Ross Bailes

East Bay Raceway Park (Gibsonton, FL) – Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series – Weiland Winternationals – February 6th-11th, 2023. (Heath Lawson photo)


Ross Bailes

Bailes, Big Frog Team Up with Warrior at Volusia

BARBERVILLE, Fla. (Jan. 18) — It didn’t take much to talk Ross Bailes into heading to Volusia Speedway Park for this week’s fifth annual DIRTcar Racing-sanctioned Sunshine Nationals. The request from good friend Augie Burttram, an opportunity to sit in an unfamiliar chassis and the desire to “knock the rust off” before the season gets rolling is all it took to get the Clover, S.C., native to head to Florida for the weekend.

Bailes plans to be in the seat of the Big Frog Motorsports-backed Warrior Race Cars house car for a handful of Crate Late Model events during Georgia-Florida Speedweeks, beginning with the second round of the Rogers-Dabbs Performance Parts Crate Racin’ USA Winter Shootout Series. The event, held in conjunction with the World of Outlaws Late Model Series Case Construction Equipment Late Model Series season opener, was scheduled to get underway on Thursday, Jan. 18, but steady afternoon rain canceled the program.

One of 70 drivers signed in for the weekend competition in the mini-tour for Chevrolet Performance Circle Track Engines-powered 604 Late Models, Bailes had to postpone his Warrior Race Car debut for 24 hours. He’ll try again when action resumes at the high-speed, half-mile, D-shaped track on Friday.

“I don't think I've ever driven a Warrior, so I'm interested to see how that feels,” said Bailes, while trying to seek shelter from Thursday’s steady, late afternoon rain. “I really like Augie [Burttram] and his crew chief Mike Ray. It will be interesting to work with Mike Nuchols (of Warrior Race Cars). I've never worked with him before.”

Bailes, who first began driving for Burttram’s Ocala, Fla.-based Big Frog Motorsports in 2020, said the opportunity to reconnect with his old friend came up because Ocala’s Tyler Clem was unavailable.

“Mike [Nuchols] and Augie put this deal together, Bailes said. “Tyler (Clem) couldn't make it to Volusia and (Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick, Ga.), so I think I'm gonna run those races with it and then I think he's going to run a few with it. To come down here and knock the rust off is very beneficial. I like coming to Volusia. I ran good here last year in a Crate car, so I hope we're just as competitive. I hope we’re one of the ones to beat. I just want to come out here and win races.”

For Nuchols, having his equipment at a Georgia-Florida Speedweeks event is important as he continues to rebuild the Warrior brand. The deal with Big Frog Motorsports is a continuation of Warrior’s efforts to keep the team’s seat filled with a rotation of drivers on a limited basis, a rotation that has include New Zealand’s Jackson Lovelady and Australia’s J.J. Hamilton last season.

“It’s kind of just a long friendship [that] me and Augie have always had,” said Nuchols. “He helped me out a couple of years ago. We were down here in a bind and we’ve just stayed in touch. We've been trying to put something together to run Florida Speedweeks for a couple of years now, and nothing just lined up to where I had a car open.

“All of it lined up and we got my house car. We got Ross [Bailes] driving it the next couple of weeks. Maybe we'll do some (Super Late Model) stuff in the summertime, who knows yet? We’re going to see how Speedweeks goes with the Crate stuff.”

Nuchols added that both Chris Bennett of Ocala Restaurant Supply and Mike Gardner of Gardner Energy Services played key roles in getting the program on track this weekend as well, via the purchase of a new engine.

After Volusia, the team doesn’t plan on competing at East Bay Raceway Park Jan. 25-27, Golden Isles Speedway in Waynesville, Ga., and then on to the Stevie Whitener Memorial at All-Tech Raceway in Lake City, Fla., on Feb. 2-3.

Article Credit: Robert Holman | Crate Racin' USA

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