As qualifying time got closer, Dinah was growing increasingly nervous. She was pacing and taking deep breaths. She admitted to me that she can be a ball of nerves, but this was even worse because she knew that Willie was in a good group and had a legitimate shot of not only qualifying well, but maybe even winning the pole.
Willie’s group was the fourth group to hit the track during qualifying. They stuck exactly to the plan, with Munter taking the point while the other drives fell in line behind.
After the first of three laps, Willie’s No. 3 was on top of the scoring pylon and it was obvious the team around me — all volunteers with the exception of Furr — were getting excited.
The next two laps weren’t as fast as Willie needed them to be to contend for the pole. Moffitt got a big run from his position at the tail of the group and went to No. 1, with Munter second and Willie in third. A fast lap from Christian Eckes in the next group gave him the pole and dropped Willie to fourth.
It wasn’t a pole, but it was still a career-best and an incredible achievement for a mostly-volunteer crew.
“Without them changing the gear and making some changes on the car, we wouldn’t have had the speed we had today,” Mullins said. “We definitely had the gear in it to do what we did and that’s what we came here to do, make everybody notice that we’re here.”
All that’s left is the main event — the Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire — which is scheduled for Saturday at 4:45 p.m. EST. Willie will start fourth and will be surrounded by four Venturini Motorsports cars and assuming mother nature plays nice, he said the goal is to stay with them for as long as he can and stay away from the mayhem behind him.
“We’ve got to stay in that group and we’ve got to keep the fenders on it,” Mullins said.