My location: United States
Feb 18, 2008

The Florida Winernats, often referred to as the unofficial World Championships, saw the 2008 international Nitro season kick off last weekend and one of the leading entries for Team Serpent was DJ Apolaro who was racing his 720 \'08 in the 1:10 Touring Class.

DJ sent us this account of his 2008 Winternats campaign -

Well this past week was the 2008 Winternats at Fort Myers, FL. Team Serpent got to the track on Sunday to start the week off and spent most of the day testing. I spent the whole day trying different pipe combos and making sure to make the 5 minutes, as that is one of the biggest problems at this track.

Sunday and Monday were for practice and Qualifying started on Tuesday. I felt good for the first day of qualifying, as my car and motor package were strong. For the first round I took it easy, just to make run time and no mistakes. I was able to put in a 23 lap run and that put me 3rd overall. In the second round of the day I was going to push the car to see about a TQ run. In the warm up I had some electrical problems and never started the warm up. The issue was fixed, but the race started and I had cold tires and motor. I did however put in some very fast laps after the 2 minute mark and it made me feel good about my chances for the rest of the week. I made equal laps to the TQ pace and new I just had to drive the car.

On the second day of qualifying it rained and we did not get to race that much. The track was also slower after the rain and I knew that my time would be good enough to keep my position for the main event. On Thursday the race program decided to make it 3 rounds to try to make up some of the lost rounds from the rain. I used these rounds to change my set-up with the changes in the track from the rain. By the last round of qualifying the track was back to the fast pace like the first day, but I opted to test big tires for the main.

On Friday they ran the lower mains and I just worked on the rebuild of the car. My pitman trued different sets of tires to test later that day to make a choice for the \"A Main\" the next day. My pitman (Ronnie) and I went over strategy for the next day, based on what we found in the testing.

Well here it is, Saturday the Big Event!!!!!! We start the warm up and my car is great. The Serpent 720 is ready and with the Nova power it is all but done. I felt great and knew I just needed to have a clean run, which is very hard at this unforgiving Fort Myers track. We start the race and I make a quick move on the 2nd place car and after the 1st turn it is Paolo in 1st and Myself in 2nd. We start to pull away from the pack and after about 4 laps I start to save tires, but keep enough pace to stay in 2nd. The tire wear was very high and I wanted to make sure to have enough tire for a push when needed. We planned on not changing tires and expected about 7mm throughout the race. At the first pit stop I came in 2nd and upon leaving got tagged by another car coming in. That caused my body to get caught up and the car stalled in pit lane. By the time I got started again I was a lap down and in the 8th or 9th spot. I picked up the pace and was able to unla p myse lf, but all for not, when a back marker and I got tangled and I got the worst of it. My pipe was flattened and that was the end of my hopes. From that point on it was down hill and I finished in 8th. Not a happy ending to, what I hoped for, to be a victory. Well that is racing and I will learn from this event, as I do from all the events I go to.

I must say that aside from the results I am happy to have spent time with old friends and made some new ones. Especially the Japanese steak house. I feel good knowing that our cars were good and the power was there, as the Nationals will be at this same track later in the year.

I would like to thank the Fort Myers crew for their hard work, especially with the rain. My sponsors - Serpent, Serpent-USA, Maxy\'s Fuel, Novarossi World and Twister Tires USA, for providing me with the products it takes to race. And also to Ronnie who was my pitman for the entire event.

Till next race,

DJ Apolaro