MARNE, MI - Former Venezuelan model turned race car driver Milka Duno is scheduled to make her Berlin Raceway debut Saturday, one week after the scruffy hillbilly hunters from Duck Dynasty visited the Marne half-mile.
Milka Duno has a pair of top-10 finishes this season, placing 8th at Salem and 10th at Winchester.
Duno, who has competed in three Indianapolis 500s, will roll into West Michigan with the traveling ARCA Racing Series for the 7 p.m. Primera Plastics 200. Duno is running a full ARCA schedule for Venturini Motorsports, and she enters the circuit’s 14th race ranked seventh in the season point standings with two top-10 finishes.
Some of Duno’s best moments this season have come on the biggest tracks. She started second in the season-opener at Daytona and led the first 11 laps, and she became the fourth female to earn a pole at Talladega.
But Duno will now try to tackle one of ARCA’s smallest tracks. Duno is confident, considering her top 10s came at a pair of short tracks in Salem and Winchester, where she finished eighth and 10th, respectively.
“I was home after last weekend’s race at Pocono, and I was checking out everything that I could find (about Berlin) on my computer,” said Duno. “I’m trying to learn everything I can about it, so I have been talking to other drivers and researching it on my computer.
“Short tracks are very tough. I like them because they are challenging and demanding. You have to race every lap hard without making a mistake.”
Duno didn’t start racing until she was 24. She was busy hitting the books in her late teens and early 20s and eventually racked up four master’s degrees. Duno turned her attention to racing after attending a driver’s clinic in Venezuela, and it blossomed into a successful sports car racing career.
Highlights included a runner-up finish in the 2007 24 Hours of Daytona, the highest finish for a female in race history. She went on to record three victories in Rolex Sports Car Series, including two at Homestead-Miami Speedway, enabling her to become the first female driver to win a major international sports car race in North America.
IndyCar was next. She qualified for the Indy 500 three consecutive seasons beginning in 2007, with her best finish coming in 2008 when she placed 19th. But when open wheel opportunities dried up, Duno turned her attention to stock car racing.
“I raced three years (in IndyCar), and I was ready for a change,” Duno said. “This has been a challenge.
“To win a race, the car has to be good, the crew and driver has to be good. There are so many variables working together, and that’s the challenge. That’s what makes it difficult.”
Saturday’s race will mark the 26th time that ARCA has competed at Berlin, which first hosted the series in 1958. Frank Kimmel has a 205-point lead heading to Marne over Mason Mingus. Kimmel will be signing autographs at the Menards store in Wyoming
Friday from 6:30-8 p.m. after doing the same at Menards in Muskegon from 4-5:30 p.m.
Berlin’s Super Stock and Sportsman cars will join ARCA for a three-in-one program. Saturday also is $1 beer and hotdog night. Admission is $20 for adults, $15 for students 12-17 and $5 for children 8-11.