Best of 2013: South's state-by-state capsules
By Joshua JoinerDirtonDirt.com staff writer
Dirt Late Model racing’s 2013 superlatives of the Southern states (individually for states with at least five weekly Late Model tracks; other states combined), primarily focusing on local and regional events (Best of 2013 coverage):
Top performer: Phenix City’s William Thomas claimed 11 overall victories mixed between Super, Crate and Limited Late Model action. Highlights included triumphs on the Southern All Stars and Southern Nationals tours along with four wins and the championship on the first-year Chevrolet Performance Super Late Model Series for CT 525-powered Late Models. He capped the season with a $20,000 Crate Late Model victory at Swainsboro (Ga.) Raceway’s Turkey 100.
Best national driver: None.
Best regional drivers: William Thomas; Killen’s Josh Putnam (nine overall victories highlighted by first Southern All Star victory and career-high $10,000 payday at Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, Tenn.); Boaz’s Tim Busha (12 weekly racing victories between Talladega, Moulton and Winchester, Tenn., along with Chevy Performance Series victories at Talladega and Whynot, Miss.; Chevy Performance Series points runner-up); Oxford’s Jason Hiett ($3,000 special event victories at Fort Payne and Rome, Ga., along with weekly action victories at Talladega and Green Valley; third in Southern All Stars points); Northport’s Ronny Lee Hollingsworth (five NeSmith touring victories, including winning three of five events during Speedweeks action at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.).
Best weekly drivers: Montana Dudley (nine weekly NeSmith Crate wins and NeSmith track title at East Alabama; fourth in NeSmith weekly standings); Talladega’s Ross Martin (four Talladega victories highlighted by $6,000 payday at January’s Ice Bowl); Anniston’s Tim Roszell (four victories and Talladega Super title); Atalla’s Lucas Burns (five Super victories highlighted by $3,000 Labor Day special; track title at Fort Payne Motor Speedway); Decatur’s Mark Mears (victories at Moulton, Duck River and Winchester, highlighted by a $3,000 triumph during Duck River’s Sam Pugh Extravaganza); Talladega’s Brian Ponder (four victories; Talladega NeSmith track championship); Cottondale’s Justin McRee (five NeSmith weekly victories; three NeSmith touring series victories)
Best homegrown performance: In four races between July 27 and Aug. 3, Phenix City’s William Thomas bagged $15,300 in three home-state events and another race just across the Georgia state line. The streak streak included a $4,000 Southern All Stars victory at Talladega, a $5,300 Southern Nationals triumph in Rome, Ga., and a pair of $3,000 Chevy Performance Series wins at Penton and East Alabama.
Most improved drivers: Already a solid regional competitor, Killen’s Josh Putnam stepped up his game in 2013 with his first Southern All Stars victory at Green Valley Speedway in Glencoe and a career-high $10,000 victory in Duck River’s Deep Fried 75.
Best newcomer: Making the jump from Crates to Supers, Munford’s Bret Holmes claimed Rookie of the Year honors and finished second in the Southern All Star championship chase while also adding his first two Super Late Model victories in weekly action at Talladega.
Most memorable moment: Talladega’s Ross Martin thrilled his home-track fans in claiming the biggest victory of his career in January’s Ice Bowl XXII. After racing at Talladega for more than 30 years, the veteran Martin scraped past regional standout Billy Ogle Jr. on lap 31 of the 50-lapper to finally break through in the popular off-season event.
Biggest news: Track owner Dennis Harker closes Green Valley Speedway in Glencoe to make way for new home development on the track property. The 3/8-mile oval first opened in 1972 and hosted many high-profile Late Model events including the Bama Bash. ... With Green Valley closing, the Bama Bash moves to East Alabama Motor Speedway in 2014 and will be sanctioned by the National Dirt Racing League. The $17,017-to-win event is set for Feb. 28-March 1. ... East Alabama’s National 100 gets sanctioning by the National Dirt Racing League in 2014. Nov. 1-2 event will again carry a $25,000 winner’s purse. ... Other changes to East Alabama’s major events include a first-time sanctioning by the Southern All Stars for its Alabama State Championship in 2013 along with the race being split into two separate events; National 100 moves up a week beginning in 2013. ... Closed midway through 2012, Deep South Speedway in Loxley reopens under new promoters Kelly Freeman and John Hartman for 2013. ... Alabama-based Southern All Stars expands presence in its home state with first event at East Alabama since 1984 and first at Green Valley since 2007. ... Moulton Speedway reopens under new owners Jaradda Sparks and Brian Mitchell with weekly action for Supers, Crates and Limiteds only to close in late July. ... Veteran announcer Rick Eshelman of Phenix City, Ala., joins the National Dirt Racing League for the tour’s second season in 2014. ... Down & Dirty Speedway in Greenville doesn’t open in 2013 after the track’s new owners struggled with car counts late in 2012.
