As the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing season comes to a close, championships across North America are being settled in the next 10 days.
One of the best illustrations of the hard-fought competition that’s the hallmark of NASCAR’s grassroots short-track program is in Alberta, where just one point separates the top two challengers heading into the final race of the season.
Greg Moir holds the slim advantage over Roy Wallace as they both run in the Late Model division at Edmonton International Raceway. The division is off this weekend, which means the championship will be decided on the .250-mile paved oval on Saturday, Sept. 18.
A driver’s best 18 results – through Sunday, Sept. 19 – are counted toward their state and national points totals, and the champions are decided on overall points total.
In addition to honoring track champions and a national champion, NASCAR will crown 25 U.S. state and Canadian provincial champions, continuing a tradition that dates back to the sport’s early years.
Entering their final race of the season, Moir has five wins,13 top fives and 14 top 10s in 14 starts. Wallace has one less win and one more top-five finish. The 53-year-old Moir, of Spruce Grove, Alberta, has won the track championships in 2003-04, 2007 and 2009. Wallace, 42, of Edmonton, won the track title in 2008. Moir’s previous titles came in 2003-04, 2007 and 2009.
Track, state and provincial champions and the top three finishers in the national standings earn invitations to the 2010 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet at Charlotte Convention Center's Crown Ballroom in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in December.
In other tight points battles: Mike Rowe leads Dan McKeage by just five points in Maine; Dustin Ash has a 13-point lead on Scott Gafforini in Nevada; John Fortin is up nine points on Tom Rogers in New York; David Carter leads Donald Mahaffey Jr., by 12 in Ohio; J Herbst is 12 points ahead of Shawn Pfaff in Wisconsin; and Justin Johnson leads CE Falk III by only four in Virginia.
Keith Rocco, of Wallingford, Conn., has already clinched the national championship having reached the maximum possible number of points with 810. Racing in the asphalt Modified division in Connecticut, Rocco was third at Thompson International Speedway and 10th at Waterford Speedbowl this past weekend. Rocco, who also races at Stafford Motor Speedway, has 21 wins, 35 top fives and 45 top 10s in 48 starts.
By virtue of his national championship, Rocco also secured a spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series postseason race in January that has earned the title as the 'Daytona 500 of short-track racing.'
Craig Preble of Yutan, Neb., improved his second-place total to 784 with a win at Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Neb., on Saturday and at I-80 Speedway in Omaha, Neb., on Sunday.
Just 13 points separate third-place from sixth.
Duane Howard won his fifth straight 385 Modified Division on the dirt at Grandview Speedway in Bechtesville, Penn., to move into the coveted third-place position with 730 points. Falk, of Virginia Beach, Va., dropped two spots to fifth. He took the checkered flag first in the Late Model Division feature Saturday at South Boston (Va.) Speedway but was subsequently disqualified in post-race technical inspection.
Johnson, of Durham, N.C., finished second at South Boston and improved his total to 722 points. Ted Christopher, of Plainville, Conn., remained sixth with 717 points after winning at Thompson last Thursday.
Philip Morris, the defending national champion, earned the win at South Boston after Falk’s disqualification and is seventh with 683 points. He is followed by Greg Edwards of Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., Bill Leighton and Matt Buller. Leighton and Buller race at Junction and I-80.
Under the points structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner received two points for every car in the event up to 20. Second place received two fewer points, and so-on through the field. Race winners received an additional five bonus points. For example, if there are 20 cars, the winner received 45 points, second gets 38 and third 36. If there are 15 cars, the winner received 35 points, second gets 28 and third, 26.
For Moir, contending for his first NASCAR provincial title is a long time in the making.
Moir began his career in 1999 racing Hobby Stocks on a .375-mile banked clay oval near Edmonton. Having never been to a race track before, Moir traded a truck for the race car and he was off to the races.
“It was a real eye-opener,” Moir said. “I thought you just jumped in the car and drove in circles. I had lots to learn about how to make race cars go.”
He learned enough so by the last race of the season, he was a contender for a feature win, but finished third after some late race contact.
Moir continued to study and learn as much as he could about his Hobby Stock and made some changes for the 2000 season. He also made an adjustment to his racing schedule, competing on Friday nights on dirt and Saturday nights at Edmonton.
“We ran both tracks with the same car, but we had better results on asphalt,” Moir said. He thought he was onto something on Edmonton’s pavement.
“I read some books to understand how to make a race car handle,” Moir said. “Most of it is common sense, if you think about it.
“I got out the cutting torch and cut away. There was no measuring involved. I just figured what would make each part work. I cut the lower A-arm, overlapped it, and welded it together. That changed the camber on the (right) front wheel.
“It drove like a Sprint Car on dirt. It was fast and you could hold it wide open. It was faster on dirt, but it was harder to drive, too. We decided to commit to racing asphalt.
“We started out racing the Hobby Stock as a Late Model at Edmonton in 2000,” Moir said. “That was another eye opener. There are so many things to change on a car racing on asphalt. We didn’t do too well at first. Eventually I bought a set of scales, and that was what the secret was to setting the car up.”
He got his first Late Model win in 2002, and estimates he’s gotten 70 wins to complement his four Late Model championships.
He has a strong opinion about the work required on his Late Model during the week to be competitive at the track: “If you’re not ready when you leave home to go to the track, you shouldn’t go.”
He’s also competed in Late Model touring events in 2006, and the ARCA West Series in 2008. In the ARCA West Series, he placed seventh in points and won the Rookie of the Year Award.
His Howe chassis Impala SS is powered by a crate engine where durability, not horsepower, is at a premium.
“On a quarter-mile paved track like Edmonton, the more horsepower you have, the more it’ll get you in trouble,” he said.
Moir’s crew consists of himself and his wife, Suzanne. His sponsors include his employer, Parkland Cycle, a Yamaha and John Deere dealer and EXIT Realty.
National NASCAR Points Leaders
1 Keith Rocco Waterford Speedbowl
2 Craig Preble I-80 Speedway
3 Duane Howard Grandview Speedway
4 Justin T Johnson South Boston Speedway
5 C E Falk, III Langley Speedway
6 Ted Christopher Thompson Intl Speedway
7 Philip Morris South Boston Speedway
8 Greg Edwards Langley Speedway
9 Bill Leighton, Jr I-80 Speedway
10 Matt Buller I-80 Speedway
11 Ron Sheridan Delaware Speedway
12 Woody Pitkat Stafford Motor Speedway
13 J Herbst Lacrosse Fairgrounds Speedway
14 Shawn Pfaff Lacrosse Fairgrounds Speedway
15 Ron Yuhas, Jr Waterford Speedbowl
16 Woody Howard Langley Speedway
17 Steve Carlson Lacrosse Fairgrounds Speedway
18 Burt Myers Bowman Gray Stadium
19 Brandon Dean Motor Mile Speedway
20 Marty Ward Greenville-Pickens Speedway
21 Danny Edwards, Jr Langley Speedway
22 Todd Korish Lacrosse Fairgrounds Speedway
23 Jacob Brown I-80 Speedway
24 Craig Von Dohren Grandview Speedway
25 Brent Kirchner Lacrosse Fairgrounds Speedway