Who's Hot / Who's Not
51's View of the Hot and Cold Stories in Short Track Racing
By Matt Kentfield, Mike Twist & Elgin Traylor
HOT: Cup Kids in Late Models
Chase Elliott leads the parade with 11 wins and three championships while victories from Ross Kenseth and Ryan Blaney push the win total of these three this year to 18…so far.  The resources are there and things are getting done for these three as we approach big event time in the Super Late Model world,  While Kenseth will seek down a big win, Blaney is locked in a tight point battle for the series championship in PASS South. 

NOT:  Cup Guys in Late Models
With Joe Gibbs Racing taking Kyle Busch off the short tracks it has left a bit of a void this year for the bigger Late Model events.  Matt Kenseth didn’t run well at Slinger and part-time cupper David Stremme is sitting out the All American 400, but he will be at Winchester.  Last year they were the rage with Busch winning Winchester, The Derby, SpeedFest and the Red Bud.  Kenseth added a Slinger title.  

HOT: Darrell Wallace, Jr.
Darrell Wallace, Jr. was perhaps the most experienced driver tabbed by John Story and Max Siegel for their four NASCAR K&N East Series teams this season, but he was seemingly the least promoted and hyped going into this year.  But, of all the Revolution drivers that hit the track this season, Wallace was the only one that made it into victory lane, doing twice – the season-opener at Greenville-Pickens and again mid-Summer at Lee USA Speedway.  With four cars in the field, television commercials aplenty during NASCAR broadcasts and a television show featuring their drivers, a lot of expectations were made for the Revolution program to do more, but only Wallace lived up to the hype.

NOT: The Rest of Revolution Racing
Perhaps the best and the worst thing that could have happened for Sergio Pena was his near-victory and second-place finish to Joey Logano in the Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale back in January.  That set the ball rolling not just for Pena to be perhaps the next Logano to come out of the East Series, but also the emergence of the Revolution Racing team with such a strong outing in their very first race as an organization.  Outside of Darrell Wallace’s two wins, Pena’s runner-up run in race number-one was the only other highlight of the year.  Mackenna Bell never quite got the hang of the East cars and was out of her ride for the final few races of the year.  Michael Cherry and Marc Davis then got into Bell’s ride and did okay, but not up to the standards set by others.  Even Pena never quite got back up to the heights set at Irwindale, with no top fives and only three top-tens during the year.  Besides Wallace, only Ryan Gifford was in the top-10 in points, finishing ninth with four top-five finishes.

HOT: Spin To Win
Just this past weekend, the Late Model world saw two big series come down to a late-race nudge changing the complexion of a race.  Saturday night, Brennan Poole got into Jeremy Burns on the last lap of the UARA-Stars Late Model Stock Car tour event at Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC) and Bubba Pollard moved Josh Hamner from the lead with a handful of laps remaining in the Miller Lite Series Super Late Model show at Mobile International Speedway (AL).  Both times, the one doing the moving went on to win the race without any reprimand from race directors.  There were a lot of hurt feelings, but no hurt body parts, as neither time did anything escalate from shouting and dirty looks.

NOT: Confronting People in Person
Remember the good old days in short track racing when people would get into each other’s faces when they felt they were done wrong and it would lead to fights or just some spicy quotes for a post-race story?  Those days seem to be long gone, as now in the 21st Century of Short Track Racing, Facebook and Twitter seems to be the place to do your badmouthing.  Anybody can be a tough guy behind a keyboard, but the days of the tough guy racer are diminishing.  It’s not just short track racing, either, as the whole Kevin Harvick/Denny Hamlin fracas in NASCAR Sprint Cup practice last weekend at Dover allegedly started with a Twitter message war between the two drivers the night before.

HOT: Battle Over the ASA Names
We’re hearing that soon the much-argued-about ASA name may soon be under full control by Dennis Huth’s American Speed Association, eliminating the confusion between Huth’s ASA and Ron Varney’s ASA Late Model Series.

