By: Ashley McCubbin
The 2023 NASCAR Pinty’s Series is already starting to come together, with Alex Guenette announcing he will be driving the No. 3 for Ed Hakonson Racing for the next two years. Though before their new deal begins, the Quebec standout got behind the wheel of a late model recently in the Snowflake 100, turning a 35th qualifying effort into an 18th-place finish.
The 2022 Les 60 Tours Rousseau Metal Presented by Julia Wine at Circuit de Trois-Rivieres race winner shared his thoughts on the Florida late model event and upcoming Pinty’s Series season with NEWS FROM THE PITS.
What are your thoughts looking back on the Snowflake 100 weekend?
It was really fun. It was a really packed weekend. I just got home. I didn’t sleep after the race – the race ended up finishing at 2 am and something like that and I didn’t sleep because I had a 7 am flight so I was pretty tired when I got home. But no, it was a great weekend. I spent a couple days before the race practicing so it was awesome, a great experience.
The main goal was seat time for next year, but also working with Jason (Hathaway), Ed (Hakonson), a couple guys from the team that were down there, just building chemistry and I felt like we spent a lot of time together to prepare for working together next year. So that was the main goal and we got that done pretty good.
As for the actual race, it was a tough one for sure. Qualifying, the short run, we had a few things that we needed to fix; we didn’t get the car dialed in for qualifying as much as we wanted to. So qualifying wasn’t pretty – and myself, in five or six years. I hadn’t been in these types of cars. So getting that extra little bit in qualifying against these guys is so tight. It makes a difference if you’ve been in these cars 20 times this year – or if you haven’t been in these cars in six years, it makes a little bit of a difference – maybe a tiny bit but a tiny bit makes a difference where you start due to so many good cars there.
(I) missed the race by a two positions. So we qualified 32nd and the top 30 was locked in. I was pretty sad about it. I was hoping we’d get a good run in the LCQ – they ended up taking five, finished fifth. The car was okay. We made some decent changes between qualifying and the race, so we finished fifth in the LCQ so that put us 35th out of 36 cars that took the start. The 36th car was the provisional, so pretty much dead last on the last row.
We made some good changes to the car and I feel like I did really good moves, especially on the restarts is where I’d get the most positions on. I didn’t make that many passes, other than the restarts, but I feel like I was opportunistic on the restarts and got some restarts. Happy with our 18th.
The goal for me being out of those cars for a long time – it wouldn’t be so bad if you could show up at a regular super or pro late model car if you hadn’t been in those cars in five or six years. It’s not the end of the world but it’s not that impactful. But when you show up at the toughest race of the year driving one that half of tenth or something is going to cost you a lot in qualifying.
The goal was just to make the race this year – we made the race, a little closer than we wanted and ended up with an 18th-place finish. Honestly, I’m happy with the results considering everything. If we go back next year, making the race and finishing top-20, it won’t be the same goal – it will be a top-five finish. For this year, considering everything, I’m very happy.
You mentioned the LCQ. How much pressure were you feeling in that moment?
I mean, with the years, you kind of get used to that kind of pressure, but for sure, I haven’t been in that position barely making a race – the last time that happened to me was maybe 10 years at the ROTAX World Finals in Dubai when I was karting. I don’t remember the number of people, but it was really tight to make the final. It’s like the Olympics of karting. There’s the two best of drivers of each country and then there’s 60 countries so it’s crazy – 120 drivers, and they only take 30 for the race. I remember I was right on that bubble. That was probably the last time I was scared of not making a race, which was a very long time ago.
I haven’t had that feeling often. I was pretty nervous, but I was confident that we could at least finish top-five. We ended up finishing fifth so a bit closer than we wanted, but honestly, I was confident that we were going to at least finish – if it was a win only situation, I then probably would’ve been a lot more nervous. But top-five, I knew I had a little cushion there and ended up needing that cushion.
You mentioned lacking in qualifying, but what else do you feel you could have done better to be stronger if you run this event again?
The main thing is just having seat time before that event, just because if I would’ve had one or two or three races this summer, you get to feel out the car and know the changes that it needs faster. I did get practice before the Snowball Derby, but I wasn’t ready to turn the car upside down because I hadn’t had time in that type of car in a very long time. The seat time would’ve helped me make changes earlier on in practice. Could’ve gotten the car faster and faster – now it took a lot of time to make changes because I wasn’t sure what I was feeling because I hadn’t been in those cars.
I think the biggest thing for me is seat time, and that would’ve resulted in us making more changes sooner. I feel I was pretty confident in feeling out the car for the changes that we needed to make, but it was too late in the week. So more seat time in those types of cars would’ve made a big difference and then working on the car a bit more would’ve helped – being a little bit more prepared.
