Well one thing is for sure this year, we spent plenty of time in the car and on the road! One of the necessary evils that comes along while working in this business. We have someone of an advantage having one of the Mid-Atlantic’s premier NASCAR short tracks – Langley Speedway – in our back yard but to witness some of the best racing you have to go abroad. So as the season, weather, budget, and the weekly job permitted we would occasionally travel out of town to see what some of these other tracks had in store.
Not every track we visited this year were NASCAR sanctioned, not every event was your average weekly program. We got to witness races this year where the top five in points were so close a six place finish was just as bad as a DNF. We saw races where drivers were in the middle of settling old scores from last month. This year we got to cover some some of the biggest races anyone one Late Model driver would compete in. Seven tracks we made it to this year, two of them it was our first time stepping foot on the complex.
Virginia: Langley, South Boston, Martinsville, Southside Speedway
North Carolina: East Carolina, Southern National
South Carolina: Myrtle Beach
2015 brought great racing all over the region, I just hate I didnt have a time machine or something to be able to attend every race. Kind of hard for one person to be at two different tracks on the same day though. It also brought along new destinations, new drivers, and a few different divisions. We were able to make it up to Southside Speedway for the first time in not only my career covering short track racing, but my time as a racing fan. There is no doubt why the track advertises itself as one of the toughest short tracks. Its all but flat, narrow, and incredibly tight turns.
Photo: South Boston Speedway Facebook
SOUTH BOSTON, VA – For most drivers last week’s announcement of cost-cutting rule changes at South Boston Speedway was like Santa Claus popping out of the chimney a week early.
“The new rules are a really big deal for us. We haven’t had the money to race competitively in Late Models but with these changes, we will,” said Eric Winslow, who competed in many of South Boston’s Late Model races in 2015, but also raced in the lower-cost Hornet Division.
The biggest change at South Boston for 2016 is a two-tire rule in the Late Model division and a one-tire rule in the Limited division, which simply means teams will be limited to purchasing two tires each event in Late Model and one in Limited. Other changes announced last week included an increase in the Late Model purse, guaranteeing $500 to start each night of racing.
“The tire rule is huge,” said Winslow. “With the new rule we can go and race competitively. I love racing. That’s why I race. But I would always go to the track and think I wouldn’t be as competitive as I like because I couldn’t afford (four) new tires. The way the rules are now I get to race Late Models every race next year and race hard.”
Veteran Late Model drivers Ronald Hill and Bruce Anderson both believe boosting the payout back through the field is a positive move that will pay benefits to teams and fans.
NWSMT sits on pit road at Langley Speedway before the pre-race pit party. (Justin Kern/TheWeeklyRacer.com)
NASCAR has finally released the schedule for the 2016 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified tour this past week. With the twelfth season on the horizon the Southern Modified’s have an eleven race schedule where they will visit seven different tracks. Like 2015 Caraway and the action packed quarter mile at Charlotte will host the season opener and finale respectively. Caraway Speedway will actually host four races this year, taking the dates from two tracks not on the schedule this year. Winston-Salem’s historic Bowman Grey Stadium will once again host its traditional summer event. Following that race will be the annual North/South combo race so to speak held at Bristol Motor Speedway. Which by the way folks, if you can get out there for that weekend you should. You get the modified combo race, truck race, and the Sprint Cup event.
NASCAR has added a new facility to the list of tracks on the 2016 schedule. East Carolina Motor Speedway, a relatively high banked tricky D-Shaped oval, located in Robersonville, North Carolina will host an event Labor Day weekend. “East Carolina Speedway is proud to have the opportunity to host the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour for the first time,” track owner Wayne Perry said. “We really enjoy being a part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and this will be a great opportunity to bring a popular NASCAR Touring Series to our track for the fans. It’s going to be a great show.”
Another new addition to the season is the high banked ti-oval of Concord Speedway. Already an interesting event before we even reach 2016. NASCAR will occupy Concord Speedway the same weekend as the PASS South Series. Though the modifieds will not be running that weekend, we find it pretty interesting that NASCAR is having a combo even with another prominent southern touring series. “We’re very happy to help get a race at Concord Speedway back on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour schedule,” Concord Speedway promoter Darren Hackett said. “We decided to take one of our races that we would have held at Caraway Speedway and move it there, and the competitors are excited to get to go back to an ultra-fast track.”
How does one actually measure success in the business of short track racing? Is it the amount of cars that pull into the pits? Is it the amount of fans in the stands? What about the quality of racing? For me East Carolina Motor Speedway meet all of these so-called requirements for the 2nd Annual Ronnie Barnette Memorial 200. Headlined by the true NWAAS Late Model Stock cars running 200 laps battling for a $6,000 payday heading into the off-season and the Christmas season. Let me personally say, it was a great Christmas present for us to be racing in December!
After getting rained out a month ago, eighteen Late Model Stock Car teams converged on Robersonville, North Carolina. A field stacked with talent from top to bottom; Previous Late Model champions from across Virginia and the Carolinas (Jeff Shiflettm Deac McCaskill, Matt Bowling, Louis White) – 2015 Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Series Gallardo World Champion and North American AM Champion & NASCAR Xfinity driver Brandon Gdovic – along with young, up and coming drivers like Brenden Queen and Connor Hall.
Jeff Oakley & Justin Johnson earned the right to sit on the front row for the 200-lap feature. The two looked like they were the class of the field early. Jumping in front of the field early on the initial start and continuing to set a fast pace after the initial restart. Oakley led from the drop of the green flag to – what a pretty good coincidence – lap 44 when Johnson was able to mount a run turn four to take the lead. Johnson, fending off multiple cautions, a red flag period, and the lap 125 break, was able to hold off the field till lap 172 when Deac McCaskill took the lead. McCaskill surviving restarts and a GWC restart with a very hard charging Brandon Gdovic. At the end of the day a few cars rolled in the trailer beaten and battered, others happy to finish the race, and one driver $6,000 richer.
Robersonville, NC – No stranger to victory lane here at the tricky 3/8th mile D-shape oval. McCaskill took the lead from Justin Johnson on lap 172 with a pretty slick cross over move out of turn four that was actually set up as the field came out of turn four on the restart. From that point on it was the veteran in control. McCaskill, in the two short years the track has been under the NASCAR banner has racked up just about a dozen wins around this place. Wrapping up the 2015 season and $6,000 richer sure did make things just a bit better for him and his crew.
“Feels great man. I was a little worried there because we were just a little off in practice,” McCaskill said from victory lane. “Qualified fifth and the car just drove really good. In that first half Justin and the eighty-three car [Bowling] were really strong, they were just beating me with drive off.“ Like any veteran driver McCaskill knew he had plenty of time to make moves and even a break in the racing to make adjustments to the car as needed. With the race starting in daylight but finishing under the lights you knew there were going to be adjustments.
“We made some great calls at the break, I cant think the guys enough,” McCaskill proclaimed. “We really took a gamble and it worked. Which usually doesn’t happen with me, we usually make the wrong call like we did last week at Kenly. This really worked though and allowed us to get off four much better and get up with Justin and then really stretch the lead out.” Stretch the lead out they did. In just under eight laps McCaskill had built himself a pretty comfortable ten-car lead over the new second place machine of Matt Bowling. Then what no leader wants to see late in the race, multiple late race cautions; even worse a Green–White–Checkered finish. “Those last couple of cautions kind of had me worried there,” said McCaskill about the end of the race. “It was really fun there and a good way to end the year.”