That’s right ladies and gentleman, Friday night short track racing returns this weekend at the historic Southside Speedway located in Midlothian, Virginia. Southside first opened its doors to drivers and fans back in April of 1959 by J.M. Wilkinson and is currently being run by his daughter, Sue Clements, and granddaughter, Jennifer Mullis. March 29th will mark 60 years at “The Toughest Short Track in the South” and has the potential to be yet another historic event in the tracks already rich history.
Southside currently hosts six divisions of racing — Late Models, IMCA style asphalt Modifieds, Grand Stocks, UCARS, as well as the INEX Legends and Bandolero division — that will typically run each night. Hosting races just about every other Friday night from March to August it allows for teams to compete throughout the summer but also save a little bit of cash from operating week in and week out. Another unique feature about Southside Speedway is they open their season with a bang, J.M. Wilkinson Opening Night is not just a date, it’s not just the start of the season, it’s an annual event that every driver wants to win. Speaking of winning, no modern day driver has done more of that at Southside than Late Model legend, Chris Dodson.
Dodson closed out 2018 strong winning his seventy-second race and winning an impressive ninth series championship. During victory lane and trophy presentation, a very emotional Dodson was unclear of his 2019 plans and if he would return for a full season. If we may speak honestly here, and our readers know we do, Dodson has nothing to be ashamed of if he were to hang his helmet up. Whether you like the guy or hate the guy he will go down as one of the greats at Southside Speedway. Don’t let your hard down to soon, however, because Dodson did hint that he would make an attempt at winning his seventh J.M. Wilkinson Opening Night in a row.
There will be plenty of other drivers to look out for this season and the first one to come to mind is Eddie Johnson. Driving most of the 2018 season in the No. 43 Richard Petty look-a-like and eventually transitioning into the 00, Johnson has been racing at Southside Speedway longer than I have been on this earth and certainly knows how to get around. We haven’t heard yet if Johnson will be driving for another owner or for himself yet. A few other names to look out for; Mason Bailey, Howie DiSavino, and Chris Hopkins. No doubt Bailey struggled last season to find speed in the car but the kid has raw talent and it won’t take him long to find his way back into victory lane. DiSavino is another young driver to keep an eye on. As the season came to an end he came on strong. Hopefully, that team can keep the momentum up and find their way to victory lane. Chris Hopkins, what’s not to say about Hopkins? Running double duty often in the Modified and Late Model towards the end of the year, Hopkins got on a hot streak and never cooled down, expect to see similar results this year.
In other divisions, Dan Rogers is expected to return to the Grand Stock division and defend his title after dominating 2018 in a historic way. Hopefully, we also see the return of Chris Hopkins in the Modified division after such a killer performance last season. The UCAR series, of course, will be nothing less than spectacular. With so many drivers in and out of cars, the championship battle will be one to watch of course. In the INEX Legends series, we expect to see Daniel Silvestri make his return. We are not 100% certain want landing that ride with Burton-Sellers Racing in the Late Model will do to his Legend career, however, Silvestri is our early pick for the Legend Championship. In the Bando’s Layton Harrison, among others, should make their return. With last year’s championship battle coming down to the wire, we can’t even make a prediction on this series.
Front gates are slated to open for fans at 6:00 PM EDT. Qualifying is scheduled to get underway at the same time. The green flag is expected to drop at 7:45 PM EDT. We will have LIVE coverage, as always; on our Twitter feed starting with qualifying and leading into the feature. Please note that we will not be able to cover every division in detail due to the nature of the event.
2019 SEASON SCHEDULE
Friday, March 29
Friday, April 5
Friday, April 19 (75-lap Late Models)
Friday, May 3
Friday, May 10
Friday, May 31
Friday, June 14
Friday, June 28
Friday, July 12 (75-lap Late Models)
Friday, July 26
Friday, August 9
Friday, August 23