By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
As a young kid, Blaine Perkins loved going out with his dad and a bunch of his friends and running go-karts. About the age of 10, the Bakersfield, California native got his own go-kart and launched his racing career. Progressing through the SRL Legends Tour, SRL Southwest Tour and the Lucas Oil Modifieds, Perkins landed a ride in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
On Friday night at Kentucky Speedway, Perkins takes the next step in his racing career when the 17-year-old driver makes his ARCA Racing Series debut behind the wheel of the No. 78 Chevrolet for Mason Mitchell Motorsports. The 1.5-mile track in Sparta, Kentucky will mark the first time Perkins has competed on a track bigger than the 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway.
Perkins got the opportunity to get acquainted with the car and team during a Wednesday test session at Kentucky. Turning a total of 57 laps, Perkins ended the day 13th on the speed chart with a lap at 176.304 mph.
“I think the test went pretty well. I learned so much. These cars drive so much different,” Perkins told Motorsports Tribune in a Thursday phone interview.
“The tires are different. I’ve always driven on the bias-ply tire (as opposed to the radial tire run in the ARCA Racing Series). The track is different. I would say the biggest thing I Iearned was going so fast through a turn and really feeling the air pushing on the car. That definitely took some learning.”
Helping Perkins with that learning during the test session was Michael Self, who knows a thing or two about being fast on a mile-and-a-half in a Mason Mitchell Motorsports car. Just last week at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway, Self was on his way to victory with less than 10 laps remaining when a blown tire resulted in a disappointing finish.
“I met Michael last year at Miller Motorsports Park. He’s from Salt Lake and he’s a driving instructor there. We drive in the K&N West Series together so we know quite a bit about each other and he definitely helped me adjust to the team yesterday.”
Perkins will pilot chassis No. 589, which has two wins and 13 top-five and 20 top-ten finishes in 23 starts. In addition, along with teammate Chase Purdy, the duo will make the 100th and 101st starts for the Mason Mitchell organization in Friday night’s Crosley Brands 150.
“I didn’t know that about the car. I was told it was a great car. I think it gives a little bit of pressure but I think we’ll do just fine,” Perkins said when informed of the past success of the chassis.
“As I’m kind of having a day off to process information, I think we definitely have more in the car and we’ll come back and be a little bit faster and be good when we get in the race and kind of settle down.
“The expectations are definitely just to finish the race and get a lot of experience on a mile-and-a-half. It’s going to be a big change. It’s going to be a big learning experience when we’re around cars and not so clean air and feeling how the car feels when there’s a car on our outside or inside.”
After his ARCA debut, Perkins will return to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, which has three races remaining in its 2017 season.
“I think it’s been an all right year. I think we’ve had a couple struggle points. It’s just kind of an unlucky year,” Perkins said of his sophomore full-time season in the series. After recording 10 top-10 results in 14 K&N West races in 2016, the young driver has only four top-10s at this point in 2017.
“We’ve had some breakdowns, some mechanical failures, just nothing we could really do. We’re hoping to bounce back and get some more top-10s and hopefully top-5s and try to get back up there in the championship.”
While Perkins doesn’t currently have anything set up for the 2018 season, he is in the process of weighing a couple of options.
“I think a good mixture between some K&N races and some ARCA races. We don’t know if we’re going to run for any championships but we just want to get a lot of experience at different tracks. We’re looking forward to this weekend and seeing how it plays out and then we’ll try to think about next year.”
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