BARBERVILLE, Fla. (February 20, 2017) – Caleb Helms produced his best finish at the DIRTcar Nationals last week during the opening round of the five-day spectacle at Volusia Speedway Park.
Helms kicked off the action last Wednesday by qualifying 17th quickest overall and fourth in his group before placing second in a heat race, which locked him into an Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions dash. Helms ended second in the dash to start the main event on the inside of the second row.
“I ran fifth for a while,” he said. “We had a caution and on the restart I was running fifth and doing just fine. We had a red come out and that moved me up to third or fourth. After that red I tried to make a move on Brad Sweet and got freight trained. I struggled to get back to my line and lost a bunch of positions.”
Helms recorded a 13th-place result, which was his best ever at the half-mile oval.
He returned to action on Thursday for the final round of All Star competition, which began with Helms timing in 16th quickest overall and sixth in his group. He then placed seventh in a heat race before garnering a third-place finish in the B Main to transfer into the back of the main event.
“We didn’t qualify as well and we had to go to the B Main,” he said. “I felt like we were pretty good all night. We just didn’t have enough to outqualify those guys early. We made the car pretty good for the feature. I was starting to get in a rhythm and then I could feel the rubber. I tried to make a move on someone and he slid across the track so I had to check up and then David Gravel got by me to put me a lap down. We had a caution shortly after that and I was trapped a lap down.”
Helms finished 19th and he now ranks 11th in the All Star championship standings – 4th among drivers who will race with the series full time this year.
Friday featured Round 3 of the event and the first of three straight World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series races. Helms qualified 30 th quickest, advanced from eighth to seventh in a heat race and maneuvered from 10th to sixth place in the Last Chance Showdown to miss a transfer by only two positions.
“We passed a few cars in the Last Chance Showdown and had an opportunity on a restart running fifth and I ended up running the wrong line in turns one and two and got passed by another car on the inside,” he said.
Saturday’s program was rained out and was run on Sunday afternoon as part of a doubleheader. Helms timed in 11th quickest overall before he locked into the main event by placing fourth in a heat race.
“We qualified well for the day show and ran well in the heat race to make it in the show,” he said. “We tried some things for the main event and we just didn’t get it right. We backed up, which was unfortunate. But that was the time to try things since it wasn’t a points race for us.”
Helms, who ended 22nd, closed the event Sunday evening by qualifying 33rd quickest. He picked up a position to finish eighth in a heat race before advancing from 13th to ninth in the Last Chance Showdown.
“We were trying something with the setup to fine tune it a little more and the decision we made in qualifying didn’t go well and we timed pretty far back,” he said. “We went forward one spot in the heat and a few in the B Main, but we started too far back.
“I feel like our week was a confidence booster because at different parts of each night we were able to compete with most everyone there. We were able to make the All Star shows, which was great for points. We didn’t get quite the finishes we wanted, but we felt good about the speed that we had and we were able to figure some things out that will help in the future.”
Helms will return to action this Thursday through Saturday at East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, Fla., for the 16th annual Ronald Laney Memorial King of the 360s.