Weekly Notebook presented by JRi Shocks
Notes: Payton Looney follows dad's tire tracks
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com managing editor
While Brad Looney has been among southwest Missouri’s most successful Dirt Late Model racers over the last few decades, there’s suddenly another Looney on the horizon.
Looney’s 19-year-old son Payton, making just his ninth career Late Model start, grabbed his first victory May 24 at Callaway Raceway in Fulton, Mo. The only downside? His parents weren’t there to see it because Brad was competing at Lucas Oil Speedway’s 21st annual Show-Me 100.
“We’re pretty proud of him,” Payton’s mom Nicki Looney said the next day as she and Brad talked about the success of the sophomore engineering student at Missouri State.
Originally, such a racing conflict among the Looneys wasn’t supposed to happen. While Payton had dabbled in legends racing, his parents originally decided it would be best if none of their three boys took up racing before Brad decided to retire.
“I told the boys they could race, but not until their dad finished,” Nicki Looney said. “But this opportunity came up and we couldn’t pass it up.”
The opportunity was car owner Russ Niehoff putting Payton in a Limited Late Model to chase the rookie title on the Lucas Oil Cattle United Late Model Association, which sanctions a few Missouri tracks including Lucas Oil Speedway’s weekly division.
The younger Looney became the first ULMA rookie to grab a victory since 2010, and he’s got the early lead in the rookie chase.
Knowing the obstacles young drivers can face in trying to carve out a career, Brad, who has more than 220 victories and a MARS DIRTcar Series championship to his credit, hopes Payton doesn’t run into some of the difficulties. “I hope it’s a little easier,” he said.
Nicki has found herself more nervous watching Payton race than she ever did with Brad. “It's about more than I can take,” she said with a laugh.
With Brad competing in Show-Me 100 preliminaries in Wheatland, Mo., Nicki monitored Payton’s progress through a series of texts and phone calls from Niehoff throughout the night.
Payton Looney ran third early at Callaway before getting shuffled back to eighth. But he quickly rallied back into contention. “Payton turned into a madman and went to the front,” Niehoff relayed to Nicki.
In the race’s closing moments, Nicki anxiously kept the phone close to receive Niehoff’s updates: “There’s a caution with four laps to go and he’s leading ... I’m telling you your son is phenomenal.”
After the race, Nicki texted Payton’s phone, expressing congratulations from his parents.
“Thanks,” he replied in a text. “I learned from the best.”
• Dipping a toe into Late Models, former WoO sprint champion Donny Schatz of Fargo, N.D., won a pair of home-state races May 25-26 at Williston Basin Speedway and Nodak Speedway.
• At Delaware International Speedway, Ricky Elliott of Seaford, Del., captured a seven-minute 20-lapper on May 25 for his fifth straight victory at the half-mile oval. He’s unbeaten at DIS in 2013.
• With Potomac Speedway celebrating its 40th anniversary, Dale Hollidge of Mechanicsville, Md., earned a $2,500 Super Late Model victory May 26 at the Budds Creek, Md., oval.
• Joseph Joiner of Milton, Fla., earned $1,500 with a May 25 victory at his hometown Southern Raceway for his seventh victory in his last eight starts at the track going back to 2012.
• With his May 25 victory at East Bay Raceway Park, Keith Nosbisch of Valrico, Fla., won his seventh straight Late Model start at the Tampa, Fla.-area track going back to last season.
• With a pair of Memorial Day weekend victories, Eric Cooley of Fulton, Miss., logged four wins over a nine-day stretch. Cooley won the Crate Late Model feature May 25 at Columbus (Miss.) Speedway and the Super Late Model feature May 25 across town at Magnolia Motor Speedway.
• In May 25 double features at Senoia (Ga.) Raceway, Tod Darda of LaGrange, Ga., captured both races.
• Scoring a sweep at Toccoa (Ga.) Speedway, David McCoy of Franklin, N.C., won the Limited Late Model and Fastrak Crate division features on May 26.
• Lengthening a personal winning streak to three races, Ron Berna of Green Bay, Wis., won May 25-26 features at Shawano (Wis.) Speedway and Seymour (Wis.) Speedway.
First things first
First-time occurrences at the dirt track:
• Ryan Scott of Garland, Pa., won his first Crate Late Model feature May 25 at Stateline Speedway in Busti, N.Y.; he also won the Limited Late Model main event.
