NEW SMYRNA, Fla. — New Smyrna Speedway has been a good track for Gio Ruggiero.
He’s won at the half-mile in a pro late model and contended for the win at last year’s Governor’s Cup before having problems during the final 150 laps.
On Friday, Ruggiero continued that trend into a new season and kicked off the World Series of Asphalt with a super late model victory. He then followed it up with a third-place finish during Sunday’s main event for the class.
“We got a great car to build off of from Friday and kind of working toward that 200-lapper this week on Tuesday,” Ruggiero said.
The Clyde Hart Memorial 200 on Feb. 13 will be the first ASA STARS National Tour event of the season.
After finishing third in the series standings during his rookie year in a super late model, Ruggiero expects to be a top contender on Tuesday. There are 48 cars entered, but only 28 will make the field.
“I’m confident for sure,” Ruggiero said. “I wanna win every race that I enter. I don’t really care if it’s the 35-lapper or a 200-lapper. I want to win.”
He collected several notable trophies last season, including the signature rifle at the Winchester 400. In total, the Donnie Wilson Motorsports driver won two races on the national ASA tour. However, despite the unexpectedly strong results in 2023, Ruggiero recognizes that a few victories don’t automatically make him a super late model star.
“I’m definitely still a rookie. It’s only my second year in supers — a lot of these guys like Stephen Nasse, Casey Roderick and Bubba Pollard have been doing this for way longer than I have,” Ruggiero said. “So definitely still kind of a rookie.”
With his lack of experience, the 17-year-old must focus more on preparation than his veteran counterparts. Though, at the same time, he believes preparation has become one of his strong suits.
“You gotta be in the gym a lot and hydrate — it’s hot down here in Florida — and watch as much film as you can coming into the week to be prepared,” Ruggiero explained.
As for the ASA race that’s rapidly approaching, the driver of the No. 22 super late model is already strategizing for the 200-lap test.
“It’ll be different tire-strategy wise,” Ruggiero said. “You’ve gotta pace yourself and not go as hard as you can for 35 laps. You’re gonna be saving, you know, for the end of the race.”
In light of his 400-lap triumph at Winchester Speedway last year, where he took the lead with 10 laps to go, it’s evident that Ruggiero knows how to be there at the end.
The super late models will run again Monday night at New Smyrna.
Tune in to TrackTV.com to watch Tuesday night’s Clyde Hart Memorial 200.