Monthly Archives: September 2017

Saunders Fourth Place Finish Good Enough for Second INEX Legends Title at Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway.

Hampton, VA – Spencer Saunders, of Carrollton, Virginia, entered the final night of the season at Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway as the Cycle City Corp Legends points leader by just three points over Newport News native, Brian May. Cody Carlton, Zach Lightfoot, and Colby Flowers found themselves in the top five but just too far out of reach with just one race to go. Every position in the final 25-lap feature of the year was going to be critical for both.

Tommy Jackson Jr., who started the 2017 campaign on the wrong side of the bad luck bar, turned things around mid-summer as he collected the win in the INEX National Qualifier during the 9th Annual Hampton Heat sat on the pole with a sub eighteen-second lap. Carlton would qualify second followed by Brian May and Spencer Saunders. Carlton would take the lead away from Jackson for a few laps but Jackson was not going to be denied on this night. He would go on to pick up the win. Running a conservative race and crossing the line in fourth was enough for Saunders to clinch his second division championship.

We caught up with Spencer this past week to talk with him about his season and his second championship of his Legends career. 2017 was no cakewalk by any means either. With the speedway opening back up the Legends field saw a massive increase in competitors from previous years, making the win that much sweeter for Saunders.

“I think we average all the races out and the average car count was about fourteen cars,” Saunders told The Weekly Racer. “It means a lot to me because I didn’t just beat one or two other cars for the title. I mean we had four or five guys who could easily win week in and week and out. It means a lot to us to say that this year, we were the cream of the crop.”

The success this season, however, did not come easy for Saunders and his family. In fact, the last race they ran at Langley before the season opened this year was back in 2014 – a race he won as a matter of fact. With car counts dwindling in the Legend series, Saunders was faced with the tough decision to run at other tracks.

“We traveled a bunch to places like Shenandoah and Kenly in 2015,” Saunders explained. “Langley just didn’t have the car we were looking to run against. In 2016 we ran at Shenandoah and went to Nationals in Connecticut and got wrecked up there but nothing full time by any means. After that, we bought a brand new car and brand new everything. I told everyone at the start of the year, everything about this car is brand new besides the seat and the driver. I was hoping to myself that we didn’t need a new one of those.”

Saunders went on to tell The Weekly Racer that taking that time off last year really took the pressure off of him and team. They came into 2017 completely stress-free and not even planning to run for points, just glad to be back home. That all changed when he picked up his first win of the season.

“Things changed when we got that win,” Saunders went on to say. “I think that win put us in a tie with Brian May for the lead. After that happened Dad and I basically agreed that somebody was going to have to take it from us if they wanted it more than we did.”

With the 2017 season coming to a close Saunders might look towards Kenly, North Carolina for one final race this season at the annual Thanksgiving Classic with a couple of random races in-between as long as things plan out, however, nothing is set in stone just yet for them.

 

2017 Final INEX Legends Points:

1 Spencer Saunders 7 242
2 Brian May 22 240
3 Cody Carlton 94 222
4 Zach Lightfoot (R) 7L 204
5 Tommy Jackson, Jr. 87 187
6 Colby Flowers 33 182
7 Jaime Price 8 179
8 Ryan Center 88 170
9 Devon Courtney 17 153
10 David Brandt 31 153
11 Chris Hayes 4 147
12 Lane McKee 21 133
13 Ryan Matthews 51 76
14 Matt Dail 07 68
15 Woody Howard 14 67
16 Whitt Seay 5 64
17 Matt Kurz 2 56
18 Dillon Spain 72 37
19 Carter Wood 31w 33
20 Brandon Johnson 76 31
21 Clayton Parrish 19 29
22 Sparky West 99 26
23 Mason Diaz 24 25
24 Daniel Sylvestri 97 21
25 Pat Squillante 65 16
26 Josh Kirks 63 14
27 Zack Wells 66 12

Landon Abbott Holds on for Super Street Title and Shawn Balluzzo Captures 9th Mod Championship

Hampton, VA – Landon Abbott came in to the final race of the season in the Old Skoll Video Games Super Streets with a one point lead over Randy Akers and 40 laps to decide the champion. In qualifying Akers was able to grab the pole running a 19.049 second lap, beating out Abbott by .075 of second. Sammy Gaita, who still had a shot because of the big car count, was .002 second behind Abbott.

