Spencer Hughes (K3) tries to pass Brian Rickman in the 14th Annual Cliburn Tank Lines Governor’s Cup Southern All Star Racing Series on Saturday at Magnolia Motor Speedway. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch
March 16, 2018 9:56:32 AM
Ask Spencer Hughes about his career ladder in racing and he'll give you a "coach speak" answer.
"We're just trying to take it day by day," Hughes said.
The phrase is a standard refrain for athletes and coaches who try to maintain focus and perspective. Winning a lot of races at a young age creates a greater audience and raises expectations, but for Hughes, the approach is real.
This weekend, Hughes, 17, will begin his journey at the Southern All-Stars' two-day show in Milton, Florida, which is the first Super Late Model Race on his schedule. Hughes will debut for Henderson Motorsports in $4,000-to-win and $5,000-to-win features.
Hughes' trajectory from Street Stocks to Super Late Models has been expected. He won 20 races in 30 starts in several divisions last season, including two of five in Super Late Models, but it also has adjusted relative to his learning curve. The NeSmith Street Stocks national points winner had a brief appearance in NeSmith Late Models driving for Randy Thompson last season before jumping into Super Late Models. He became the youngest driver to win on the Southern All-Stars series after capturing the Governor's Cup at Magnolia Motor Speedway.
"I'd like to make it as far as I can, but there really is no timeline," Hughes said. "When it happens, it happens."
Hughes won't talk about what "it" is. He only has five Super Late Model starts to his credit. Driving late models was an immediate goal at the height of his success in Street Stocks, and he's excited for the experiences the 2018 season will provide at Henderson Motorsports, which parted ways with Michael Arnold after the 2017 season. Hughes will pilot a new Longhorn-Weaver chassis and Cornett motor this weekend.
Hughes' first challenge will be competing successfully fresh out of the box. He's sat in the car "two or three times" but he's "never heard it run."
Hughes' expectations are unchanged, and he said he and Henderson are in sync as it relates to the schedule, travel, and results.
"We just want to run races and win as many as we can, but we don't have to win every race," Hughes said. "I've spent a good bit of time with (Henderson) down here in the race shop, and it's been great so far. The only race I know we're going to is when we're on the road. We're not gonna get tied into any points battles. We want to tackle a fair amount, get out and race at a bunch of tracks that we've never been to."
In his five Super Late Model races in 2017, Hughes said he learned he has to "go on starts" and race aggressively on each lap. And while he hasn't been as busy building cars during the offseason, it's difficult to use the additional free time to train, like athletes who train in other sports. Hughes said he has watched videos to see how Late Model racing is at Southern Raceway in Milton, but there's "not a lot that can prepare you for racing besides racing."
"There's no simulators that can prepare you for it," Hughes said. "We've got a practice night tonight, and we're looking to kick the year off good."
Points races begin at The MAG
Rain cancelled the United States Modified Touring Series feature last Sunday at Magnolia Motor Speedway, but area racers will have an practice session tonight at the first points races of the season for four divisions on Saturday night.
March will close with back-to-back weekends of Super Late Model racing in the Golden Triangle. Columbus Speedway will play host to the State Series next Friday for the second-annual Mud Bug Classic. Magnolia Motor Speedway will play host to the series March 31.
The Bullring will provide crawfish to fans at its March 23 race.
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