Breakthroughs – Before the start of this season, Brian Ickler had never won in the NASCAR West Series, Corey Williams had never won a touring Super Late Model race, victory had eluded Travis Dassow in the ASA Late Models and Brian Keselowski only had one ARCA RE/MAX Series victory to his name.
Now, at this point each of those racers are multi-time winners in 2007. Williams and Ickler even backed up their first victories by doing the same thing the next time out.
Dassow is leading the points in the ASA LM Challenge Series. Keselowski is making Berlin Raceway his personal playground by winning the last two ARCA events there.
It's always great to witness young talent stepping up and taking their game to the next level and there has been plenty of that this season.
Title Defenses - Mike Stefanik already owns nine NASCAR Touring championships, but it isn't likely that he'll grab number 10 this season. The defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion currently sits eighth in the standings this year, with less than half of his starts ending in top 10 finishes. It's been quite a season of bad luck for him.
Pro Cup's Benny Gordon is sitting second in the Northern Division standings right now, which is great if you're anyone but Benny Gordon. In recent seasons, he's been the man to dominate the tour up North, so sitting over 100 points back from the point lead isn't a good thing by his high standards. But Stefanik and Gordon are both futher along than Mike Rowe when it comes to defending a title. Rowe has only entered one PASS South race this season after winning that crown in 2006. He's focusing on contending for the PASS North championship instead.
Short Trackin' North of the Border – Canadians love short track racing. In Quebec, the first year of ACT's involvement with the Castrol Late Model Series has been a huge success. In the Maritimes, the Carquest Pro Stock Tour is healthy. NASCAR has joined the fray with the debut of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series this year. The Labor Day weekend NBIS 250 plays to a packed house every year and has attracted Terry Labonte and his son Justin for thie year's race. All of the PASS North events North of the Border do exceptional well with fans too. Oh Canada!
Short Trackin' in the Deep South – Out of the three ASA Late Model tours, the one with the lowest car counts is their Southern division. When the All Star Outlaw Late Models made their debut at Birmingham earlier this year, only six cars showed up. Car counts have also been weak within the borders of Florida, where several Super Late Model and Late Model tours and big races operate. Even legendary short tracks like Nashville's Music City Motorplex and Birmingham International Raceway have struggled with low attendence over recent seasons.
Upstart Asphalt Modified Tours – The True Value Modified Racing Series is putting good cars on the trailer every week after their heat races. The RoC Tour is pleasing competitors and fans in the Mid Atlantic region. The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour is growing by leaps and bounds and even the ASA Modifieds are doing a good job down south.
Asphalt Modified racing tours are a growth property in short track racing right now.
"The" Modified Tour – We all love the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, but it's been a tough year for that series in some ways. The racing is still as good as ever, but controversy around the "flash" race format and low purses has kept several stars- including Tony Hirschman and John Blewett, III from running all of the races this year. Shortening the feature at New Hampshire mid-stream to accomidate a NASCAR Busch Series television broadcast didn't go over well with fans or competitors either. And parity might be a bit of an issue too. Only three teams have won races so far this season.
Busch East Veterans– In the NASCAR Busch East Series, times are a changin'. Only three drivers who are currently within the top 20 of the point standings were part of the series just four seasons ago - Mike Olsen, Matt Kobyluck and Bryon Chew.
Some of the other notable names from seasons past have cut back to partial schedules (Mike Johnson, Kelly Moore, Brian Hoar), while others now have migrated to other tours including Dave Dion (PASS North), Kip Stockwell (ACT) and Jamie Aube (ACT). Others, like Dale Quarterley and Joey McCarthy just seem to have gone AWOL.
Trevor Bayne - With Joey Logano out of the Pro Cup picture, Bayne was to be the next in line to win races and make an impact. He got his development deal (DEI), but has struggled since. The youngster is still searching to get his first Pro Cup victory and when it comes (we've been watching him at Speed51.com and we know the kid has talent - so it is a question of "when" and not "if"), there will no doubt be a big load lifted off his shoulders.