• At Callaway Raceway in Fulton, Mo., Payton Looney of Republic, Mo., won his first Late Model feature on May 24. He’s leading the rookie points with the Lucas Oil Cattle United Late Model Racing Association.
• Winning his first race for Schueffner Motorsports, Todd Jensema of Sheboygan Falls, Wis., took the checkers May 24 at Manitowoc County Expo Speedway. Jensema, taking the seat of the retired Craig Schueffner, notched his first victory since 2008.
Weekly points chases
UMP DIRTcar (Super Late Models): Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., leads through May 19 events with 853 points, while Rusty Schlenk (770) of Weston, Ohio, has jumped Mike Hammerle (761) of St. Charles, Mo., for second.
UMP DIRTcar (Crate Late Models): Aaron Heck of Mount Vernon, Ill., tops the standings through May 19 with 807 points, followed by Nick Lyons (734) of Centralia, Ill., and Jeff Walson (611) of Paducah, Ky.
IMCA: Nick Marolf of Moscow, Iowa, and Tyler Bruening of Decorah, Iowa, have once again swapped the points lead with Marolf now holding a 30-point lead over Bruening. Jeremiah Hurst of DeWitt, Iowa, is third, 62 points out of the lead.
AMRA: Defending champion Chris Garnes of Evans, W.Va., overtook Andy Bond of Coolville, Ohio, for the top spot over the weekend. Garnes now leads Bond by 34 points with K.C. Burdette of Parkersburg, W.Va., in third, another 38 points back.
ULMA: Justin Russell leads the way on the Missouri-based Limited Late Model organization with 542 points. Chris Cox is second with 508, while defending champion Jason Russell, who didn’t compete in ULMA-action over the weekend, slid from first to third 482.
NeSmith Chevrolet Series: Michael Arnold of Hattiesburg, Miss., leads the Old Man’s Garage Weekly Racing Series for Crate Late Models with 435 points while Noah Daspit (427) of Kiln, Miss., moved up to second. Derrick Mackmer (398) is third.
WDLMA: Justin Hirt leads as of May 26 by five points over Todd Jensema and seven points over Jim Schmidt.
WISSOTA: Through May 17, defending champion Chad Becker of Aberdeen, S.D., leads by 29 points over Nate Beyenh of Rock Rapids, Iowa, while series veteran Lance Matthees of Winona, Minn., holds third, five points back of Beyenhof.
RUSH: Michael Lake of Uniontown, Pa., leads the first-year Crate Late Model organization’s standings with 935 points. John Over (925) of Uniontown Pa., is second with Mike Pegher Jr. (863) of Wexford, Pa., third.
SECA: Mac Owens of Woodruff, S.C., and Trent Ivey are tied atop the standings on the first-year Southeastern Crate Association with 179 points apiece. Joey Phillips is eight points behind the co-leaders.
Upcoming weekly specials
Among non-touring and independent special events at dirt tracks around the country during Memorial Day weekend:
Cedar Lake Speedway, New Richmond, Wis. (June 1): The track’s NASCAR-sanctioned Late Models chase a $3,000-to-win purse in a Como Oil & Propane-sponsored event. Modifieds gun for $5,000-to-win and IRA sprint cars go for $3,000-to-win.
Dublin (N.C.) Motor Speedway (June 1): The Ricky Bowen Memorial pays $2,000-to-win for the track’s Late Model division.
Clay County Speedway, Flora, Ill. (June 1): The King of the UMP Crate Late 20 is sponsored by C&J Complete Automotive Repair. The race pays $1,000-to-win with 18 or more entries.
Golden Isles Speedway, Brunswick, Ga. (June 1): The track’s Late Model drivers battle for a $2,000-to-win purse.
Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, Ga. (June 1): The Bill Ingram Memorial pays $3,000-to-win for the track’s Super Late Model division; Crates and Limiteds also in action.
Clayhill Motorsports Park, Atwood, Tenn. (June 1): The King of the Clayhill miniseries wraps up for the NeSmith Chevrolet-sanctioned Crate Late Models.
Sycamore Speedway, Maple Park, Ill. (June 1): The track’s 50th Anniversary features a rare UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned Late Model event promoted by the Izzo family.
Jacksonville (Ill.) Speedway (June 2): In a race pushed back two days because of rain in the forecast, the MaryLee Standridge Memorial, which includes a Midwest Big 10 event for Super Late Models along with Midwest Open Wheel Association sprint cars.