Year End Review: Best Races of 2015
- “The Majors” – NWAAS Style
Hampton Heat – Langley | SoBo 200 – South Boston | VSCU 300 – Martinsville | All-Star Classic – SNMP
Yup, just like with the PGA our sport has what some of us in the media here in the Mid-Atlantic like to call The Majors. A term not coined by our staff or myself but it seemed to fit – for the most part. The PGA has four very large and very prestigious events on their “tour” or “circuit” that are sought after by just about everyone in the sport.
My sport I like to think we have five events and for the sake of the name, as well as the fifth event being a whole new item on my bucket list, I felt okay with separating them. Most will argue the Late Model Stock “Majors” consist of; The Hampton Heat, the South Boston 200, the annual Martinsville 300, the All-Star Classic at Southern National and The Battle at the Beach down in Myrtle Beach. First question – What are you “Majors” in the Late Model Stock community?
This year these races made my list of top five races mainly because of their prestige and the cars they attract. The second reason is because of the car counts! You put more than a couple grand on the line and you will have the ladies and gentleman clawing at the chance to cash the big check. Finally the quality of racing you get to witness as a fan and cover as a member of the media.
Langley’s Hampton Heat saw a brand new winner this year in Lee Pulliam – which actually kick started the campaign to almost sweep the VA Triple Crown Series. Just about thirty Late Models piled into Langleys small and flat .375-mile facility. Drivers from all over like Tommy Lemons Jr. coming out and mixing it up with locals like Greg Edwards and Brenden Queen. All working in the heat of summer fighting for the chance to say they won the Hampton Heat.
You had not only a race for the record books but also a race for the points standings within the second leg of the Triple Crown Series. Pulliam again making headlines – as was the case all year – by winning his fifth consecutive win creating a tight points battle between he and eventual track champion Matt Bowling.
In just the second time visiting the paper clip for the Late Model event we were again not let down for our efforts – well worth the five-hour drive through the entire night. Put the scoring issues aside and remember things happen even to the best of us the race as usual put on one hell of a show and a thrilling finish with Tommy Lemons, Jr. coming home the victor.
The All-Star Classic, back to its old fashion hosted three days of racing capped off by a 125-lap Super Late Model & 200-lap Late Model race. We were able to stay all three days and cover all 700 laps of racing. Watching a great battle ten cars deep for a good portion of the race truly had us sitting on the edge of our seats.
- Battle at the Beach – Myrtle Beach
Finally being able to check Myrtle Beach Speedway off our list for one, we felt this particular race should get its own category in our Best of 2015 Series. With the second largest field of cars – all 47 cars were allowed to start the race – of the season for The Weekly Racer you would think it would turn into a wreck fest right? Wrong! The first quarter of the race just filled with door to door/nose to tail action from the top ten all the way up to the front.
Not enough for you? Try throwing in some three wide action right down the front stretch with the leaders! Everywhere you looked for the first portion of the feature someone was racing hard with someone else and doing it cleanly. Of course when the first caution came it didn’t take long for more to follow along. Some pretty big ones taking out big names, others just little skirmishes for those fighting for 30th or worse.
The closing laps watching Myatt Snider hold off some of the greats like Pulliam, Lemons, and Yarbrough – the 2015 MB Speedway track champ – was something in its own. The win was Snider’s first of his career and could not have come on a bigger stage in a field stacked with talent!
If that wasn’t enough racing for you, you also had the 125-lap Modified feature. Cars with massive tires on a track that I have been told is much like a cheese grader, it was interesting to see the drivers in conserve mode. Was probably the fastest, race to the back, I have ever seen. George Brunnhoelzl, III – four time NWSMT champ – not only set the fast time in qualifying but was there at the end to claim victory.
- Ronnie Barnett 200 – East Carolina
The second annual fall event for East Carolina was pushed back this year due to that pesky Mother Nature and turned just about into a winter race. Having to use their rain date of December 5th it had a lot of fans and teams skeptical of the turn out. Not to mention it was in the immediate weeks following two other trophy races in the region.
Lets just say if you weren’t there then you were the one that missed out! A stout field of Late Models stacked the pits of the high bank D-shape oval all looking to tame turn two and come home $6,000 richer. Despite the almost scary wreck in turn three that saw Shiflett’s car peeking through the guardrails, we again witnessed a race where the top ten cars for the longest time were all running nose to tail with a shot to win. Deac McCaskill, who learned early back in 2014 how to get around that place, came home with the victory but that might not even be the highlight of the night.
What about NASCAR Xfinity driver Brandon Gdovic working his way back to a second place finish after an early race issue and just having surgery on his hand? What about the list of new comers –Bowling, Johnson, Okaley, Queen, Hall – all coming in showing speed and running towards the front? An even that is just in its baby stages of growing showed promising things for future races to come. Make sure to have East Carolina on your list of tracks to travel to come April 2016.
- Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown – South Boston
Another race that we were able to check off our bucket list this past year. A charity race hosted by the Denny Hamlin Foundation bringing in a star studded “cast” of drivers. Ranging from the Cup garage to the Camping World Trucks Series, and down to the K&N series, and even some of the best drivers on the NWAAS circuit.
Of course with it being a none points race with some big bucks on the lines and of course bragging rights came some pretty gnarly wrecks. Seriously though what do you expect with that much on the line. The race didn’t make our list for the amount of wrecks. I wont lie it kind of made our list because of the fact that we got to watch and talk to some of the drivers in the top series of NASCAR. It really made the list because of the finale 50-laps.
Split into two segments: the first 150 laps and the final 50 laps – where drivers were able to slap four fresh stickers and make adjustments, needless to say it made for some interesting and down right hard racing. Pulliam was almost add another notch to his belt in 2015 if it weren’t for him and JR Motorsports Driver Josh Berry making contact through three and four opening the door for long time SoBo LMSC driver Timothy Peters to snatch the victory.
- Inaugural CARS Tour Race – Southern National
Last but not certainly least on our list this year – and by the way I haven’t really been “ranking” these races per say more so just listing events – was the inaugural race in the CARS Tour series at Southern National. Organized from the rebel of the Pro Cup Series, owner Jack McNelly, formed a ten race, traveling series featuring both Late Model’s and Super Late Model’s.
It was pretty prominent that this series was going to be something to watch by the sheer act that it attracted just about every Late Model and Super Late model team the Mid-Atlantic had to offer. Attracting guys by the likes of Cole Timm, Clay Jones, Christopher Bell in the Super Late Model’s. Guys like Myatt Snider, Brayton Haws, Tyler Ankrum, Deac & Bradley McCaskill! The tour was stacked, it was like putting your hand in a bag of trail mix and only pulling out your favorite pieces.
I know it was at the start of the season and the year for most of these guys but the cars were in fantastic shape and the track was very well prepared. We also have to tip our hats to the drivers for putting on one hell of a show – and not just at Southern National, but for the rest of the season as well. I am very interested to see what 2016 has in store for the series. I also hope to see The Weekly Racer at more of the races to bring you up front and personal with the action!
Leave a comment bellow or on our Facebook on what your top races you attended in 2015 were!