Top performer: Batesville, Ark.’s Billy Moyer totaled seven victories and claimed the inaugural National Dirt Racing League championship. Moyer won on all three national tours with World of Outlaws victories at Volusia and Farmer City, Lucas Oil wins at Portsmouth and Lake Side and a NDRL victory at Roaring Knob. For the seventh straight season, Moyer claimed at least one Summernationals victory, earning a $10,000 payday at Paducah, Ky.
Best national drivers: Moyer; Batesville’s Jared Landers (eighth in Lucas Oil points; $10,000 Southern All Star victory at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C.); Batesville’s Billy Moyer Jr. (JRi Shocks Rookie of the Year with Lucas Oil Series; ninth in series standings); Longview, Texas’s Morgan Bagley (eighth in World of Outlaws standings and second in rookie chase; two SUPR victories including $5,000 series finale).
Best regional drivers: Springfield, La.’s Chris Wall (11 victories; second MSCCS championship); Lafayette, La.’s Shane Hebert (six victories including series-leading five on SUPR tour); Alexandria, La.’s Rob Litton (four SUPR victories en route to fourth series title); Bryant, Ark.’s Robert Baker (two Comp Cams Series victories and one SUPR win in limited action); Trumann, Ark.’s Kyle Beard (four overall victories; first Comp Cams Series title); Haughton, La.’s Ray Moore (five victories including one on both the SUPR and MSCCS tours); Texarkana, Texas’s Jon Mitchell (victories on SUPR and Comp Cams tours).
Best weekly drivers: Midlothian, Texas’s Skip O’Neal (double-digit victories and Devil's Bowl title); Brookland, Ark.’s Jim Gulley (six wins and Crowley’s Ridge Raceway Limited title); Batesville, Ark.’s Roger Witt (three NeSmith weekly victories between Batesville and West Plains); Bogalusa, La.’s Kody Barber (Super Late Model champion at Florida’s Southern Raceway); Victoria, Texas’s Kevin Migura (four victories at Shady Oaks); Luling, La.’s Mickey Trosclair (double digit Crate victories).
Best homegrown performance: Claiming his first national title since 2005, Hall of Famer Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., becomes the inaugural champion on the National Dirt Racing League.
Most improved drivers: Shane Hebert; Dewitt, Ark.’s Clay Fisher (first SUPR and MSCCS victories); Magnolia, Texas’s Tyler Erb (second in SUPR points).
Best newcomer: Following in the footsteps of his older brother Jared, modified standout Gavin Landers of Batesville, Ark., won three times and claimed the NeSmith Crate title at Batesville in his first full Late Model season.
Most memorable moment: After near-misses in Batesville’s Topless 100, Terry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., broke through in the crown jewel event for a career-high $40,000 payday and his first career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory.
