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Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s driver Michael Neary making return to INEX Winter Nationals at Citrus County Speedway in Inverness, Fla.
To borrow a phrase from NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip, “that boy is bad fast!!”
Applying that analogy to a local racer, Michael Neary would get those accolades.
He will see just how fast he is next week when he takes his talents to the Citrus County Speedway in Inverness, Fla. For the 2019 INEX Winter Nationals for Legend and Bandolero competitors.
Neary, 17, who swept this past season in the Hanlon Realty U.S. Legends series at Eastbound International Speedway in Avondale, hopes to improve on his debut run in the Legends series in Florida last year.
“My expectations are a bit higher this year over last,’’ Neary said.
“I just wanted to get experience last year, but this year, it would be really nice to get a Top 10 finish. Anything in the Top 10 or higher would be great.”
The Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s based racer and his father, Carl, who serves as team owner and crew chief for MNR Racing, left for Florida on Thursday and will be turning a few laps this weekend in a car prepared for him by Cory Hall Racing out of Jolicure, N.B., a small community near Sackville, N.B.
Competition begins on Monday and runs to Friday.
“Last year, I was just learning the driving style of the Legends cars. I wasn’t sure how to be aggressive at first, but after a full year of driving, I think I will be better at making adjustments throughout practices and in the races,’’ he said.
“The format this year is the same as last year. There will be two practices from which the hot laps will determine starting positions for the qualifying races.”
From there, he hopes to work his way from heat races, into the B main and a top finish in that will move him into the A main and it is there he hopes to secure a Top 10 or better placing.
There are four divisions of Legends racing at the event and those include: Young Lions (12-16), Semi-Pro (16-40), Pro (skilled drivers) and Masters (Over 40).
Neary will run in the Semi-Pro division again this year, work on his speed and racing techniques and possibly look at the Pro division for 2020.
He called this past year a dream season, made possible by the hard work of his crew, his family, and the support he received from the fellow competitors, the fans, and his former colleagues in the Bandolero series who follow him up and down pit road.
Neary swept all 10 races this season and even though it didn’t stand as the track record because the lap was unofficial, he posted a time of 17.440 on Lap 16 of the 25-lap final. A caution came out before the field could pass the timing loop thus Neary’s lap did not count for the record books. Eastbound is a 3/8-mile track with banking unlike Citrus Speedway which is a flat ¼ circuit.
“The banking helps you lean on the car more for speed. It feels more like an airplane as the bank pushes you down. On a flat track, you are basically turning as hard as you can in the corners,’’ he said.
“When I get to Florida, I will already have a good set up in the car. I will make a few adjustments, mostly shocks, to fit my feel and style,’’ he added.
In addition, Neary will have Hall on site to help his father tweak the car and he can draw on some feedback from another young and up and comer in the Legends series in teammate Michael Cormier, 18, a New Brunswick driver who like Neary has burst on to the scene and is making a name for himself on the Maritime circuit.
But winning is hard, and Neary knows it.
Asked how he was when he got out of the car after the 10th and final victory of 2018, he was breathing heavily and said “I’m tired.”
Neary is excited for this opportunity. His drive to be a great racer is always on display, citing his trip to the NASCAR banquet in Charlotte, N.C. in December as another means to fuel his fire of advancing his skills as a driver.
He will concentrate on the Legends series this season and explore his opportunities in the future.
Neary is working on finishing high school at Prince of Wales Collegiate in St. John’s and has his eye on the Maritime Pro Stock Series in the future, if the right opportunity comes along.