Patrick Daniel on the rebound in 2019

By Phil Whipple, Staff Writer

WILLS POINT, Texas — That old saying about the fact you can’t keep a good man down for long sure does apply to short track stock car racing.

Especially if you’re talking about 38-year-old Wills Point native Patrik Daniel, who’s Super Late Model program is on the rebound this year after a dismal 2018 season. In six starts thus far in 2019 (it would have been far more if not for all the endless rain-outs), Daniel has one win and six top-five finishes.

That well-deserved victory came at Big-O Speedway on March 16 against some very tough racers.

“Last year was just such a disappointment overall,” Daniel said. “I tore up more equipment and had more engine troubles than I’ve ever had in my entire career. We were really fast a bunch of times, but just could never really put anything together. This year, the engine troubles and gremlins are gone.

“I can’t tell you how good it felt to win again, and to be able to string together a run of solid top-five finishes. I know this team is capable, but when you have a year like that, it gets frustrating. So we dug in over the off-season, worked hard to address some issues, and it paid off nicely in our first six races.”

Now in his 23rd year of racing, Daniel got his start back in 1996 at North Texas Motor Speedway in the IMCA Modified division. From there, he progressed up through the ranks until reaching the Late Model division in 2004.

With over two decades of experience behind the wheel, his skills are on par with National touring drivers.

“We all have to pay our dues and learn how to race before we can move into the premier division on dirt,” Daniel explains. “I feel like I’ve paid mine, yet still have plenty to learn. Experience is just so valuable in this sport, you really can’t have too much. I’ve had good people propel me to this level.”

Like his SLM rivals in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, Daniel faces specific challenges that make running a race team and doing well in the A Main pretty overwhelming. Yet he faces them head on.

“For us, it’s always a challenge to keep up with changing track conditions,” Daniel said. “We’ve struggled a little bit when the track gets slick, and haven’t been as fast on that type of surface as we need to be. We are working very hard on that, it seems to be our biggest issue right now.”

Another challenge Daniel faces is a familiar one to every racer, from touring teams to weekly warriors.

“Unfortunately, this sport is very money-driven,” he explained. “I feel that is the biggest obstacle any team faces is gathering the funds it takes to do it right. I work very hard at that, and do all I can daily to ensure our partners get a return on their investment. My race team is a tool for them to use.

“I think luck is a big part of it, you have to have it on your side to succeed. I also think getting good help is a major hurdle for all race teams. Having good people that show up to work on the car and are dependable is a blessing. I’ve got some good guys on my team, and I just couldn’t do it without them.”

Daniel is blessed to have an incredible support team behind his efforts. While he handles a majority of the setup work and obligations to various marketing partners, there are a handful of key folks involved.

“There are so many good people who do a lot for my race team,” Daniel said. “My mother and father, Wayne and Cheryl, both do a ton for me and I love them dearly for it. My girlfriend, Jana Duke, is absolutely invaluable to me. She’s always by my side, and I need her there. My son, Jace, goes with me whenever he can and is a really big help. Family support is just priceless to me.

“I also have to thank William Wilbanks, for all he’s done for my career, Robert Honeycutt, Greg Muirhead, Wayne McMillen, along with Terry and Robbie Jordan. I do appreciate all they’ve done.”

Along with that dedicated crew and unconditional family support, Daniel is also blessed with an impressive group of marketing partners that allow him to compete and win at this level.

“We’re fortunate to have several world-class companies on board our program this year, including Platinum Collision, Honeycutt Sand & Gravel, Muirhead Trucking, Inc, P&W Sales, Olympic Trailer Services,  Atwood Auto Parts, Jordan Truck Sales, Smiley’s Racing Products and Maxima Racing Oils. We could not race in this division each week without their support. I greatly appreciate all they do.”

With the heart (and heat) of race season now upon us, Daniel must focus on the task at hand. While he loves those wins, podium finishes and top fives, the likable veteran says there is more to it than that.

“When I look back on the 2019 season and reflect on our performances, as long as we were prepared when we left the shop and gave it our best shot at the track, I will be fine with it.

“But what really will make this a successful season is if we continue to race as a family and team, create fun memories with my son and just enjoy the camaraderie of weekly racing. I love to win like everybody else, but in the end, it’s that quality time with friends and family that make this sport so enjoyable. It’s just what I love to do.”