Sarah Cornett-Ching, pictured at Southern National Motorsports Park during a test earlier this year. Andy Marquis | SNMP Media
By Andy Marquis
LUCAMA – Canadian racer Sarah Cornett-Ching views Southern National Motorsports Park as her home track in the United States, and she is excited to be heading back to the four-tenths mile track on Saturday night when the Pro All Stars Series Super Late Model tour invades.
Saturday’s race at Southern National will be the first start in a race since May for the 24-year-old from the British Columbia city of Penticton. The 150-lap race also comes at her favorite track during her favorite time of the year.
“If you followed any of my social media stuff, the last time we raced was Caraway in May, the last time I ran a race,” Cornett-Ching said. “In that sense, it’s more excitement to be back in the car. But, as well as that, Southern National is my favorite track. I have more laps there than anywhere else. We had a good run there last time. The heat this time, with it being so much hotter, it will play to our favor running the crate motor. I’m just excited to be back in the car running a race and it’s my favorite track, one I feel I have the best advantage at.
“I feel like Southern National is my home track in this area and I always look forward to seeing all the fans here.”
Along with having a lot of laps at Southern National, Cornett-Ching has also conditioned herself to be as sharp as a razor’s edge in the hottest and most brutal conditions. Focusing on endurance has been something she has placed extra emphasis on for much of her racing career.
“We still work on conditioning,” Cornett-Ching said. “We actually tested at Dillon just a few days ago and it was over 100 degrees that day. We tested for about 150 laps or something like that, and you don’t ever feel well when you get out of the car when it’s that hot but the more you do it, the more you get used to it and the better you are at handling it. Ultimately, it’s the end of the race that counts so, if you feel like crap and you can’t focus, you’re not going to finish well. If you feel good and are used to the heat, you have an advantage so that’s kind of the mindset.”
Now, she feels she is as sharp as she’s ever been and as focused as possible after being sidelined late last year. Last September, she suffered a concussion after a notable crash in an ARCA Racing Series race at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky and was forced to the sidelines for several months before making her return to racing earlier this year in the PASS South Super Late Model Tour.
“As far as mental focus and driving the racecar, I’m 100 percent now,” Cornett-Ching said. “I do still notice like, if I’m in the car, it’s hot which it usually always is and I’m racing at a bumpy track, the bumps might give me a slight headache so there are small kind of things that still happen that are kind of strange. As far as being in the car and all that stuff, I’m 100 percent and I feel like I’m better than before. More laps, more experience. So, I don’t feel like anything from the concussion is hindering me anymore.”
The PASS South series features a good mix of veterans and younger drivers, but not many have the experience Cornett-Ching has. In the ARCA Racing Series, Cornett-Ching has raced at a variety of tracks, including superspeedways like Daytona and Pocono, the road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park, short tracks such as the high banked Winchester Speedway and even dirt tracks in Illinois.
While the differences between the NASCAR-style cars in the ARCA Series and the Super Late Models in PASS are significant, Cornett-Ching feels her experience on bigger tracks in ARCA does help to some degree.
“I don’t feel that there’s a lot that carries over as far as technical things in the car but going 200 miles an hour at some of those bigger tracks and feeling the car and I’ve wrecked at a few of them puts things in perspective and allows you to be more aggressive in a Super Late Model,” she said. “I think that, you know, if you had jumped from a four-cylinder car to a Super Late Model, you would be out of your element and intimated. Having that experience gives me more confidence but how they drive is not similar at all.”
After her sixth place finish in the Dogwood 300 PASS race back in March, Cornett-Ching has raised the bar on what her expectations are for the Southern National 150 on Saturday night.
“Realistically I feel like we should come away with a top-five,” Cornett-Ching commented. “Anything better is a bonus and anything worse, we’ll re-evaluate and see what went wrong but I do feel like we should finish in the top-five.”
Sarah Cornett-Ching will compete in the 150 lap PASS South Super Late Model race. The PASS series will be joined by the Mid-Atlantic Street Stocks (MASS) Championship Series for a 50-lap dash.
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