Controversy lacking with switch to Late Models

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Jeremie Whorff isn’t too choosy. If he can get the motor running, he’ll be glad to race it.

So even though Whorff was a late entrant into the TD Banknorth 250 because he didn’t have a Late Model car, Whorff has made a smooth transition.

He had an impressive practice session when he tried out his temporary ride and was feeling good about the switch to Late Models.

“If it has four tires and a steering wheel, I like it,” said the defending 250 champ. “You can pretty much make anything go if you want to, if you take a little time and think about it. The big thing I think with them is patience. You have to keep your cool and let the car give you what it gives you.”

The change from Pro Stock to the Late Models forced a number of drivers to adjust to new wheels. The differences in the two styles are slight, but they can make a difference to those behind the wheel. Whorff says the Late Models just aren’t as consistent as the Pro Stocks.

“You definitely can’t drive in as deep or hammer it coming off the corners,” said Whorff, who advanced to Sunday’s 250 by winning the first consolation race. “It just won’t stay there. It needs a little bit more finesse. All in all, it’s a pretty comfortable car. I enjoy driving it.”

Some of the more significant differences between the two styles are a smaller engine, smaller brakes and smaller tires. The spoiler is lower, which affects the handling. For some drivers, those differences are quite noticeable; for others, there isn’t much change.

“It’s all relative, really,” said NASCAR veteran Kevin Lepage. “We’ve got a smaller motor and smaller tires and a small racetrack. So it’s all relative in how the car drives. It’s a car that has four spark plugs, four shocks and four tires. You’ve just got to make it work.”

Lepage didn’t see much difference than the cars he typically drive in NASCAR.

“They’re the same thing as a Cup car or a Busch car or a Truck car,” he said. “If they’re tight, they’re tight and if they’re loose, they’re loose, and you’ve got to fix it. “

Robbie Crouch hadn’t driven a Late Model in 14 years, but he didn’t see much difference from the cars at the height of his career.

“It feels a lot like what I remember,” said Crouch. “That part of it is good. I don’t see a huge difference.”

Terry Labonte was pleased with the car provided by Richard Moody Racing. He thought the switch to the Late Models was a great twist on an old classic.

“I like this new class that they have,” said Labonte. “They’re fun to drive. I think they’ve got something here. It’s a lot more affordable car for a lot of people. The way the rules are, a lot of people can be competitive at it.”

The racing at OPS Sunday showed the difference. The passing power was evident, but the cars were quite compatible with each other. It made for some competitive battles. Those that had good position in heats were in good shape, but those in the back struggled to make up distance.

“I think track position is a big deal (with) how competitive the cars are,” said Whorff. “You can’t get up to the front as quick as you can with a 10-inch rubber and a little bit bigger motor. Now with everybody so close, it’s difficult to get up front.”

The change to the Late Models may have squeezed out some drivers because some Pro Stock drivers didn’t land a Late Model ride. That may have been an advantage for the more seasoned Late Model drivers.

“There’s a lot of guys out here, this is all they run,” said Whorff. “They know these cars inside and out. Being a newcomer to the Late Model series, I definitely think it’s an advantage for them.”

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