Vern Bliss is perplexed.
Should should he go all out and try to shake the Budweiser 100 monkey off his back? Or should he take the more conservative road that could probably assure him his first Holland Speedway NASCAR Late Model Pro-Stock season championship.
Bliss holds a comfortable (708-652) point advantage over Matt Alix with just two weeks of racing remaining at Holland. Both weeks, however, are double point events, starting with this Saturday's Budweiser 100.
Bliss has had victory in sight in the last two Bud 100s.
"Two years ago, with about 25 or 30 laps remaining, I was leading," recalled the 34-year-old driver. "Rick Wylie was trying to get the lead from me when the two of us had contact and I spun out. It was just a racing accident and I wound up finishing fifth.
"Last year, I was even closer. I was leading with five laps to go when my right rear tire went flat and I finished 15th.
"This race is haunting me and I just can't get the monkey off my back. It's scary."
Bliss wants to exorcise those demons, but also is reminded of the points situation.
"I want to go all out for the win on Saturday and finally win the Bud 100," Bliss said. "On the other hand, I'll only try to get up front and challenge for the lead if an opportunity presents itself. The main thing this year is to first finish the Bud 100, not necessarily try to win it. I guess you could say that I'm not going to sit and knit Saturday but I will race the car. We just have to be careful."
Bliss has enjoyed championships at Holland. In 1986, he was the NASCAR Challenger champion and then the NASCAR Charger winner in 1993. He has raced NASCAR Late Models for five years, posting 10 career Late Model wins, of which four have come this season.
Bliss was the early point leader this season at Holland but then was passed by Wylie, who is seeking his fifth straight Holland Late Model title.
Bliss reassumed the point lead on July 24 when he won the midseason championship and Wylie was disqualified from a second-place run for a technical infraction.
"I didn't realize until after we left the tech building that night that Rick was disqualified," Bliss said.
"I was surprised. That's a tough deal. I wouldn't wish that on anyone."
Bliss says it would be a dream realized to become a Holland Late Model champion.
"We could become the first driver in five years whose name is not Rick Wylie to win the championship," said Bliss, who drives the Patrick Development/Sahlen Meats/Aurora Plumbing/Draper Trucking 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix.
"My team has proven itself. When you can contend against the likes of a Rick Wylie, that says a lot of how well our team has its act together."
Bliss also said the addition of veteran crew chief Glenn Waldron to his team has made a big difference. He said Waldron is a knowledgeable and experienced racing person, who excels at chassis set-up.
The NASCAR Late Model Pro-Stocks will start Saturday's competition with Bud 100 time trials at 4 p.m.
All other weekly Holland classes plus the Castrol Can-Am TQ Midgets will begin their racing at 5 p.m. All features will follow, capped by the Budweiser 100.
On Monday, Holland highlights the MBNA Cup Lite Racing Series in a 100-lap contest. A Challenger Enduro, Figure-Eights and fireworks complete the 4 p.m. event.