NWAAS: Sergi Up To Speed At New Smyrna; Young Driver And Team Find Right Combination

RaceChaser Staff Featured, NASCAR, Other Late Models, Southeast 0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — By Paul Schaefer, NASCAR — photo courtesy JimJonesPhoto.com — Florida’s top rookie of 2013 continues his quest for NASCAR Whelen All-American Series race wins this year.

Anthony Sergi, 18, of Geneva, Fla., has 10 NASCAR super late model starts in the books so far in 2014 at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway with seven of those starts came during the track’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in February.

While his best finish is fifth, he believes his race car is now adjusted to perfection.

“In the Bright House Challenge Series race at New Smyrna in April I believe we had the fastest race car I’ve ever driven,” Sergi said. “We got wrecked, but we’ve taken it apart and put it back together. I think we’re ready for our next race at DeSoto May 10.”

Sergi won NASCAR’s 2013 state rookie-of-the-year award and the track championship at Orlando Speedworld while finishing as the runner-up to David Rogers in the state point race and finishing second to Rich Clouser in New Smyrna track points race. All told, he picked up one win, eight top fives and 13 top-10 finishes in 19 starts.

In this season’s national standings released Tuesday, he ranks 43rd in the Whelen All-American Series Top 500, and eighth in state points.

For his state rookie award, Sergi got a new view of the racing world at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards ceremony in Charlotte, N.C., last December.

“I was used to local track banquets that are very informal,” Sergi said. “When we went to Charlotte, we had a daily schedule of events. They had the most professionally done banquet I’ve ever been to. It let me see a whole different aspect of NASCAR. We were all dressed formally, and we went to banquet rehearsals so we’d know how it worked. I’m really happy we had that experience.”

Sergi credits his father, and car owner, Michael Sergi, and a couple of the crew chiefs he’s worked with for helping him develop as a driver.

Early on, crew chief Rick Knecht taught him a valuable lesson.

“Rick got it into my head that I have to be patient during a race to have something left in the car and tires at the end,” Sergi said. “In my second race out, he turned me loose and let me race the way I wanted to. I ran full throttle from start to finish. I was passed for the lead with four laps to go because I wore my tires out. That’s how he taught me to race.”

Current crew chief Dennis Dean and the team have worked their way through early season set-up issues to get the car up to speed.

“Dennis is very organized and that helped us work through the car and get it right. We have a really fast car now,” Sergi said.

NASCAR and New Smyrna Speedway are a good fit, Sergi feels.

“When NASCAR arrived last year, New Smyrna Speedway got all kinds of nice improvements,” Sergi said. “For drivers and teams, it’s great to get the rewards and recognition from NASCAR.”

In addition to his father and Dean, other team members include Gunnor Peterson, James Barrett, Bernie Godde, and Shaughn McCormick. The car is sponsored by the Sergi family business, MJS Concrete. His Chevrolet is based on a Port City chassis and powered by a Progressive Florida spec engine.

Sergi began his racing career in quarter-midgets at Little New Smyrna Speedway, a .10-mile paved oval on the big track’s infield. He won the world formula division championship there in 2008.

He moved up to weekly racing in the pro truck division and won the rookie-of-the-year award at New Smyrna and Orlando in 2009. In 2010, he competed in two divisions at both tracks on a full-time basis and got identical results. He won the pro truck division championship and finished second in the limited late model standings. After running in late model touring series competition around the state in 2011-12, Sergi settled into the Whelen All-American Series last year.

Sergi is an Oviedo (Fla.) High School senior and will continue his education at Orlando’s University of Central Florida with a focus on mechanical engineering.

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