On the start Akers cleared Abbott off of turn-2 and Sean Calway made a big move going from fifth to second. Abbott had a dreadful start falling all the way back to eighth by the time the lap was finished. It took him about ten laps to get back into a good groove and start his way through the field.

At the front of the field Gaita was tired of running third and started letting Calway know he was the faster car of the two. Twenty-one laps in and he gives Calway a lot of bumper and claims the second place spot. Eight laps later the caution comes out for Chris Hott spun around on the back stretch and the spread out field would be brought together now.

With the race restarting Abbott made it three wide into turn-1 and the rest of the field was pretty aggressive too. Just one lap was complete as Gordon Weeks ended up in the grass and the caution flew again, but not before Sammy Gaita took the lead from Akers.

Abbott took the high side on the next restart putting himself in position to win the title. Landon got the position on the restart but not before some bumping from Akers and Bill Eaker, leading to another caution with Eaker sustaining some damage. On the final restart they went three wide for third place and Akers fell way back with just a few laps to go. Sammy Gaita grabs the checkers by almost a second and Landon Abbott grabs the championship by just a couple points.

Sammy Gaita wins in the Super Street Finale
Photo by John Long

Larry King Law Modifieds

Shawn Balluzzo wins his 9th race of the year and 9th modified championship
Photo by John Long

Before the race started Shawn Balluzzo had an insurmountable lead in the points over Bobby Gery, but that didn’t change how Shawn would race at all in the ‘Year of the Buttercup’.

Matt Carter kept up his fast qualifying efforts running a 16.766 second lap to sit on the pole. Balluzzo grabbed second by running a 16.927.

Early on Carter held a big lead over Balluzzo but Shawn closes the gap quickly once they start hitting slower cars nine laps in and this allowed Balluzzo to make his move for the lead. Behind them Andrew Fortin was the fastest car on the track and moved into third place after getting by Danny Harrell.

The race would fly by without incident and it looked like Balluzzo checked out on Carter but in the closing laps he made a valiant effort to try and catch the leader. Slower cars break up his momentum and Balluzzo holds on for his 9th win of the season and his 9th Modified track championship.

Results

Ep. 09 – ValleyStar Credit Union 300 Under the Lights

 

 

 

The guys get you caught up with winners from different divisions throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Champions are crowned at the tracks we talk about. We also talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the ValleyStar Credit Union 300. The first race run under the new permanent LED light system at Martinsville Speedway. We also take you through the top five Late Model Stock Car drivers in the nation as well as the state champions in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

 

Follow the guys on;
Twitter: @shorttrackrpt,
Facebook: The Weekly Racer.
Or, send us an email at podcast@theweeklyracer.com

 

Thomas Burbage Wins Fourth Annual Ronnie Barnett Memorial and East Carolina Motor Speedway Championship.

Thomas Burbage dials in the #9 Oak Ridge Metals machine during the second round of practice at East Carolina Motor Speedway. (Justin Kern/TheWeeklyRacer.com)

Robersonville, NC – A typical race season for any driver, in any division, is never easy. Going through the heat of the summer battling other like-minded individuals all gunning for the same thing.  Throw in a broken shoulder towards the end of an already hot and grueling summer and you really have your hands full with a racecar. Thomas Burbage, however, was not going to let that get in the way of his season.

As the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series points came to a close so did the individual track points. For the fourth year in a row, East Carolina Motor Speedway hosted its Ronnie Barnett Memorial race to close out the season. Burbage, from Washington, North Carolina, was the fastest man in town winning his ninth pole of the season needing just one lap to do so. Wesley Johnson, a recent winner at East Carolina under Limited Late Model rules during the 6th Annual Mischa Sell Memorial race, and Maddy Mulligan would qualify in the top three.

Burbage continued his domination of the weekend picking up the victory leading all 50-laps of the feature. Wesley Johnson would work his way around Louis White in the closing laps for a second place finish. Jeff Shiflett would also benefit and earn the final spot on the podium. Burbage’s six wins at East Carolina was enough to allow him to clinch the 2017 Late Model track championship, his second career track title and first under the NASCAR banner, and punch his ticket to Charlotte.