Gary St. Amant – How can you not like Gary St. Amant? He's paid his dues in racing and carved up tracks throughout the Midwest. He's made his mark on the Snowball Derby and most of all, he's just a really nice guy.
St. Amant might also be a Pro Cup champion by the end of 2007, if he keeps up his winning ways in that series.
Elite Series Refugees – When the four NASCAR Elite Series tours went belly-up after the 2006 season, that left many racers homeless when it came to having a place to race. But racers are resurgent and many drivers have found themselves back on their feet this year.
Southwest Series multi-time champion Jim Pettit recently won in SRL action, Rip Michaels has been tearing up the competition with a Super Late Model at Irwindale Speedway, Dan Frederickson went from the Midwest Series to winning in the ASA Midwest Series, Tim Schendel has found a home in Busch East and the list goes on.
Donny Lia, James Civali and Jimmy Blewett – The guard is changing on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. While recent seasons have been dominated by Mod veterans, this year has been swept so far by a trio of young hard chargers. Civali won the first race of the season at Thompson and it's most recent event at Twin State. Blewett won close to home at Wall and Lia has won four times at various places across New England.
The Mod Tour Veterans - We already picked on Mike Stefanik earlier, so we'll leave him out of this argument. We'll also give eddie Flemke a pass because while he hasn't won yet this year, he has been close by taking part in some thrilling battles for the lead at Thompson and New Hampshire. But who would have thought that we'd be in the month of June and Ted Christopher, John Blewett, III, Tony Hirschman and Reggie Ruggiero would all be winless so far?
Pole Cats – Here are to the guys who really know how to qualify. With five poles to his name in ARCA RE/MAX Series action this season, Michael McDowell has shown that he knows how to click off a good lap in timing trials. Preston Peltier has earned two PASS South fast time awards in four races this season. Joey Logano and Sean Caisse each have a pair of pole positions each in the NASCAR Busch East Series
Getting DQ'ed – It's never fun to cross the finish line in one position and find out after the fact that result is not going to stand. Jason Boyd knows this pretty well, as he crossed the line with a podium finish in the ASA Late Model event at New Smyrna, but later was disqualified for unapproved modifications to his crate engine.
Big-Three Affiliated Shootouters - Chrissy Wallace, David Ragan, Hayden Reeves, Stephen Bergh, Jr., Nicholas Drake, Bryan Silas and the Dallenbach brothers haven’t made much noise so far this season in the Summer Shootout. Wallace, daughter of Mike Wallace, has struggled in the Legends Pro division this year with just one top-10 finish of the Shootout season. A ninth and 25th-place finish for NASCAR driver Ragan in the Pro Legends division has made Ragan feel like an outsider looking in.
ARCA and NASCAR Craftsman Truck racer Silas has also struggled this year with only one top-10 finish in six starts in the Semi-Pro division. Reeves (son of Stevie Reeves from DEI), Bergh, Jr. (son of Hendrick Motorsports employee Stephen Bergh) have all struggled this season. Meanwhile, the Dallenbach brothers Jake and Wyatt (sons of Wally Dallenbach) have struggled since the first week of the shootout to even get noticed. Wyatt does have a second-place finish in his Legends car, but neither brother has had the season they wanted so far.
Big-Three Affiliated Shootouters - Tyler Green, Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon, Chris Buescher and Matt Wallace all have been on a roll this year in the Legends and Bandolero nation of racing. Green, the son of Mark Green, currently leads the Pro division points in the 2007 Summer Shootout at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (NC) with two wins and top-five finishes in all six events of the season. Blaney, son of Cup driver Dave Blaney, has a Legends Semi-Pro win and has been strong in every race he has entered.
Meanwhile, Semi-Pro driver Dillon, son of former Busch Series driver Mike Dillon and Grandson of Richard Childress, has been bad fast at the Shootout and other local tracks. Buescher, driving a car for Cup rookie David Ragan, has one win at the Shootout and four top-five finishes. Also, Wallace, the son of Busch and Cup veteran Mike Wallace, has been consistently up front in his Bandolero.