Jessica Dana emerged as a rising star in the latter part of the 2017 season. Now, she’s got her sights set on winning races in 2018.
Dana will make her first Limited Late Model start of the season at South Boston Speedway on Saturday night, again reunited with Lee Pulliam. She’s entering the season with plenty of confidence after closing out the 2017 season with a runner-up finish at Southern National Motorsports Park and a top-five finish in the Southeast Limited Late Model Series race at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
“I have a lot of confidence going into this season,” Dana told Race22.com. “We did way better than expected those first three races. I think we’re going to pick up a few wins this year and I’m excited to be teamed up with Lee again and have ProPac International and J&J Machinery back on the car. They’ve helped me a ton and I’m really excited to see what this year brings.”
Pulliam has had positive things to say about Dana and her performances with him so far in her brief Limited Late Model career.
“She’s done an awesome job,” Pulliam remarked. “We ran strong at Myrtle Beach. She had never seen the place with 40-something cars there. Had a left rear going flat there late and she held on to it to finish fifth. She’s just a really impressive little driver and I think she’s got a lot of wins coming this year. I’m excited to see what her future holds.”
The performance at Myrtle Beach Speedway is something Dana considers a defining race. Having finished in the top-three in her first two starts, it was the biggest challenge of Dana’s career to date with a large, competitive field at an abrasive track. Dana delivered.
“Myrtle Beach, definitely, was a defining race just because of how successful we were with such a large field of drivers and good field of cars,” Dana commented. “It definitely showed where I stand against everyone on the East Coast in this series.”
This year, knowing she’s already knocking on the door of her first win, she plans to push herself to be as sharp as a razor’s edge so, when the time comes, she can break through.
“I’m pushing harder in all aspects,” Dana said. “Physically, mentally, my schedule is so busy. I work full-time on top of racing as well. I develop all my time, the time I have that I’m not working, physically and mentally. When I go to the racetrack, I push myself that much harder to be the best. I have a simulator that’s at my apartment and my friend has a simulator that I have been using a lot and that’s definitely helped.”
In addition to the additional effort she will be putting in, she is excited about the additional effort Pulliam will be putting in to bolster his driver development program.
“I think it’s cool that he’s putting a lot of time and effort into the development program,” Dana remarked. “He’s had a lot of success as a driver himself so I can’t imagine how much more successful everyone else is going to be now that he can put most of his time into the drivers.”
Dana was a rising star in the earlier part of the decade, but a labor dispute in Washington State sidelined her until 2016 when she returned to racing in a Legend Car. Ultimately, she won the dispute with the state and has since found a new home racing on the East Coast.
“I absolutely love racing out here,” Dana stated. “I love being out here. The competition out here is completely different than on the west coast. It’s way harder and it pushes me to push myself harder to keep up with the competition out here.”
This season, Dana plans to travel around to South Boston, Myrtle Beach, Southern National, Caraway Speedway and Ace Speedway and log as many laps as she can.
“There are a handful of different tracks we’re looking at racing at, Dana said. “We want to travel around. We don’t have a set schedule yet but it looks like we’ll run anywhere from 12-15 races with Lee this year.”
Later in the season, she says she may even run in some Late Model Stock Car races.
“We want to run a full season in a Limited just because I have such limited experience in full-size cars here on the east coast,” Dana explained. “So, I think we’re going to just see where I stand against everybody else for a full season of Limiteds them, if we do run well, maybe later in the season, we’ll run a couple Late Model Stock races.”
Dana’s first start of the 2018 season will come on Saturday night in the 50-lap Limited Sportsman race at South Boston Speedway. The green flag will fly on Saturday’s races at 7pm.