Thomas Burbage prepares for qualifying ahead of a race at East Carolina Motor Speedway in 2016. (Andy Marquis/ photo)

When East Carolina Motor Speedway raises the curtain on their 2018 season, the proverbial banner will be raised for defending champion Thomas Burbage, who won the title by 34 points over Jeff Shifflett.

The Washington, North Carolina driver is preparing to defend his title but, when ECMS opens this Saturday, will be behind the eight ball a little bit.  As of Wednesday, he did not have the motor in his car yet, and to make matters worse, he will be running an older engine, opposed to his new one which, after some delays involving parts, is not yet done.

“I waited for my primary engine to be finished and there were a few problems getting pistons so we are using an engine that’s been sitting for a few years,” Burbage told “Gotta do what you can to make it I guess.”

“I can tell you we are off to a slow start with not having our primary engine,” Burbage explained.  “The car I believe is more than capable of doing it, the engine we have is a little down on HP but I think it might pay off on the long runs at ECMS.”

Burbage debated going with the SPEC motor, but will be sticking with the Chevy Built motor package for this season.  He is also fully recovered from a broken arm that hindered him for the last part of the 2017 season.

“We ran the last four races last year with me having a broken arm so it’s exciting to be able to climb back into the car with two hands again,” Burbage commented.  “We plan to take the same approach as last year.  Go out and try to win as many races as possible and let the points take care of themselves.”

Burbage will have Oak Ridge Industries onboard his Late Model Stock, with a few new faces as well. C&G Used Cars out of Robersonville, Parmalee Racing out of Parmalee, East Carolina Plumbing out of Washington, and West Park Motor Company out of Washington – all North Carolina based sponsors.

For those unfamiliar with the area, ECMS is located in Robersonville, North Carolina, which is only 115 miles from Langley Speedway, and 63 miles from Southern National Motorsports Park. With tracks that close, it can sometimes pose an issue for races on where to race, but Burbage chooses ECMS for a variety of reasons.

“ECMS is a tough little race track to drive, it’s definitely a bullring with a lot of character,” Burbage explained. “You have a lot of variables that enter into it on any given weekend.  We go out there early every race weekend to dial in the car because the track changes so much from week to week.  The track is wore out and tire management is so crucial even in short races.  You can run the car hard for 30 laps and the right rear is used up.  I think the biggest reason I like the track is because, not only do you have to race the drivers you have to race the track.,”

“The race track is 35 minutes from my front door so it’s hard not to go, it’s a no-brainer for me.  They run a 2 new and 2 scuff tire rule that really helps out with spending as well,” Burbage remarked. “Don’t get me wrong, I would love to race at other tracks and chase some of the bigger names but, at the end of the day, I have to look at the longevity of the financial position the team is in.  I want to race and try not to go broke at the same time.”

Action begins at East Carolina Motor Speedway at 12pm, with the green flag waving at 2pm and tickets are only $5. Race22 will have full coverage all day long.