Notes: Rookie optimistic after first MSCCS victory
As an open-wheel modified ace who dabbled in Late Model racing over the past few years, Byram, Miss., driver Brooks Strength knew he could win races if he ever got an opportunity full-fledged to go Super Late Model racing. And when Bill Stephens tabbed the 24-year-old Strength to drive a second entry for his Speedway Collectibles Motorsports in 2011, Strength didn't disappoint.
Strength, who had just a handful of Late Model starts coming into the season, won in just his second night behind the wheel of a Stephens-owned GRT Race Car, earning a $3,000 victory in the Mississippi State Championship Challenge Series season opener Saturday night at Jackson Motor Speedway.
Even with his confidence, Strength wasn't expecting to win so early in the going with his new ride. And even after earning a top-five starting spot during the night's preliminary action, Strength still wasn't feeling a victory on the horizon. In fact, it wasn't until well into the 50-lap feature that he started to think he might have a shot.
"I really didn't have any idea how good we could run even before the feature," Strength said. "We came in after hot laps and changed a lot of stuff, changed springs after qualifying and even changed some more springs after the dash. Then after a couple laps in the feature it was feeling really good and around lap 25 the car started working even better so I started running harder and harder and made a little progress."
Strength moved from fifth to first during the second half of the 50-lap race, and took the lead with 10 laps remaining. The run wasn't easy for Strength who along the way had a side-by-side battle with his new teammate Steve Bryan.
"Out of all the cars I had to pass to get to the lead, he probably raced me as hard as anybody," Strength said of his teammate. "We got side-by-side and ran probably six or seven laps door handle to door handle. It was a good race, he raced me clean. He was happy for me winning it and I'm sure he'll get him one here pretty soon."
Before his victory Saturday night at Jackson, Strength's goal for the year was to compete for the MSCCS Rookie of the Year title and "maybe win a race or two." Now with the first victory out of the way, Strength has his eyes on an even bigger prize.
"Our plan was to run for Rookie of the Year," Strength said. "Now I think we have as good a shot as anybody to win the championship. I'm thrilled to have this opportunity. Not only being in a Late Model, but being in a Late Model of this caliber. Mr. Bill put me in a brand new car, brand new motor. Every single part of the car's brand new. This is the first time I've ever have a 100 percent new car. It's a great opportunity for me and I'm just hoping to make the most of it." — Joshua Joiner
J&J STEEL CONTINUES IRONMAN CHALLENGE: West Burlington, Iowa-based J&J Steel will again sponsor the Ironman Challenge on the IMCA-sanctioned Deery Brothers Summer Series. Drivers with perfect attendance through the first 15 IMCA Late Model tour events of the season square off in a Sept. 2 show at West Burlington's 34 Raceway. J&J Steel, founded by late racer and former car owner Johnny Johnson, provides the entire point fund for the $750-to-win, $200-to-start race. "We are really honored to continue this outstanding race through the support of his family and hope we get a record number of drivers to attend every show prior to Labor Day weekend," said Kevin Yoder, IMCA's director of marketing. "It would be a fitting tribute to Johnny's legacy with IMCA Late Model racing." J&J Steel also provided a $100 product certificate to the hard charger at each event in the tour's 25th season. — Bill Martin
K-C RACEWAY ADDING SEVEN TO HALL OF FAME: K-C Raceway near Chillicothe, Ohio, opens its season April 9 with a program that includes the second class to the track's Hall of Fame. The 2011 class includes versatile driver Bobby Morgan; late sprint ace George Harbour; the multitalented father-son team of Bob Crace Sr. and Bob Crace Jr.; stock car ace George Branscom; notable car owner Bob Lemaster; and extraordinary photographer Stan Jeffrey. The track launched the Hall of Fame last year, naming sections of bleachers after inductees that included Audie Swartz and Delmas Conley. Saturday's opener includes a $1,500-to-win weekly event for AMRA-sanctioned Late Models. — Scott Wolfe
SCREVEN TO OPEN WORLD OF OUTLAWS SEASON IN 2012: The 2012 World of Outlaws Late Model Series season will kick off in unprecedented fashion. Screven Motor Speedway's second annual Winter Freeze event will become a multi-day, $20,000-to-win World of Outlaws Late Model Series event set for Feb. 9-11, 2012, officials announced. The 60-lap feature will be the richest season-opening race in WoO history and the richest race promoter Redd Griffin's 15-year-old Georgia oval near Sylvania. "I feel real good about it," Griffin said. "We want to build our February show and getting together with the World of Outlaws is the way to do it." The track owner plans to erect additional grandstands before next year's event, which may also include sprint cars on the program. From Screven, WoO drivers would head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Gla., for Feb. 23 and 25 events. — Kevin Kovac
ODDS AND ENDS: Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn., has delayed its first $5,000-to-win event of the season until Sunday, April 10; the race was originally scheduled for April 9. ... The UFO Racing Championship's Chiller Thriller, originally scheduled to open the season March 26 at Mercer (Pa.) Raceway Park, will be rescheduled; no date has been announced. ... The three-track Tennessee Super Series opens April 8-9 with $3,000-to-win events at Duck River Speedway in Wheel, Tenn., and Winchester Speedway. Its the first of eight unsanctioned events at the two tracks along with Thunderhill Raceway in Summertown, Tenn.
Correction: Fixes that Mercer hasn't set makeup date for Chiller Thriller.