NOT: Varney’s ASA Late Model Series
About two weeks ago, there was an issue over competitor payment at Berlin Raceway, with track owner Mike Blackmer and Varney taking two different approaches and telling two different stories about how the racers would get paid for the ASALM North Series race.  Plus the Sunoco National Tour’s new car has been getting beaten pretty routinely since the series allowed the template-bodied cars into the series.

HOT: Pink
To support breast cancer awareness and research, a few short trackers have been going to extremes and painting their racecars pink lately.  Jamie Fisher showed up at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with a pink Late Model for the ACT Invitational as part of the “Save Second Base” campaign.  He finished on the podium in third.  Stephen Nasse is headed to North Wilkesboro’s USARacing Pro Cup event this weekend with a pink car as well for the same cause.  We’ve also seen pink highlights on Kelly Moore’s PASS North Super Late Model in the past to show support.  It’s great to see short track racing being used to promote a good cause.

NOT: Red
Red flags in races should be a rarity.  There really shouldn’t be so many wrecks that are severe enough to block, oil down or damage a track, but lately it seems like mayhem has ruled on the short tracks.  There were four red flags that waved in the closing laps of the K&N Pro Series East race at Gresham Motorsports Park (GA) not too long ago and we’ve also been seeing red when the NASCAR Modifieds hit the Magic Mile at New Hampshire and in a few other recent shows. 

HOT: “Old Guys” Mike Stefanik and Tony Hirschman
Mike Stefanik and Tony Hirschman have accomplished so much in their careers that you have to wonder where they can even find the motivation to keep up their winning ways.  But they do.  Stefanik has inched his way right into the thick of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour point battle, won a few open shows at Thompson International Speedway (CT) and even wheeled a Super Late Model at Thompson on occasion this year.  Hirschman only runs one race a year now, but that start in the recent Race of Champions at Oswego resulted in a victory.

NOT: “Old Guy” Matt Kobyluck
Tenth in points for a former series championship-winning team, just two years removed from said title, is hardly a good year.  That’s all veteran NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driver Matt Kobyluck and his #40 team could muster up in 2010.  Kobyluck scored only three top-five and four top-10 finishes on the year and had a hard time keeping up with the young kids and development programs that have flooded the series over the past few seasons.  Now, according to the Hartford Courant, Kobyluck is up in the air about his return to the series in 2011.

HOT:  Rowan Pennink in the Modified Racing Series
In his last three Modified Racing Series starts, Rowan Pennink has three straight top ten finishes including a victory at Thompson International Speedway (CT).

NOT:  Rowan Pennink on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
Lady Luck hasn’t been riding with Rowan Pennink lately on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.  His last two Tour starts have ended with DNFs.

HOT: Taking Advantage of Rules
Last Saturday night, Burt Myers and L.W. Miller took on new tires late in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour event at Tri-County Motor Speedway.  Both teams reported to NASCAR that the tires were flat, so they were allowed to change them.  Reports from other teams said the tires weren’t really flat and that the SMT officials did not properly adhere to the rules.  Regardless, both changes were allowed and Miller rallied back up to a top-ten finish, while Myers took the new right-rear tire to victory lane with him.

NOT: Series’ Explanations
NASCAR Southern Modified Tour officials distributed a press release shortly after the checkered flag flew anointing Myers as the winner.  Minutes later, another release came out saying that the results were unofficial.  Officials later said official results would be made available on Tuesday.  But, it wasn't until mid-day Thursday that the Tri-County results were made official with no explanation of why it took extra time

Chase Elliott
Mackenna Bell was one of the tough-luck drivers for Revolution Racing this year.
The scrapes on the left-rear of Josh Hamner's car after he was tagged by Bubba Pollard last weekend at Mobile.
Jamie Fisher's ACT Late Model
Mike Stefanik's open Modified #66 ride
Burt Myers had to wait five days to be declared an "official" winner at Tri-County.  (Charles Ward/NASCAR)