LOWE'S WINTER HEAT IS 'HEATING UP' FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP by Amy Hayes
Close Points Battle as Some of the Best Racing of the Year Comes at Winter Time
Some people may think that Legends and Bandolero racing only happens in the summer time, but despite the famous Summer Shootout series at Lowe’s Motor Speedway that highlights these cars, they would be incorrect. In fact, some of the hottest racing all year long comes at the Winter Heat Series at LMS.
With the regular racing season on the horizon and winter almost over, the 2006-2007 Winter Heat series is winding down and it is starting to come to a head. Only a few championships have been decided, and the rest of the point battles are extremely close, with the tightest ones coming in the Bandolero Bandits, and the Legends Master and Semi-Pro events.
While Stroupe’s day was definitely going down the drain, things were going just the way that Corey Gordon wanted them to.
“That was a really good race today,” added Gordon. “Me and Nick have been friends for a long time. We raced go-karts together and we have been friends since that. It is really cool to be racing him for the championship. My goal this year was just to win races, and Nick has won some too. It is going to be fun next week to see who wins the race and the championship.”
In the Young Guns division, there is one name that is synonymous with championship - Ryan Glenski. Glenski has dominated on his way to the final event, claiming victory in the first five events held, including a sweep of the road course races. Glenski had a 42 point lead going into the next-to-last event on Saturday January 27th and is in good shape for winning the title even if he runs into a little bad luck. The Winter Heat series uses a two-race drop system. He’s already planning on dropping a seventh place finish and even a poor result this weekend won’t matter against a record of five wins so far.
In the Bandits division, Nick Stroupe had been leading all season long, but Corey Gordon wasn’t too far behind him with both drivers claiming the majority of the wins through the season.
Last Saturday's race turned the tables completely around. A little bad luck for Stroupe allowed Gordon to make his move towards the championship
“Today just wasn’t my day,” said Stroupe. “I was in third in the first race and the #06 got behind me and got into me and that took me out of contention for that one. I ended up ninth in the first race and finished third in second race. It wasn’t a good points day.
“That means next week it basically comes down to whoever wins the race will win the championship.”
“We won the first five races luckily,” said Glenski. “And then today at the fifth-mile we had some unfortunate bad luck with a lapped car out on the track and ended up off of the track. It bent the back end up but hopefully we can come back next week and win both of the races and claim the championship with six wins.”
In the Outlaws Division, Josh Turner looks to have wrapped up his season thanks to a win at the next-to-last event last Saturday. He entered the race with a 19-point lead over Nathan Rodgers, and will have two chances next week during the Outlaw double header to try and seal the deal.
Nick Stroupe is looking to claim his first Bandolero Championship. (51 Photos)
“I wouldn’t say that I have it totally wrapped up,” said Turner. “I mean Nathan is not too far behind me and he is running pretty good. I just have to stay near Nathan, in front of him or right behind him to get it. I hope that I do.”
A Winter Heat title would fill out Turner’s trophy case nicely.
“I won the Summer Shootout championship last year, this will be my second year running them so hopefully I can wrap up both championships this year. “
The Thunder Roadster battle looks as if it may have a solid winner but, Jim Fluharty isn’t quite so sure.
“I don’t know if we have wrapped it up quite yet,” said Fluharty. “We have already dropped two of our races and Rob (Hall) has done really well on the road courses. And it is very likely that if he runs like he has been that he could go by me.”
“It has been a blast, this Winter Heat series all though you can’t really call it in the Winter series, you could call it the Heat series because the weather has been beautiful with the exception of last week.”
Last summer Matthew Stover was the man to beat in the Young Guns Bandolero division. This winter he has moved up to the Young Lions division of Legends, but not much has changed about him being the man to beat. He has a sizeable lead of about 30 points over Ryan Blaney, who took home victory in the next-to-last race this past weekend while Stover finished the event in second place.
“I wish we could have gotten first,” said Stover. “I kind of got robbed there at the end when they put a lapped car between us. Hopefully I will be able to come back next week and finish up with the win.
“The 30-point lead takes off a little bit of pressure going into the final race, but I would still like to get a win on the fifth-mile so we will just have to see what happens. “
The Semi-Pro and Master division have two of the most exciting points battles through out the field. Mitchell Coble picked up a victory this past weekend and increased his points lead over Daniel Hemric and John Ellenburg. Ellenburg finished further back in the field, making it look like a two-man chase, but that could all change when final point standings with the drops are announced.
“It is pretty cool to be going into the final race as the point leader,” said Coble. “It is kind of hard to tell with the drops, but I don’t know. Hopefully we will come out winning.”
One of the interesting things about this battle is the fact that Hemric and Coble are actually teammates, both driving for DEVO Motorsports.
“Me and Daniel we are kind of teammates because we both drive for DEVO Motorsports, and it makes it a lot more fun. It also says a lot about DEVO Motorsports.”
Hemric was in second position behind his teammate at Saturday’s event and was pretty excited for his chances at finding victory lane next week along with the Winter Heat Championship.
“It feels good to come home with a second place finish and rack up some more points,” said Hemric. It narrowed down the Championship chase a little bit. It makes it interesting going into next week do we will just have to wait and see what happens.
“Mitchell and I are pretty good friends and we always race each other clean. It makes it a lot more fun to race him for the championship because I don’t have to worry about him wrecking me.”
In the Masters Division, it comes down to Clay Hair and Eddie Harwell. Harwell was the last man standing in victory lane at Saturday’s event, while Hair was out early due to a mechanical failure.
“We broke a cable throttle out there,” said Hair. “I mean that thing… I was out on a Sunday ride and then I came off the corner and mashed the gas, and it just broke.
“This is a backup car, so I guess that it why it is called a backup car. The good car we are leaving ready for Florida, so I will run this one again next week. We ran in the rain the other day, and the boys at the shop sprayed the car down but I didn’t even think about it actually breaking the throttle cable. I have been doing this for 11 years and this is the first time that that has ever happened. “
While Hair isn’t too worried about the championship, this
race will most likely be used as one of his drops.
“I got wrecked out here one day, and I definitely didn’t
need this so, I would say this would be a drop. Although,
I don’t worry about what I have to do to win the
championship, I just do the best I can all year and then
I stand where they tell me to stand.”
Hair’s bad luck was another man’s payday as Harwell
claimed victory and most likely, the points lead.
“This win sure did help a lot in the points chase,” added
Harwell. “But with the drops I am not exactly sure where
that will put us. I would really like to beat him. I thought
that my car was better today, but whatever broke, I don’t
really know. But it was a good deal to win, anytime you can win it is good, and I will take it.
“Clay is one of the best, and if you beat him you feel like you have done sometime. We were right there with him today. We have had some run-ins before but I think that I may try too hard when I am around him. But he is really good to race with, and I hope that I am able to beat him next week.”
Harwell and Hair will get their chance to duke it out, along with the rest of the championship contenders next week when it all comes down to the last lap of the last event of the 2006-2007 Winter Heat Series.
Matthew Stover has already won one championship in the Summer Shootout, Next week he may be able to claim another.
Clay Hair will have to have a good weekend next week in order to be able to hold off Eddie Harwell.