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Reeves back to defend title at Short Track U.S. Nationals

Jeff Birchfield • May 30, 2019 at 12:33 AM

BRISTOL, Va. — Everything was so new for Josh Reeves last season.

He had just relocated to the Tri-Cities area and had taken a job with the Abingdon-based Hendrick Motorsports team. As a race car driver, he had never been behind the wheel of a Pro Late Model car before preparation for the Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway.

None of that slowed him down as Reeves put the No. 96 Ford in victory lane at the JEGS CRA All-Stars race.

“There were so many points that stood out in last year’s race,” Reeves said Wednesday at Vivian’s Table restaurant in downtown Bristol. “I started 18th, had a flat tire, the rain, so many things made it so special. There were a multitude of things, and I’m looking forward to coming back.”

As he mentioned, there were plenty of obstacles to overcome to score the win. He took over the top spot when the lead cars of Jack Smith, Justin Clancy and Michael Smith got caught up in a wreck. They continued their feud with a fight in the pits, while Reeves felt he had won the race once it started raining. The rain stopped, but Reeves encountered another challenge with a flat tire before rallying to score the biggest win of his career.

“I was more excited when it started raining than at the checkered flag because I thought the race had ended,” he recalled. “When it stopped raining, I had a flat tire, so I went from the highest point to the lowest point. That whole range of emotions when the race was finally over at the end kind of subsided some of the happiness, but it was still nothing like I’d ever felt before.”

Reeves, originally from the Martinsville, Va., area, is a former track champion at Franklin County (Va.) Speedway. His background is more in sprint cars and heavier ARCA stock cars. By 40 laps into the Pro Late Model race, however, he was comfortable and running the fast speeds necessary to get to the front.

This time around, he feels more confident in himself and the team led by veteran crew chief Chris Carrier.

“We’ve done a lot of testing (at Motor Mile Speedway) and feel prepared,” he said. “Last year when we went into it, that was our first time experience-wise. This year, we know where to start with the set up and what we need to diagnose during the practices. Cutting that learning curve out of the way, should propel us.”

Still, he doesn’t expect another win to come easy. Former NASCAR Truck Series champion Mike Skinner had the field covered for much of the race before getting tangled with a lapped car. Reeves believes Skinner will be one of the drivers to beat again, although he believes the No. 96 will have the speed to compete.

“We have a well-diagnosed car. I wrote down a lot of notes after the race and tried to put back the car exactly how it was,” Reeves said. “There were a few things we could have done to make the car better. I think we will need those things because Skinner is going to come back just as fast. It’s going to be important that we be better as well and stay on pace with him.”

The Short Track U.S. Nationals get underway Friday with a practice day starting at noon. Saturday is race day with practice to begin at 11 a.m. Heat races start at 5 p.m. followed by four feature races.

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