Biggest news: Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., ends a seven-season run of piloting a self-tweaked Victory Circle Chassis in switching to the fledgling Longhorn Chassis brand for 2014. Moyer becomes a Longhorn dealer, selling cars dubbed Moyer Xtreme by Longhorn while also remaining as a Victory Circle dealer. ... Veteran setup and chassis guru Ronnie Stuckey of Shreveport, La., partners with two-time WoO champ Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., in launching a new chassis brand. ... Comp Cams Series adds Lucas Oil as a presenting sponsor for 2014; the series will also co-sanction events with the Lucas Oil Series for the first time. ... Batesville Motor Speedway’s Bad Boy 98 moves to June for 2014 and will be sanctioned by the National Dirt Racing League. A new three-day format will include $5,000-to-win programs on June 26-27 with a $20,000-to-win event on June 28. ... Lucas Oil Series to make first visit to ArkLaTex Speedway in Vivian, La., on April 5. ... Jack Sullivan of Greenbrier, Ark., leaves the GRT Race Cars house car ride after a four-year run with Joe Garrison’s Arkansas-based chassis company. Jeremy Payne, Jason Fitzgerald and Skip Arp all take turns driving for the team late in the season with Payne to being the primary driver in 2014. ... El Paso (Texas) Speedway Park plans to host its richest-ever Dirt Late Model weekend Jan. 23-26 with one $3,000-to-win event and a pair of $5,000-to-win events all sanctioned by the National Dirt Racing League and Championship Dirt Motorsports. ... New promoter Mickey Phillips reopens the former A-1 Raceway in Hickory, La., as St. Tammany Raceway with NeSmith Crates headlining the track’s weekly events. ... Chatham (La.) Raceway reopens under former USA Speedway promoter Jerry Hobson in June; however, Hobson won’t operate the track in 2014. ... New Thunder Valley Speedway owner and promoter Alan Crowe’s plans to reopen the Glenmora, La., track are delayed until 2014. ... 171 Speedway in Leesville, La., hosts Late Models for the first time in two years with Ray Moore claiming a $1,500 victory on Aug. 10. ... Mickey Trosclair of Luling, La., fields self-owned team in 2013 after parting ways team owner Jonathan Dunning.
Top performer: Jacksonville’s Earl Pearson Jr. returned to form in 2013, ending a two-year winless streak at February’s East Bay Winternationals finale and adding another Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory at Wythe Raceway in June on his way to a fourth-place finishing in the final series standings.
Best national driver: Earl Pearson Jr.
Best regional drivers: Middleburg’s Mark Whitener (12 victories overall including four en route to second straight United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series championship); Jacksonville’s Jason Fitzgerald (eight overall victories including three NLMS wins and one UDLMCS win; leading NLMS points with one race remaining); Ocala’s Ivedent Lloyd Jr. (five victories highlighted by a pair of UDLMCS victories and one NLMS win); Brandon’s Kyle Bronson (four overall victories; NeSmith touring victory at Ocala; UDLMCS wins at Ocala and Volusia); Jacksonville’s Kyle Van Sickle (first UDLMCS victory at North Florida; claimed $2,000 special event at Georgia’s Golden Isles)
Best weekly drivers: Valrico’s Keith Nosbisch (eight victories in nine starts at East Bay); Clearwater’s Bryan Bernhardt (three victories and Bubba Raceway Park Crate title); Tampa’s David Schmauss (two East Bay Super victories and track title); Plant City’s Roger Crouse (eight Limited Late Model victories between East Bay and Ocala); Milton’s Joseph Joiner (five Super wins between Northwest Florida Speedway, Southern Raceway and Alabama’s Deep South Speedway); Deland’s Paul Shead (victories at Volusia and Putnam County; Volusia Limited Late Model title); Riverview’s Jack Nosbisch Jr. (three Super victories at East Bay).
Best homegrown performance: Becoming the first home-state driver to win a major Florida Speedweeks event since his last Speedweeks win in 2010, Earl Pearson Jr. recovered from an early flat tire at East Bay to lead the finale eight laps of the third-mile oval’s attrition-filled Winternationals finale.
Most improved drivers: Harold, Fla.’s Cody Smith (seven victories between Crate and Super action at Southern Raceway and Deep South; second in Southern Raceway’s Super points); Navarre’s Tyler Allen (three Crate victories at Southern Raceway).
Best newcomers: Brandon’s Kyle Bronson, a 23-year-old modified standout, expanded his Late Model program in 2013, recording four victories. He grabbed an early season NeSmith Crate Late Model touring victory at Ocala, then added a pair of victories on the Florida-based United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series at Ocala and Volusia; Ten-year-old Tyler Clem of Tierra Verde notched three victories on his way to Ocala’s Limited Late Model title.
