In a matter of just a few months Daniel Silvestri has gone from knowing almost nothing about South Boston Speedway to calling it his racing home.
Silvestri, who begins his junior year of high school this week, had heard of South Boston Speedway while making a name for himself in Bandolero and Legends cars, but that was about the extent of the Northern Virginia native’s knowledge of the historic track.
“South Boston had never been on my radar, primarily because of where I lived and where I raced,” Silvestri said. “I knew the track, and I knew their big races, but I never had any connections with the track. When the opportunity opened up, I said ‘guess we’re going to South Boston.’
“I’m always open to new challenges and tracks. It’s been a new environment to get used to. It has been an awesome experience. I feel like I’m getting comfortable.”
Silvestri’s comfort zone is obvious from the results. In 11 starts this season, he has six top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes with a second on April 2 his best finish to date.
What makes all those strong runs even more impressive is that this is his first season in a full-bodied stock car. This time a year ago he was running for a Legends Car championship at Southside Speedway.
“We felt like if we were going to do this, were going to spend the money, we felt like we were ready for Late Model,” said Silvestri. “The Legends cars are small, but they have a lot of power. The Late Model is all about handling. They are a lot bigger (than Legends cars) but as far as the power and being able to drive it, if you have a Legends car figured out, you can get in (a Late Model) and do pretty good.
“I had the confidence that I could do it. I wanted to give it a shot and race with the big boys.”
Once Daniel and his dad and mom, Brian and Jennisse Silvestri, had made the decision to make the big leap in 2019, the next chore was to find a car. They landed on a Late Model owned by Sellers-Burton Racing, a partnership between NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Jeb Burton and H.C. and Peyton Sellers, owners of Sellers Racing.
“When we started looking into this, if we were going to do it, we were going to do it right,” said Silvestri, who gets sponsorship help from W.G. Speeks, Becajun, Bojangles and D.C. Capital Management. “Then this deal opened with Jeb and the Sellers, and it was a great fit.”
With Sellers Racing preparing the car, Burton serving as a driver coach and Jeremy Ratliff calling the shots from the pits, Silvestri has been able to make a quick adjustment to Late Models, which are larger and heavier than anything he had driven in the past.
“The biggest thing is trying to get the handling right on the race car,” he said. “I’ve proven I can run a fast lap, but to go out and run 100 fast laps has been a challenge. I’m trying to work on the language to the crew chief, to be a better driver, cleaner driver, to be consistent and not burn up the tires. I’m used to 25-lap sprint races, so that’s been the biggest thing.”
As confident as he was entering the season, Silvestri says he’s even been surprised at his success.
“There have been some surprises as how competitive we were so quickly. You never know when you hop into something new how competitive you’re going to be,” said Silvestri. “I was definitely surprised as some of the really early success we had. Our goal at the start of the year was to finish all of the races. Now the goal is for a top five or top three.”
Silvestri will be gunning for another top-five finish on Saturday with the GCR Presents LS Tractor USA NASCAR Late Model Twin 75s with track championships on the line in all divisions.
In addition to twin 75-lap Late Model races, there will be a 50-lap Limited Sportsman race, a 30-lap race for the Budweiser Pure Stocks and a 15-lap race for the Budweiser Hornets.
Gates open at 5:30 p.m. with the first race getting the green at 7 p.m.
Admission is $10 for adults with children 12-and-under admitted free.