Championship Night Brings Optimism For Connor Yonchuk At Charlotte

CONCORD, N.C. – The tenth and final around of the Cook Out Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway takes place this Tuesday, August 1, and Winston-Salem racer Connor Yonchuk is optimistic that he and his Race Driven Performance No. 99 team can close out the 30th edition of the series on a high note.

The 18-year-old is competing in his first series with a legend car.  He started off with a sixth-place finish and has shown speed each week, but the racing can be tight on the ¼-mile track and contact is an inevitable part of the night.  Yonchuk has been involved in a number of skirmishes throughout the series that have tempered his average finish, but they do not tell the story of how well he has performed and how much he has learned competing in fields of over 30 of the best racers from across the USA and beyond.

Take last week’s round nine for example.  On Practice night Monday, Yonchuk was running fast enough to qualify in the top six on a track that had plenty of grip.  He came back on Tuesday, and the track was slick due to the hot sun and much slower. 

He and the team took their best shot at adjustments but qualified just 17th fastest, meaning he would have to start deep in the field for the 25-lap main event.  

“That put me in a tough position on a track where track position is key,” the driver explained. “But I kept putting in consistent laps and was capitalizing on people’s mistakes which helped me gain a few spots. The race had been going caution-free all the way up until the final 10 laps. The long green flag runs put a lot of heat in your brakes, so that caused me to lose a little brake force every lap. Unfortunately, when the caution did come out, I was the cause of it. I made a mistake and spun myself out, but the race wasn’t over yet. I picked up as many positions as possible in the final 10 laps, restarted 22nd and finished 17th. Overall, I was happy we could finally finish the race with little to no damage but still did not have the speed we wanted all day. Thank you to my team and everyone who helps me to do this.  We have one more race and we’re excited to come back and finish the series strong.”

It’s been a steep learning curve for Yonchuk, but he has shown the ability to run with the best of him.  Learning to adjust from qualifying night to race night amid wildly different track conditions that can slow lap times down by 3/10 of a second has been the hardest part for a driver still learning what the legend cars need from him to be fast.

“That’s definitely the hardest part for me,” he agreed. “A lot of these drivers have been racing here in either a bandolero or legend car or both for years, so they’ve already been through the trial and error that I’ve gone through this year.  We know we have the speed, but I’m still learning how to adjust the car and how to qualify where we need to in order to spend most of the race being in the top five instead of trying to get there.  But I have high hopes that we’re at a point where we can come back in round ten and run top five.  The key is going to be how well we can qualify and whether we can avoid any incidents during the feature.”