LATE MODEL ROUNDUP - Presented By Five Star Racecar Bodies
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Rowes – Mike Rowe continues to lead the PASS South point standings while also moving up to second-place in the PASS North championship fight. Meanwhile, Ben has been moonlighting in ACT Late Models where his streak of three-straight victories was broken this past weekend at Oxford. Both father Mike and son Ben led the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford this weekend and showed that they were capable of winning before an engine failure and a tap from a lapped car took them out of the running.
Clarks –The “other” major surname in PASS racing is Clark and lately it hasn’t been good to be one. Cassius and Johnny are not related, but lately, times have been tough for the two drivers. Cassius has suffered from engine failures in three starts, then won a race before a rules issue stripped him of his points and winnings. Meanwhile, Johnny has struggled with the set-ups of his #54 cars this season and has not finished on the podium yet. To make matters worse, he did not qualify for this past weekend’s Oxford 250.
ASA Late Models Now – With the TV package switching to the unheard of Men’s Channel: Outdoor and Recreation and I-Drive, things are looking bleak. They also recently lost both the Northern and Southern Series Directors, who resigned within a week of each other. There are also some teams fleeing or racing their ASA LM cars in other series. With the South Series getting just 12 cars in one race, its obvious things are shaky in the ASA LM world.
ASA Late Models Then – At the start of the 2006 season, everyone was talking ASA Late Models. The series had a lot of promise, with a solid TV contract on the Outdoor Channel and cars and cars and cars at each and every event. Some of the best in the country were getting cars ready and heading to follow in Stephen Leicht’s footsteps, evident by the 52 cars that tried to make the opener at Nashville.
WalTom Racing – One of the two “high profile” teams with the ASA Late Model Series is experiencing considerable success with both its current and former drivers. Kelly Bires is grabbing victories left and right, in the Challenge Series, Northern Division and in local shows. WalTom’s former prodigy, Stephen Leicht, is also bringing the team and series a lot of notoriety following his recent success in Nextel Cup.
SS Racing – The other of the “high profile” teams in the ASA LMS, their success seems to only come when veteran Butch Miller finally gets back behind the wheel. Outside of Miller, the team is underachieving with drivers Leilani Munter and Andrew Weldon. They also got rid of their most talented wheelman, Zach Niessner. Not even former ASA Championship crew chief, the talented Deon Deneau, can help this sinking ship.
Short Track Legends That Should Coach – Even though on any given night they can still race, some short track legends need to look into maybe hanging up the helmet and making their money by coaching like the others. Mike Eddy, Rich Bickle, Dick Trickle and a handful of others all race every now and then, but rarely have the success they used to have. Junior Hanley was supposed to come back, but back problems have sidelined him. Maybe its time to hang up the driver’s helmet for a coaching cap.
Short Track Legends Who Coach – Getting a short track racing legend who oversees the upbringing of a young up-and-coming driver is the “in” thing now, and several Short Track Legends are doing it right. Andy Santerre has Sean Caisse three wins in the Busch East Series, Mike Garvey has turned around Matt Hawkins’ season and Frank Kimmel has Ryan Foster in the top-five in ARCA points. Freddie Query is another driver acting as a mentor, with Brian Scott under his wing in PASS South.
Going Through The Motions – Short track racing will always a high-strung sport because of the beating and banging. But like Cup racing, some short trackers are starting to became a little too tame. Everything from post-race interviews that are all about sponsors and thanking the crew to the often boring celebration ritual of burning out instead of something new or unique, like Landon Cassill’s or Benny Mingo’s fence climbing antics after recent wins in ASA Late Models and Bandoleros respectively have some short trackers acting to much like their big brothers.
Showing Emotion – Racing is an emotional sport and thank heavens racers don’t mind showing it. While extreme fighting is never good, a war of words is always a nice return to reality. It happened recently, even with some punches, in the Blizzard race at Five Flags. Drivers at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway Summer Shootout were warned about it. Even Cup star Tony Stewart showed some high emotion during the Mod Tour race at New Hampshire and got into the face of some of the Tour regulars, who countered with some strong words.
“That Guys – We’ve all seen them in films. They’re the actors that seem to play minor roles in just about every movie ever made. Drivers like Jeremie Whorff, David Gilliland and Cale Gale are “That Guys.” Whorff was seemingly a minor character leading up to the Oxford 250 and won the race. Same with Cale Gale. He’s been winning in the Supertruck and Late Model ranks in Florida and Alabama, but now he’s an ARCA winner. Former short tracker Gilliland did it in Busch after coming out of the West ranks earlier this year.
“The Guys” – These are the big names expected to win and don’t. They get the headlines and the top-billing on the event promotion, but they haven’t gotten the job done lately. Look at Steve Wallace and Erin Crocker, who got essentially spanked by Gale at Gateway and others during the ARCA season. The Cup stars that showed up at Oxford and did nothing, as they did in the Mod Tour race at New Hampshire. And it works for the big named regulars in the short track world. Gary St. Amant is still struggling in Pro Cup with his new team after expecting to win. Johnny Clark hasn’t won yet in PASS.
Bad Points Races – There is nothing worse for fans than a points race that is already over. Thankfully, the Pro Cup Series overall championship points race starts over, because the Northern points races isn't close, as Benny Gordon has the Northern Title locked up easily. Fredrick Moore has a commanding lead in GAS. Even in ARCA, once past the top two, Kimmel holds a near-450 point lead over third-place.
Good Points Races – The CRA Super Series is known for good points races. Last year, things were so close, the owner’s and driver’s champions were two different people. This year, after 12 of 17 races, the title chase is separated by just three little points. PASS North has just 18 points between first and second. Even the normally boring ARCA points race is just separated by 60 points.
Short Track Whackers – Three current NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers (Kyle Busch, JJ Yeley and Denny Hamlin) and household racing name Ricky Craven also entered the TD Banknorth 250 and none of the drivers left the track with anything close to the race that they envisioned. Only Kyle Busch showed any kind of strength, but he dropped out with a blown engine. Meanwhile, two weeks ago in the Whelen Modified Tour race at New Hampshire, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards both raised the ire of the Tour regulars when their bumping and banging techniques weren’t very well appreciated.
Home Trackers – On the biggest racing weekend of the year at Oxford Plains Speedway, there were some heavy hitters coming to town. But in the end, nobody could do it better than the track’s Saturday night regulars. Late Model competitors Shawn Martin and Dennis Spencer, Jr. showed the way by finishing 1-2 in the ACT race, while Jeremie Whorff and his father Bill, Jr. did the exact same thing in the 250. In Pro Cup, Kirk Leone was almost the ultimate “home track” spoiler, grabbing the pole and nearly winning at the track he owns.