Bristol Motor Speedway
Champ at Golden Isles will receive ring as bonus
From series and track reports
Besides a $10,000 bonus for winning the points at the 2008 Super Bowl of Racing, the champion of the unprecedented 10-race event will also receive an honorary championship ring from Gotta Race.
"The championship ring is going to be something that the winning driver will be proud to wear," said Frankie Lloyd, owner of Golden Isles Speedway near Brunswick, Ga.
Even without jewelry, there will be plenty for Super Late Model drivers to shoot for in the Jan. 23-Feb. 2 extravaganza. Each night's 50-lap feature event will pay $10,000 to the winner and the total purse for the 11-night stretch will top $500,000 at the track that has been shortened to a less-stressful 4/10-mile from its previous equipment-taxing 5/8-mile layout.
Among drivers planning to attend the Super Bowl of Racing: World Of Outlaws champions Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., and Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky.; Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va.; Rick Eckert of York, Pa.; 2007 WOrld 100 winner Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn.; Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis.; three-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla.; Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C.; Steve Shaver of Vienna, W.Va.; NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader of Fenton, Mo.; and reigning United Midwestern Promoters champion Dennis Erb Jr.
UMP will sanction events Jan. 23-29 and Feb. 2; the O'Reilly Southern All Stars will sanction three nights of racing Jan. 30-Feb. 1.
Fans planning on attending all 10 nights can save $50 over the single-ticket prices by purchasing a 10-day pass before the end of the year. For details, visit the track website or call (912) 778-3767. — Ozzie Altman and Kevin Kovac
Shirley anxious to continue racing education
He’s young. He’s X-Games cool. And of course, he’s fast too. Wrap those traits together, and Brian Shirley is a leader of dirt Late Model racing’s Generation Next. During the 2007 campaign, just about every segment of the Dirt Late Model scene got a chance to see Shirley’s unique blend of youth, style and speed first-hand.
Shirley, 26, of Chatham, Ill., took another step with his career in 2007, deciding after the season had already started to chase the tough World of Outlaws Late Model Series. He fell short of winning the tour’s Rookie of the Year award, but he earned a great racing education — and further established himself as a serious national contender — with his far-flung travels.
“I’m definitely not disappointed in our year,” Shirley said as the ’07 WoO LMS schedule wound down. “I get a little frustrated at times, but I’ve gotta understand what we were doing this year and look at the big picture. We went to 40-some racetracks this year that I’d never been to before!
“I feel like we have a lot of good things happening. I’m looking forward to coming back stronger and competing next year.”
Shirley ran most of the WoO schedule and grabbed his first victory on the series at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway. In the rookie standings, he finished second to Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., (3,924-3,762) in a race that was determined using each driver’s best 30 finishes, but it was the experience he gained on the WoO tour that meant the most to him.
“It’s just a whole different deal,” Shirley said. “People don’t realize that. I didn’t realize it, to be honest. There’s a million things you gotta learn — the tires, the shocks, the setups, the tracks. Even the cars — I haven’t run these types of (Rocket) cars that I got in this year. I came from a totally different type of car, a swing-arm (suspension of Rayburn Race Cars), to running these (Rockets). There’s a million things you can do to them, but luckily Mark (Richards of Rocket Chassis) has been there for me and (WoO champion Steve) Francis has helped me out a bunch.”
Shirley is excited about his future as a dirt Late Model driver. “I have a lot of people behind me support-wise,” said Shirley. “They know we’re not winning every race out here, but they’re still totally behind me. I was feeling like I let my fans down a little bit this year, that they’d be disappointed because I didn’t race close to home very much. But they all reassured me that they’re behind me 100 percent, and that makes me feel good about what we’re trying to do. You know, I feel the disappointment of not doing good every race, but (the fans) must see the big picture and are happy that I’m out here working to get better with the best drivers.” — Kevin Kovac
Clanton grades himself harshly on 2007
Coming off a career year that saw him finish second in the 2006 WoO points standings, Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga., could only manage a fourth-place result in the tour’s final ’07 rankings. He gave himself barely a satisfactory grade for his ’07 performance on the national tour.
“It’s gotta be a B-minus — almost a C, really,” Clanton said when asked to analyze his third season as a full-time WoO traveler. “Last year we had almost an A-plus season, so we’re a little disappointed.
“We just fell out of too many races. I guess it’s all part of racing, but we’ve had parts break this year that we just haven’t had break in the past. I don’t know if we didn’t check our stuff good enough or if it was because of the racetracks, but whatever caused it, it just wasn’t our year.”
Clanton actually got off to a decent start this year. With four top-10 finishes in the season’s first five events — highlighted by a runner-up placing on April 14 at Virginia Motor Speedway — he found himself sitting atop the points standings. But Clanton’s stint in the points lead lasted exactly one race. He went without a top-10 finish for an uncharacteristic eight features in a row over the ensuing month, dropping him to eighth in the points standings.
Clanton had a couple of WoO victories — on June 16 at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., and July 20 at Virginia Motor Speedway — along with a $25,000 victory in the unsanctioned Magnolia State 100 at Columbus (Miss.) Speedway, but it was a sub-par year overall.
“We had a pretty good year, but just not the points year that we wanted," said Clanton, who will pick up $35,000 from the WoO points fund at the Dec. 6 banquet. "We were hoping to be in the battle for the championship again, but it just didn’t work out this year.” — Kevin Kovac
Odds and ends
World of Outlaws regular Rick Eckert of York, Pa., has decided to switch to Custom Race Engines-built Chevrolet engines for 2008 after using Cornett-built Ford power for several years. ... Three-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion Earl Pearson Jr.'s crew chief for the past two seasons, Jason Fitzgerald, is leaving the team. His replacement for 2008 will be Randall Edwards, who has spent most of the past several seasons with Darrell Lanigan Autosports. Edwards, whose brother Keith worked with Pearson during the 2007 season, has also worked with drivers Garrett Durrett and Matt Miller in recent seasons. ... Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., was the only World of Outlaws driver among six who attended every 2007 event who didn't rely on a single provisional starting spot.