Wheatland, Missouri (March 13, 2019) -Republic, Missouri's Payton Looney walked away as the Lucas Oil MLRA's 2018 Sunoco Race Fuels Rookie of the year--cashing in on the awards $2,500 prize, along with a stockpile of Sunoco Race Fuel. The one prize that eluded him a year ago was a trip to prestigious MLRA victory lane, something he fully intends on changing in 2019.
Looney originally started out with the intent to run full time with the series in 2017, but was forced to scale back his schedule after early season mechanical woe's derailed those plans. While the first few weeks of 2018 still provided his Atnip Motorsports team with its share of gremlins and frustrations it was the strong 2nd half finish that has the team seeking much higher goals.
The 2019 season opener for the MLRA returns to the Lucas Oil Speedway, which is a welcome sight for Looney. "Starting the points season at Wheatland will be pretty good for us. I still feel like it is my home track and we have run really good there a lot of times," stated Looney.
He has visited victory lane at the Lucas Oil Speedway on numerous occasions, just not in an MLRA caliber event which he hopes to change. "I feel like we should have won some races there by now--some big races. Hopefully we can finally get the monkey off our back and get it done there."
Knowing that wins never come easy he acknowledges that an MLRA win would mean a lot to the team. "You travel up and down the road to win races, and if you don't it starts to take a toll on you and you start questioning a lot of different things. I know we belong and I feel that everyone that we raced with last year like Will (Vaught) and Chad (Simpson) would say the same thing, that we belong."
In 2018 Looney started off with a DNF and a 22nd place finish at the season opening Thawl Brawl, something he knows he can not afford to do in his second full season chasing the MLRA's leader board.
Focusing the teams off season efforts in the shop making sure everything is in order for the fast paced season ahead, he noted, "The first week you have to be on your "A" game from the get go. I feel like last year that really hurt me, we spent the first part of the year just trying to get things figured out. We had some good runs, but we also struggled and had a few DNF's, that really set our early season tone. I think we were probably the second best car there late in the year and I think we could have been right there in the championship hunt if we could have run that way the entire year."
That second half flurry of success included three solid wins for Looney. Notching his first win of the year in July at the Caney Valley Speedway--which will host their inaugural MLRA event on April 22nd, followed by a COMP Cams victory in Springfield, MO and a fall triumph in the 39th Annual Spooker at Tri-State Speedway.
While an MLRA win may have eluded him in 2018, his late season consistency did not, rewarding Looney with a 4th place points finish. In the team's final five MLRA starts they recorded finishes of-5th, 2nd, 4th, 15th, and 5th-and that 15th place run was a result of a DNF following a wild roll over at the Monett Motor Speedway.
As for Looney's take-a-way experience from 2018--"When you race day in and day out with the type of cars we race with and when you have a lot of national cars coming in and out it makes you a lot better because you have to be on your "A" game every night. Racing with these guys has elevated myself as a driver and a competitor more because you can't take nights off."
Looney commented of the Lucas Oil MLRA, "People think that regional racing is down, but if you look at the people that race with us week in and week out the caliber of our cars that we race with is outstanding."
With a new season almost set to go green, Looney looks forward to the battles ahead and knows what it will take to run among the series elite teams. "There are favorites and there are sleepers, but really it's just who ever can avoid the DNF's, and that is something that we did not do a good job of last year. We had some freak things happen, so if we can avoid the DNF's and run the entire year like we finished last year we should be right there in contention at the end."
Chassis Specs: Looney will again campaign in a 2017 Rocket XR1 Chassis, powered by Scott Bailey Racing Engines. The team will also utilize Penske Shocks and Swift Springs.
Team #15: Car owner Jeremy Atnip along with son Hadley will continue to provide the needed support in the pits along with Lake Mooneyham.
Marketing Partners: Primary sponsorship in 2019 will come from Atnip Enterprises and Specialty Risk Insurance, along with new support from Duvall Electric.
For all of the latest news and information fans are encouraged to visit the series website at www.MLRARacing.com.
Lucas Oil MLRA Series Director
Mobile: (417) 309-3509