New Jersey Motorsports Park has been a site of many firsts for RCR’s Tim George Jr. His first Rolex sports car win came at NJMP. His first top 5 in ARCA competition came in last year’s ARCA 150-miler at the same track. And on Saturday, George added his first front-row start to that list.
Starting second with a car that was top 10 in both practice sessions can be considered nothing short of a success for the No. 31 team. But the stats sheet doesn’t show just how close Saturday came to being a disaster for the team.
Barely 10 minutes into the first practice session, George found himself in a situation that would be precarious with 10 laps to go in a race, much less early in first practice; he, the No. 81 of Craig Goess and the No. 1 of Chad McCumbee were in a three-wide pack, all bearing down on the hard-braking zone of turn 1. Heavy right feet on Goess and George’s parts allowed the two to clear McCumbee and avoid disaster, though that wasn’t the last near miss for George. Nearly an hour later in the same first practice, George was running behind the No. 82 of Robert Mitten when he went off course in turn 3, creating a large dust cloud and nearly spinning back onto the racing surface. George stayed in the gas, and cleared Mitten with little room to spare.
“I think he was mirror driving, [and he] ended up overdriving the car” said George of the incident. “I just stayed calm, kept going through the dust and we cleared him. To his credit, he actually did a pretty good job saving that car.”
Speaking to George later that afternoon, the confidence level was undoubtedly running high for the former sports car driver. His No. 31 was fast, the best equipment he’s had on a road course at this level before. And that’s no small statement, given that George spent last year driving for Eddie Sharp Racing, whose No. 6 team won the title with Justin Lofton behind the wheel.
“Oh definitely,” affirmed George when asked if he was aware of a difference in the caliber of ARCA cars between RCR and ESR. “There’s development parts and some new trick things on this car, new things that we’re trying out for RCR. If they work, we’ll send them on up to the Cup series.”
And while the New York native has yet to race as far up as the Cup Series, an earlier shot this year allowed him to run the Nationwide Series road race at Road America. Despite being only one start, it left a lasting impact on the driver.
“I learned a lot,” recalls George of his Nationwide Series debut. “The biggest difference is there is that racing at that level, every lap is like a qualifying effort. The guys up there race those cars so hard.”
“[Knowing that], I think the biggest thing for me is to avoid overdriving. There was also a lot of carnage in that race, so tomorrow I’ll be sure to race alertly with a level head.”
The level head certainly showed on Saturday. Whereas on that June Saturday at Road America George got swept up in that event’s carnage in a wreck not of his making, this Saturday he dodged the wrecks, and got the results to show for it.
George left that Nationwide Series race in a crumpled wreck. Heading into this Sunday, both his confidence, and that same car, are still in one piece (the Nationwide car he wrecked is actually the team’s backup for the weekend’s ARCA event). Considering he’s scored back-to-back top 10s in ARCA road races, more results may well be in the offering for the No. 31 team.