early.

The son of former NASCAR and ARCA racer Dan Pardus, Preston is excited by the prospect of matching, or improving upon, his top-10 Indy performance when he tackles Road America’s 4.048-mile layout.

“SCCA has this event there called the June Sprints that’s actually been around longer than the national championships and is probably their second biggest race of the year,” Pardus said. “Seat time anywhere helps a ton because you can learn the characteristics of the track – the bumps, the braking markers and other reference points. When I was racing in the SCCA Spec Miata class there, we’d have a full test day, two practices, two qualifying sessions and two 35-minute races. In Xfinity, we won’t get any practice or qualifying, so experience could mean a lot under those circumstances.”

Pardus’ first objective for Saturday’s Henry 180 is to play it smart enough to be around for the finish. Then, as the laps wind down, he’ll be poised to make a charge to collect the highest possible finish.

Preston Pardus rolls into the pits at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Preston Pardus rolls into the pits at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Last year, our goal was to finish top 20, and that was our goal for Indy, too,” he said. “You’ve got to have some goals, but you can’t be unrealistic about your expectations. Anytime you meet a goal, you set another one, just not too far out there. Maybe another top 10. To do that again would be great for us.”

One team member who’s convinced that Pardus can string together a solid run of finishes in the Xfinity road course events is his crew chief, NASCAR veteran Tony Furr.

“We were running really good at Road America last year … and broke,” said Furr, whose pit calls made NASCAR Cup winners of John Andretti and Jerry Nadeau.

“That was his first time in one of those style cars, and he was fairly aggressive and adapted really quick. You’re talking about 120 horsepower in the Spec Miata versus almost 700 in the Xfinity car; 8-inch tires vs. 10-inch tires; and a car that’s 1,000 pounds heavier. All of that amounts to a big difference, and he did a really good job. I was very impressed with him.”

“The cars are so different, but the fundamentals are the same,” Pardus said. “The Miata really teaches you driving aspects like carrying a lot of momentum. They’re so low on horsepower and they’re so slow down the straights that you really have to focus on getting through the corner. I feel like with the stock car stuff, a lot of the guys kind of rely on the power and don’t think about the corner speeds as much. So learning how to carry momentum has helped me shorten the learning curve.”

Pardus’ style, technique and approach to competition reminds Furr of an accomplished NASCAR racer with whom he once worked, Ricky Rudd. Six of Rudd’s 23 career victories in Cup action came on road courses.

“Preston is very focused, the same way Ricky was,” Furr said. “Preston’s got a sense of humor, don’t get me wrong, but when he gets around the car, he’s very focused — especially in giving us the feedback we’ve got to have to make the best calls we can on the pit box.”

The communication between driver and crew chief on road courses is especially crucial for plotting race strategy. It was definitely a strong suit for Pardus and Furr at Indianapolis, and it will be again Saturday.

“Indy was great for us. We had no hiccups, and Tony made great calls on the pit box and strategy,” Pardus said. “It’s a good confidence booster for us to know that we can put a race together, so I’m really looking forward to Road America.”

Said Furr, “We’ll take what we’ve got and try to work our way through strategy and hope this car will be as good as it was before. I know he will be.”