Most memorable moment: In the third of six events at Volusia Speedway Park’s UMP DIRTcar Nationals, Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., outdueled Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., in a late three-car battle for a $10,000 UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned victory.
Biggest news: Florida portion of 2014 Speedweeks kicks off with UMP DIRTcar event Feb. 9 at North Florida Speedway in Lake City and includes six Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series events at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton Feb. 10-15 and three World of Outlaws races at Feb. 14-16 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala before wrapping up with three UMP DIRTcar races and three World of Outlaws races at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., Feb. 17-22. ... The East Bay finale on Feb. 15 will mark the first Lucas Oil Series event televised live on television with its live presentation on MavTV American Real Network. ... Weekly racing returns to Volusia Speedway Park in April with new promoter Doug Kagey Jr. taking over the lease of the DIRTcar-owned half-mile oval. ... Northwest Florida Speedway in Blackman reopens under new promoter Scott Sessions of Milton in May and hosts three Friday night Super Late Model races. The quarter-mile oval plans to switch to Saturday nights for 2014. ... Putnam County Speedway, the 3/8-mile track in Satsuma, closes in late summer. ... Southern Raceway in Milton drops weekly Super Late Models in 2013, opting instead for a mix of Super and Crate events throughout the season. The 3/8-mile track plans to host weekly NeSmith Crates in 2014. ... Regional standout Jason Fitzgerald of Jacksonville drives the GRT house car in a number of late-season special events highlighted by a 13th-place finish in the Cotton Pickin’ 100 at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus, Miss. ... The NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series plans to open its season for the second straight year at Bubba Raceway Park with five events the Ocala, Fla., oval before heading across the stateline to Golden Isles Speedway near Brunswick, Ga., for three races Feb. 6-8. The eight events total nearly $20,000 in winning purses.
Top performer: Zebulon’s Shane Clanton won seven races overall, including four World of Outlaws victories on his way to a third-place finish in the national tour’s championship chase. Clanton other notable victories included the $10,000 finale of Tucson (Ariz.) International Raceway’s Winter Extreme miniseries, a Southern All Stars victory during East Alabama Motor Speedway’s Alabama State Championship and a $15,000 victory in Whynot (Miss.) Motorsports Park’s unsanctioned Fall Classic.
Best national drivers: Clanton; Chickamauga’s Dale McDowell (three victories; multiple top-three finishes on Lucas Oil, World of Outlaws and NDRL tours); Senoia’s Clint Smith (11th in World of Outlaws points).
Best regional drivers: Blairsville’s Jonathan Davenport (nine Super victories highlighted by a $30,000 payday at Lancaster (S.C.) Speedway’s Carolina Crown; three Southern Nationals wins and second series championship; three Crate victories); Toccoa’s Casey Roberts (nine overall victories including seven Ultimate Series wins en route to second straight series title); Savannah’s Casey Barrow (two victories; Southern All Stars win at Albany); Colbert’s Kenny Collins (Southeastern Sportsman Series victory and first series title); Tiger’s Ethan Hunter (two Southeastern Sportsman Series wins); Chatsworth’s Aaron Ridley (three overall victories; first Southern Nationals win at North Georgia).
Best weekly drivers: Douglasville’s Michael Page (SRRS victory at Boyd’s; $5,000 unsanctioned Crate win at North Georgia); Tod Darda (double-digit Limited wins between Senoia and West Georgia); Kelly Walker (Albany and Needmore Limited Late Model champion); Branden Yawn (Oglethorpe Speedway Park Limited champion; four wins); Glenn Morris (three Limited wins and Senoia track title); Mike McConnell (four Limited victories and track title at Dixie); Valdosta’s Evan Becton (five Limited victories between Cochran and 441).
Best homegrown performance: Shane Clanton kicked off the World of Outlaws campaign and his home state’s portion of February’s Georgia-Florida Speedweeks with a flag-to-flag performance at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania.
Most improved driver: Savannah’s Jak Kicklighter (multiple Crate wins in south Georgia, including $3,000 tuneup victory for Swainsboro’s Turkey 100); Dublin’s Pearson Lee Williams (17-year-old notched three victories while competing at Cochran and 441, including Arlene Pittman Memorial).
