Story By: MARSHALL GABELL / EMPIRE RACING DEVELOPMENT GROUP – MYRTLE BEACH, SC – Knocking rust from the offseason, hotshoe Devin Dodson wheeled his No. 9 Empire Racing Development Group machine to a respectable 16th place result at Myrtle Beach Speedway on Saturday in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
Dodson, who turned 19 this past week, started the event from the 17th position and remained consistent throughout the 75 lap feature. Despite missing out on the top ten, the developmental driver was able to record valuable notes during his mere third NASCAR-sanctioned late model start.
“It was a modest open to our season,” Dodson said. “I was glad to just log some laps and get some more experience under our belts. I think we grew as a team this weekend. I’m really appreciative of this opportunity with Empire Racing.”
Making an eight hour haul from Bishopville, Md., the former dirt standout Dodson was unable to participate in the event’s open test session on Friday at Myrtle Beach, which put his Empire Racing team behind the eight ball in their season-opening race.
Losing that valuable track time, Dodson was forced to work with just 25 minutes of practice time (spread across two sessions) to work out the offseason kinks and further prepare his No. 9 machine before qualifying on Saturday.
“It was unfortunate,” Dodson explained. “We missed out on testing Friday, which I really thought put us behind all weekend. During practice, I had to jump in and we had to fix the brakes, along with other things that cost us a lot of time on the track.”
Once correcting the basic errors, Dodson was out of practice time to critique his machine, relegating him to a 17th place effort in time trials, about four tenths of a second from the lead times.
After meeting with fans during the intermission, Dodson climbed into his office for the first time this season and focused on preserving tires, along with avoiding accidents in the 25-car field.
Unlike the last time Dodson competed at Myrtle Beach in November, where he was involved in a 20-car pileup, this feature remained green until 25 laps to go, something that the team wasn’t anticipating.
In the final circuits, Dodson avoided another accident and proceeded to finish in the 16th position, bringing back an unscathed racecar to his Empire Racing team.
“Given all the hoops we had to jump through this weekend, I’m just glad we kept it in one piece,” Dodson expressed. “I appreciate all the support from Empire Racing, Thad Moffitt (teammate), and Grumpy’s Performance. I expect to see our No. 9 machine right in the mix to win from here on out.”
Looking forward …
Despite the unfortunate result, Dodson now turns his attention towards jumping back in the seat. At the moment, an exact next race and complete schedule is being formulated.
“I can’t wait to get back into the racecar,” he added. “It might be a few weeks here, but I know we’re going to come back really, really strong. During this short break, I’m going to push myself harder physically and mentally to prepare for being back in the car.”