The Big 10's Take On the 10 Biggest Stories From the Week That Was In Short Track Racing
Three-straight wins in any touring series is tough to accomplish, but Brian Loftin has been making it look quite easy on the NASCAR Southern Modified Tour.  Loftin won his first of the year at Caraway in April, but rainouts and the Bowman Gray Stadium regular season kept the SMT off until late August, when Loftin didn’t miss a beat by winning the BGS Tour show.  Last weekend’s win at Caraway has Loftin cruising towards his first-ever SMT title.

Ted Christopher has already known when it has been “go time” in races, but now he seems to know when that time is in a championship battle as well. As the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season winds down, TC went out to Mansfield and led from flag to flag. The point leader going into the day, Chuck Hossfeld, had axle problems so Christopher’s performance put him in a good position to possibly win the first Tour title of his career. Yes, you read that right casual fans. Even though TC is fifth on the all-time win list of the Tour, he falls into the Reggie Ruggiero category of having won a ton of races, but never a championship….yet at least.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard all about Michael Phelps over the last few weeks of the Olympics.  Phelps won a record eight Gold Medals in Beijing, making a total of 14 for the 23-year-old’s career.  Obviously all those gold medals must’ve been weighing him down on the racetrack when he couldn’t qualify for the USAR Hooters Pro Cup race at Bristol last week.  Ah, we know it’s two different Michael Phelps, but kudos to ARCA PR guru Don Radebaugh for hyping Phelps the driver’s upcoming ARCA race by tying in the swimmer of the same name’s recent success in a recent release.

Don’t be judged by the empty hood and quarter panels on Brian Ickler’s car in the Camping World East Series events.  There’s some serious money behind the #15’s efforts that have placed him in victory lane three times in 2008, including last weekend at Mansfield.  With Joe Shear, Jr., a noted short track crew chief (with top-level NASCAR experience, too) as his crew chief, Ickler gets it done on the track.  The kid is proving that he can drive and that it’s not all luck or money.

Even when Cup drivers hit the short tracks, there is a pecking order.  NASCAR’s hottest driver Kyle Busch won one of the biggest races on year long for the fledging ASA Midwest Tour at The Milwaukee Mile on Sunday after fighting a battle with 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth.  Meanwhile, Geoff Bodine, who is a Modified great and the 1986 Daytona 500 winner but hasn’t been able to find a ride in the Big Three Series of NASCAR in the last, oh, say dozen years, got an invite to join the ranks of the ISCARS Dash Series to finish out the year.  ISCARS…well, they aren’t exactly fledging.  The good thing is that with recent series car counts in the single digits, it is likely that Bodine will be adding to his career top 10 totals no matter what his racing luck turns out to be.

Long-overdue kudos go out to Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) for their hard work and (lots of) money spent to produce a weekly television show in-house, “NASCAR New England.”  The show features the premier division at the track, the SK Modifieds, with highlights and features from their other divisions and drivers.  It’s well done (producer Jack Arute, Jr. is a partner in the track and is also a veteran ABC/ESPN broadcaster) and broadcast on NESN, the leading New England regional sports network.  Not many tracks have the cohunes to put such a show on, so big ups to SMS for being a pioneer and a leader at the same time.

After Saturday night’s mechanical failure at Mansfield and the loss of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour point lead as a result, you couldn’t blame Chuck Hossfeld if he just wanted to go home, head to bed and pull the covers over his eyes to sulk. But Chuckie didn’t do that at all. He headed to Dunn Tire Raceway Park instead and fought tooth and nail to win the RoC Modified race there. Nice way to turn around a bad weekend!

You might know Mario Gosselin from the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series or ARCA RE/MAX Series. He won in both places. This year, he’s been heading back to his native Canada to run on the ACT Quebec Series as well, but until this weekend he had never won there. That changed on Saturday when he won round one of a doubleheader at Montmagny. Apparently, that winning feeling was pretty good because the next day, Super Mario scored career win number two at the same track.

It’s tough for any short track these days to do advance ticket sales, so when a rather primitive dirt track in North Carolina can do more than $7,000 in advance ticket sales, there’s gotta be something huge going on there, right?  Maybe a big touring show or a post-race Jonas Brothers concert?  Nope.  East Lincoln Speedway (NC) did that by holding Clergy Races last Saturday, where pastors and ministers of local churches strapped into Street Stocks with all advance ticket sales going to a local church group.  They even had a “Powder Puff Pastors” race, won by Sister Patricia of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Denver, NC. 

With all the antics and personnel shuffles those antics caused the Joe Gibbs Racing team and its NASCAR Nationwide Series program last week, a spot for a former short tracker to make it to the spotlight emerged.  Michael Shelton, a mainstay in the Alabama Super Late Model ranks as a longtime Crew Chief for Charlie Bradberry, packed up and moved to North Carolina in 2005 to take a position with JGR.  Last week, Shelton was moved up to Car Chief for the JGR #18 Nationwide car.