LUCAMA, NC :: Mike Darne has plenty of confidence ahead of the Autumn Classic after scoring two late season wins at Southern National Motorsports Park and having a strong performance in the MDCU 300 at Martinsville Speedway earlier this month.

“We’ve got a lot of momentum going right now,” Darne said.  “We found some things toward the end of the year that turned our program around.”

Darne’s fifth place finish in the MDCU 300 put a lot of people and certainly put his Southern National competition on notice and he’s feeling good about his chances in the Autumn Classic.  Two years ago, Darne qualified on the pole for the race and was in contention for the win in the closing laps before running out of fuel.

“We’re pretty pumped up for it.  There’s going to be some good cars and it will be different because it’s going to be cooler so the racetrack will be different but going in to it, we definitely have as good a shot as anybody…  I believe we have a strong enough team and car that, if everything lines up correctly, we definitely have a shot to win.  It’s not as bad as Martinsville but you have to do tire management and whoever has the best drive off at the end will win that race unless we have a bunch of cautions at the end, then who knows.”

Darne feels the 200-lap length of the race is something that fits his driving style. Being used to racing at the worn out surface of Old Dominion Speedway, which once stood proud in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, tire management and long run survival is something Darne has become accustomed to.

“You learn to race the race smart and long races are definitely better for me because I spent most of my career having to tire mange.  It will play in to us.  There are other guys out there who know how to do the same thing.  Lee [Pulliam] is going to be strong, [Jamey] Caudill’s going to be strong and all the guys who were strong all year long will be competitive.  You’ll have surprises, guys who didn’t show up all year that will have a great run.  It’s kind of like a couple years ago when we ran it; we showed up out of nowhere and ran real well.  It should be a good, competitive race.”

His performance at Martinsville may be the main reason for his confidence.  Darne was inverted to the lead to start the second half of the MDCU 300.  While people were expecting him to fade back outside the top-five, Darne held his ground and staged a classic duel with Peyton Sellers until the competition caution with 10 to go came out and changed the complexion of the race.

“he race was going to come down to me and Peyton.  Timothy [Peters] was as good.  It was going to come down to us but you never know with that 10 to go caution and it went all to crap after that.  We had a good car.  Peyton was as good or better than us on the short runs and we were better on the long run.  If they hadn’t had that caution, it would’ve been a real good race between us.  Two years in a row, they screwed the race up with that.

“When it came down to the end and we had the choice to pick outside or inside, Peyton got up in to me and screwed my entry up so we started on the inside and tried to get right up on him and do the Martinsville push your way through but when he didn’t get going on the restart, that killed that idea.  Next thing you knew, I was sixth in turn one…  A lot of hard work, time and money to have a chance to win the race and it comes down to restarts.”

Mike Darne finished third in the regular season standings at Southern National Motorsports Park and picked up two wins on Labor Day Weekend.   Darne may also run in the Myrtle Beach 400 later in November and will continue competing in the Late Model Stock Car ranks next season.  He says he will likely compete in the X-1R Pro Cup Series if/when the series becomes a Late Model Stock Car touring series.

“I’m excited about this new series.  It’s something we’re going to do if they turn it in to a touring deal.”