The 2019 Late Model season at South Boston Speedway saw Daniel Silvestri emerge as a regular contender for wins alongside a stellar group of long-time Late Model veterans such as Lee Pulliam, Austin Thaxton and track champion Peyton Sellers.
Driving a car prepared by Peyton, his brother H.C. and NASCAR veteran Jeb Burton, Silvestri was thrilled by the amount of progress he made in his first season and is looking forward to continuing his partnership with Sellers-Burton Racing when the 2020 season at South Boston begins.
“We consistently made improvements,” Silvestri said. “Obviously it took a year to get really close to the team and figure out everything. There’s so much you have to do to keep up with guys like Sellers, Morris and Pulliam, but I was super happy with how we ended the season and I think we have some momentum going into this year.”
After getting his start in auto racing through indoor karts, Silvestri found his footing in short track racing by competing in bandoleros across the variety of different facilities in Virginia before formally jumping up to Legends cars in 2017.
The idea of racing a Late Model initially was not on Silvestri’s mind as he attempted to bring home wins in Legends competition, but that changed prior to the 2019 season when Silvestri and his family got in touch with Burton and the Sellers brothers about driving for their program.
The combination of Burton and Sellers proved to be an efficient one following an eighth-place finish in their debut race in the #CARSTour 300 at Southern National Motorsports Park, which Burton-Sellers Racing used as a springboard to become a contender at tracks such as South Boston and Ace Speedway.
When Silvestri joined Burton-Sellers for the 2019 season, Burton was impressed by the amount of speed he possessed despite having no previous Late Model experience and is confident that Silvestri is only scratching the surface regarding his potential.
“I knew right off the bat we had a wheelman,” Burton said. “You can’t teach correcting the car or the raw ability to do those things. He was racing with a bunch of veterans last year and he’s only 17 years old. The biggest thing I’ve told Daniel is to learn what you need as a driver so that the crew chief can make the right adjustments.”
Silvestri admitted that he is still working on providing his crew proper feedback about what the car is doing in certain situations, but he added that his main focus for the 2020 season is to properly pace himself and conserve his equipment so that he can contend for more wins.
Silvestri nearly found victory lane in only his third career Late Model race at South Boston on April 20, 2019, as he started on the front row and managed to hold his own with Peyton until he saw an opening and passed him for the lead.
Silvestri was forced to settle for a second-place finish after Peyton eventually passed him back for the top spot, but even though he attributed the defeat to his overall inexperience, Silvestri said that he will always remember how strong he was during the early stages of his Late Model career.
“I’m used to pretty short races, and I looked up at the scoreboard and I saw that we had a long way to go,” Silvestri said. “I’m learning to pace myself and I was driving really hard until about Lap 40, but it was a really awesome experience and we had a great car. Hopefully, we can get one position better this year.”
H.C. enjoyed watching Silvestri battle his brother at South Boston last season and believes that he will start knocking off one victory after another as soon as he gains more experience and continues to improve on his communication with the team.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him capitalize on the feedback he gives,” H.C. said. “He was really good last year, but this year I think he’ll go to a different level. I don’t want him to take anything for granted, but he just needs to understand the tracks and give answers about the car.”
Silvestri credited Burton, the Sellers brothers and everyone else at Sellers-Burton Racing for providing him with so much advice about how to navigate the Virginia short tracks in a Late Model and believes that runs like the one at South Boston on April 20 would not have been possible without their guidance.
The usual crowd of Peyton, Pulliam, Philip Morris and others stand in the way of Silvestri earning his first career Late Model victory, but he is looking forward to the challenge and is optimistic that his patience and determination will reward him with victories.
“I’m hoping to be competitive,” Silvestri said. “It’s extremely tough to be successful in Late Models these days, especially when you’re up against guys who have been doing this forever. Those guys know what they’re doing, but I think we can win a few races. I have high expectations for myself and I want to uphold them.”
Silvestri will be back on track this weekend at Dominion Raceway to kick off a diverse schedule and has not ruled out a possible bid in the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown later this year.