“I definitely want to thank my crew – my racing family,” Burbage told The Weekly Racer. “The guys that 150% made this a reality and definitely my sponsor Oak Ridge Industries and Kevin Boyd for keeping my dream alive.  I want to thank my best friend Chris Smith for busting his tail at the shop by himself while I’ve been injured.  He stepped up and told me that he would do everything in his power to help me win this championship if that’s what I wanted to do and here we are.  Pretty sweet to do it with one arm tied behind your back.”

After he and his wife welcomed their new baby boy into this world Burbage had a freak accident prior to race weekend where he broke his shoulder, grabbing the win at the Ronnie Barnett Memorial along with the championship was just the ending to a wild and crazy year he needed.

Burbage will look to take some time off from the race car to allow his shoulder to fully heal. He told us that he has all intentions to run Carteret in October with the hopes of running the Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park or even Ace Speedway.

From First Time Winner to Impressive Valley Star Credit Union Debut; Grayson Cullather Reflects on Martinsville

No 22 Grayson Cullather heads down the front stretch at Martinsville Speedway Saturday September 23, 2017 in final practice. (Justin Kern/TheWeeklyRacer.com)

The 2017 Valley Star Credit Union 300 has come and gone and in all honesty, it may have been the most hectic, incredible and fan-filled race to date. Eighty-four cars took time in group qualifying the night before on the half-mile paperclip. One of those drivers was 16-year-old Richmond, Virginia native, Grayson Cullather. In just his second full season in Late Model racing, Cullather was coming into the weekend fresh off his very first career win at his home track, Southside Speedway.

Other than the Hampton Heat at Langley Speedway earlier this year, the Valley Star Credit union was just the second race of his young career where he has raced this many laps, with this many cars and it did not seem to phase him. Cullather laid down a 20.530-second lap on Friday night to earn himself a twenty-fifth qualifying position… out of eighty-four cars… in his first attempt at the race. Cullather’s time was just a little over a tenth of a second off the pole.

After the top two times were thrown out by officials, Grayson would official be scored twenty-third on the charts, lining him up seventh in his heat race. He would hold onto a tenth place finish in his heat race, even after getting turned around coming to the checkered flag, to earn the final transfer spot into the big show.

“It was what I expected at the beginning of the weekend and the first twenty-three laps of the heat race,” Cullather said. “Those last two laps and coming across the line backward after being turned on purpose, that had to be the most stressful laps I have ever driven. When I made the race I just felt the weight off my shoulders. I just relaxed in the trailer and got plenty of fluids before the feature.”

His efforts were enough to keep him out of the always hectic last chance qualifier and locked him into the thirty-second starting position on the grid. With a total of forty-two cars taking the green flag he really only had one way to go – forward.

“My spotter, Jesse Vaughn, just took the race as it came,” Cullather explained. “We said that we were just going to ride for the first one hundred fifty laps to see what would happen and just capitalize on the mistakes that other people were making.”

Capitalize on others mistakes and keep the car clean proved to be a good strategy as Cullather found himself in a good position at the halfway break. With cars falling out of the race left and right, Cullather slowly climbed his way up the leaderboard and almost found himself in the top ten after setting a goal of just making the race in his first attempt.

“It gives me confidence,” Cullather said about his twelfth place finish. “Knowing that I can run with some big names. My team was happy I was able to make the show my first time and had the car to be able to pass cars during the race.”

For those who may not know much about this young driver, Grayson comes from Southside Speedway, one of the few tracks in Virginia that do not run the NASCAR banner. NASCAR or not Southside Speedway has seen its fair share of NASCAR legends racing on its surface. It was the original home of the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown. Southside’s Late Models, however, run forty lap features on eight-inch tires; this weekend was certainly a test for Cullather.

“It was really hard,” Cullather confessed. “I wasn’t feeling the best before the race as it was. Probably just because of nerves. At the halfway break I actually got sick right before we went back out. After that I felt fine for the rest of the race, it was just nerves.”

With only a couple more races left in 2017, the Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National and Myrtle Beach 400 we asked Grayson if he was going to continue this momentum and give those other two races a shot. Given a long hard season and the effort it goes into pulling off a Martinsville weekend, his answer was very understandable

“We have put some thought into running Southern National or Myrtle Beach,” Cullather told The Weekly Racer, as we were finishing up our interview. “But right now we don’t know what our next race is going to be at this point.”

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