It was kind of a last minute deal also. I think being more prepared would’ve helped also – I mean, the car was well prepared. I don’t want to say it wasn’t because it was an awesome car. Rette Jones Racing did an awesome job. The car was a really good car but as far as changes, I don’t think we made enough changes that we should’ve. I think that’s the biggest thing and apart of that is me not having that seat time. It took me a few practices before I was able to get a really good feel in the car.
Well talking about seat time, this leads into my next question. Are we going to see you run more late model events?
Hopefully. I was talking with Jason, I know they had a late model but they sold it. Maybe for next summer – who knows. Nothing is for sure yet, but I was talking with Jason and Ed and we’d definitely like to get some late model stuff going. The real focus is (NASCAR) Pinty’s (Series), for sure. That’s extra. If we get around to it, we’ll do it, but we’re trying to win some races in the Pinty’s Series. Late Model stuff is always fun but I can see it as extra. I’d rather have seat time and put resources in time in really building that Pinty’s program up with EHR / Team 3 Red with Jason and Ed and all those guys. That’s the main focus.
But for sure, that late model stuff gives us something to do in the winter time, like this crazy race with the Snowball Derby. We’re really focus on the Pinty’s stuff, but maybe you know a little extra next winter we’ll do some late model racing.
Switching gears, what are your thoughts on the NASCAR Pinty’s Series season ahead with EHR?
I’m really happy about it. We’re very likeminded business people so we’re going to build this program like a business. We know we really think alike – my family, me, and Ed, Jamie (Hakonson-Hathaway), Jason – we’re really likeminded so I think that’s the biggest thing. The goals are aligned in a way. We all want the same thing so I think that’s very important. The relationship is going great. I can’t wait to start running some Pinty’s races with them, can’t wait for this year for sure.
Why did you make the decision to return to the Pinty’s Series on a full-time basis?
We were looking at it for this year, but I don’t feel like we had the right program that we could do this year. So instead of running the whole season and not having chances to win every race, I’d rather not do it. If I had the opportunity to run full-time and not be with a top-tier team that wants to win, I wouldn’t do it. I’d rather pick and choose a few different races like I did this year and the odds to win a little higher than just running the whole season to turn laps. I’m over that now. We’re really trying to win some races.
About a year ago, we started think about the best possible way to get a championship deal together, and Jason and Ed – we’ve been talking for maybe a year or two, just on and off, just trying to figure some stuff out. Things just got more together at the end of this year. We talked more in detail about the possibilities and stuff and we have good sponsorship on-board with me and the team so we made it happen for two years. I’m really happy about that.
The EHR No. 3 has a lot of history in the series with success. How much pressure are you feeling going into the year to live up to that?
I wouldn’t say pressure – I’m pretty confident in what I can do. The No. 3 and all these guys did a really great job and I think I can just honour that really good and get some good results. I don’t necessarily feel pressure. I really want to do good and I’m confident that we’ll get to what we want to do this year, and especially the next two years. I’m really confident we’ll accomplish what we want to, and that’s to just go out there and have a chance to win every weekend is the goal. I think we’ll accomplish that.
That said, you got your first career win last year at Trois-Rivieres. How much added confidence does that give you?
I mean, if I’m being honest, yeah for sure it helps the confidence because the last couple of races the last couple of years, I haven’t had the chance to be in a winning car. The Pinty’s Series got so competitive since 2013 and 2014 with the last time I ran. Things got ramped up so competitive and when you’re doing part-time deals like I did, it’s hard to be in a car that you really feel like you could win.
That being said, I knew I could win especially on a road course or an oval. I really knew I could do it because I have confidence in myself like that, but it felt really good to get the win at Trois-Rivieres. Not necessarily for me, but just so people around me have a reminder. I always kind of knew it, and I finished second two or three times in the series and always knew I could win, but it felt really good to get that win just to remind people that I’m a front runner for sure.
What track are you most looking forward to?
Good question. Damn, there’s too many. I can’t wait to run some oval races in a competitive car because I really like oval racing. I kind of like Delaware (Speedway), it’s a bigger track, but I can’t wait to get in a good performing car on an oval and showcase because guys know what I can do on a road course with the win this year, but I can’t wait to win a race on the oval just so how my talent is well-versed. I can win on an oval and a road course – and I’ve done more oval racing than road courses so people are surprised. I come from karting so that helps for sure, but I have a lot more oval races in my career than road course races. I’m just pumped to get good results on the oval for sure. That’s the thing I’m most excited about.
As far as tracks, I would for sure say Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park) being at the beginning of the year. I really like going there. GP3R just because it’s a really big event also and now coming off a win, it’ll be a fun weekend for sure.
The thing I’m most excited about is getting good results on the ovals and as far as tracks, I’d probably say heading back to Trois-Rivieres after the win will be a lot of fun.