TULSA, Okla. — Count Presley Truedson among those most looking forward to getting the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series season reignited with this weekend’s T-Town Midget Showdown.
When Truedson rolls onto the race track tonight at Port City Raceway, it will mark her first competitive laps in a race car since the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in January — a span of 125 days.
That kind of a layoff would be long for any driver, but Truedson noted the gap has felt even longer due to the COVID-19 pandemic that brought sports across the world — including racing — to a halt in mid-March.
As a result, the 18-year-old has been forced to wait on her return to Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports, something she’s been eager to conclude since showing promising speed during the Chili Bowl.
“I felt like we learned a lot as a team at Chili Bowl,” Truedson told Sprint Car & Midget. “It was really a bummer when the virus happened and everything started shutting down, because I was just ready to go at it again and keep learning. That’s our main goal with this KKM program, is for me to learn as much as I can every time I’m on the race track, and that’s hard when you’re not getting to turn laps.
“I’ve been down in North Carolina (at the Toyota Performance Center) training when we could and trying to be as best prepared as I could be for when we did get the go-ahead to restart,” she added. “But man, without actually being able to be at the track, it’s really sucked. I’ve been waiting for this for a while, for sure.”
Though Truedson, from Kennedy, Minn., went out during her I-Main on Chili Bowl Saturday, she noted the laps she made during the weeklong event were “very valuable” and helped her quickly adjust to both the new machinery underneath her and the new crew members she was working with at KKM.
Having previously worked with Daum Motorsports in national midget competition, the chance to get acclimated to KKM at Chili Bowl has Truedson feeling much more comfortable and confident entering her second race weekend with one of the most recognizable teams in the discipline.
“The biggest thing for me has been going to a new team after not being in the car since July or August before that,” she explained. “So I haven’t had nearly the experience going into this that would help a lot in this situation, but just to be able to get a feel of the car, learn Keith’s way and how his team operates is big for me and will continue to be. The biggest key to all this, I think, is having confidence in your equipment and knowing that it’s going to run right when you show up to the track.
“I know we have that with KKM and from there, I just have to do my part,” Truedson continued. “Having a chance to learn from people like Keith (Kunz) and Pete (Willoughby) and Jay Drake who are just so experienced and looked up to in the racing world … that, for me, is probably the coolest thing to be a part of. It’s an opportunity that most kids dream about, but very few have the chance to experience.”
Truedson isn’t setting a specific bar for herself over the two-day weekend, noting she doesn’t want to add too much pressure to her situation. She’s trying to stay relaxed and focus on the task at hand.
“This weekend is just about making sure I can find a good feel out of the race car, and then turning laps,” Truedson said. “It has been so long since I’ve been in a (race) car, and especially at a track where I don’t have a lot of experience and haven’t been able to turn a lot of laps like a lot of my teammates have. So just getting comfortable and getting back into the swing of things, I think will be the biggest thing for me to accomplish this weekend.”
That approach seemingly worked well Thursday night, as Truedson turned the fastest lap in one of her practice groups, something “really big” for her overall outlook going forward.
“A practice like that tells me that we can do this,” she said. “That’s the first step. Knowing that we can, now it’s just about putting the pieces together as we go along to start getting some solid runs in.”