Best newcomers: Meansville, Ga.’s Maddie Crane (first Crate victory at Dixie); Dawsonville’s Donald McIntosh (first Super Late Model victory at Dixie and Dixie-Rome Super championship).
Most memorable moment: In February’s Battle in the Swap at Waycross Motor Speedway, 50-year-old Donnie Moran of Dresden, Ohio, survived an attrition-field 50-lapper to earn $10,000 for his first Georgia-Florida Speedweeks victory since 2007.
Biggest news: Georgia portion of the 2014 Georgia-Florida Speedweeks slate features the Lucas Oil Series at Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick Feb. 6-8 and the World of Outlaws at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania Feb. 7-8. ... North Georgia Speedway promoters Jason and MaryBeth Jones announce they won’t renew their lease at the Chatsworth, Ga., for the 2014 season. The two took over promotions midway through 2012 and continued through 2013 at the Kevin Young-owned third-mile oval. ... Terri Thomaston, a long-time competitor in the bomber division, becomes the new promoter at West Georgia Speedway in Whitesburg, taking over promotions from Brian Duke, the son of track owner Sammy Duke. ... Southern All Stars tour makes first-time appearances at Albany (Ga.) Motor Speedway and Needmore Speedway in Norman Park with Casey Barrow and Ray Cook splitting victories. ... Chatsworth’s Chip Brindle misses multiple weeks late in the season after dislocating his shoulder in an Oct. 5 wreck at Talladega Short Track. ... Long-time dirt and asphalt Late Model racer Luther Carter of Acworth, a 2009 inductee to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame dies Jan. 4 after a battle with cancer. He was 75. ... Driver Jeff Fortner of Vidalia dies in April after a sudden illness. He was 42. … The Carnesville-based Fastrak Racing Series announces it will experimentally allow competitors to use tires sanctioned by other Crate Late Model organizations in 2014 touring events. ... Cartersville-based NeSmith Racing Series for Crate Late Models hires former Green Valley Speedway general manager Adam Stewart as series director in December. ... NeSmith plans eight Speedweeks events for 2014 with five races planed for Jan. 28-Feb. 1 in Ocala, Fla., and three at Golden Isles Speedways in Brunswick, Ga., Feb. 6-8.
Top performer: Union’s Darrell Lanigan racked up 15 overall victories in 60 starts highlighted by a $40,000 victory in the Knoxville Late Model Nationals finale. The 43-year-old Lanigan led the World of Outlaws tour with 12 victories in finishing second in the national tour’s championship chase.
Best national driver: Darrell Lanigan; Ashland’s Steve Francis (two Lucas Oil Series victories; second in series points) Hazard’s Eric Wells (first WoO victory at Duck River; WoO Rookie of the Year and sixth in series points).
Best regional drivers: Grayson’s Jackie Boggs (14 victories at seven tracks highlighted by a $10,000 payday at Ohio’s Brushcreek Motorsports Complex; third-place Dirt Track World Championship finish at Portsmouth); Bryantsville’s Dustin Linville (five victories highlighted by first win at Brownstown Speedway and a career-high $5,000 payday at Ponderosa Speedway); Grayson’s Josh McGuire (four victories).
Best weekly drivers: Olympia’s Derek Fisher (12 victories between 191 Speedway and 201 Speedway; unsanctioned victories of $4,500 and $4,000 at 191); Paducah’s Jeff Walston (21 victories; third in UMP Crate points; champ at Tennessee’s Clarksville Speedway); Danville’s Victor Lee (Ponderosa Super champion; five victories among Ponderosa, 201 and Lake Cumberland highlighted by $3,000 win at Ponderosa); Shannon Thornsberry (201 Super Late Model champion; claimed a $4,500 unsanctioned special at 191); West Liberty’s Jamie Ferguson (seven wins; 191 Speedway Super Late Model title); Tollesboro’s Robbie Lewis (six Limited Late Model victories; Portsmouth track championship);
Best homegrown performance: Traveling just across the Indiana state line to Brownstown Speedway, Dustin Linville turned in another solid big-race performance with a runner-up finish to Don O’Neal at the Jackson 100, earning a career-high $7,500.
Most improved driver: In addition to his stellar Brownstown effort, Dustin Linville, 22, grabbed five victories at four tracks, including his first victory at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway in the Paul Crockett Memorial and a career-high $5,000 payday at home-state Ponderosa Speedway’s Fall Classic.
Best newcomer: Moving from Crates to Supers, Clayton Miller picked up six UMP Super Late Model victories at Tennessee’s Clarksville Speedway.
Most memorable moment: Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., was cruising out front of Florence Speedway’s North-South 100 on lap 56 when he tangled with Earl Pearson Jr.’s slower car and spun. After reviewing the video replay, officials ruled O’Neal never stopped and restored him to the lead, which he held the rest of the way for a $50,000 victory.
Biggest news: Ronnie Jones and James Hale, both of Hopkinsville, Ky., purchase Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway in Calvert City from Sherri Heckenast. The 3/8-mile track will host its first events in five seasons on March 28-29 at the NDRL-sanctioned Bluegrass Nationals. ... Josh McGuire, of Grayson suffers a serious neck injury in an Oct. 26 accident at 201 Speedway in Sitka, leaning him hospitalized until Nov. 1. His recovery includes wearing a neck brace for three months. A fundraiser spearheaded by fellow driver and Kentucky native Eddie Carrier Jr., along with his wife Jamie, raises $22,000 to go toward McGuire’s medical bills. ... Florence Speedway announces that, for 2014, it will scrap qualifying for its Sunoco North-South 100 and adds a second set of heat races and pole dashes. The $50,000-to-win Lucas Oil Series crown jewel event scheduled for Aug. 8-9 will also see $12,000 added to the total purse. ... Florence also adds Crate Late Models to weekly program beginning in 2014. Track to also host its first Old Man’s Garage Spring Nationals event in April 19. ... Darrell Lanigan partners with veteran Late Model setup and chassis guru Ronnie Stuckey of Shreveport, La., to launch a new chassis brand that will debut in 2014. Early adopters of the new chassis brand include Tony Jackson Jr., Justin Asplin and Jason Papich. ... Jerry Denson of Liberty, Ky., returns as promoter of Ponderosa Speedway in 2014, acquiring the racetrack from previous owners Larry, Chad and Sarah Yantz. ... Veteran announcer and publicist Michael Despain of Campbellsville joins Alabama-based Southern All Stars Series as announcer and public relations director.
Top performer: Vicksburg’s Bub McCool backed up his WoO Rookie of the Year season in 2012 with a four-win 2013 season that included an Outlaws victory at New York’s Canandaigua Motorsports Park, a $10,000 payday at ArkLaTex Speedway’s Pelican 100 and a pair of Mississippi State Championship Challenge Series victories. McCool, 36, finished 10th in WoO standings.
Best national driver: Bub McCool.
Best regional drivers: Clarksdale’s Ross Camponovo (MSCCS victory; sweep of Comp Cams’ Camden-Riverside doubleheader); Shannon’s Neil Baggett (MSCCS victory at Whynot; second in series points); Four Corners’ David Breazeale (two MSCCS victories); Columbus’ Rick Rickman (MSCCS victory at Columbus; third in series points); Columbus’ Brian Rickman (MSCCS victory at Greenville; fifth in series points); Vossburg’s Scott Dedwylder (two NeSmith touring victories).
Best weekly drivers: Kiln’s Noah Daspit (NeSmith Crate weekly title; 15 NeSmith weekly victories and St. Tammany Raceway track title); Fulton’s Eric Cooley (10 weekly racing victories between Super and Crate action at Magnolia, Columbus and Whynot); Star’s Cliff Williams (five NeSmith weekly victories between Whynot, Jackson and Hattiesburg; fifth in NeSmith weekly points); Houlka’s Chase Washington (two NeSmith weekly victories and a NeSmith touring victory at Magnolia in a season shortened by cancer treatment); Corinth’s Danny Christian (five wins and Limited title at Corinth); Marion’s Randy Boyd (four NeSmith weekly victories and track championship at Whynot).
Best homegrown performance: After overcoming major surgery and six chemotherapy treatments over an 18-week period, cancer-beating Chase Washington continued the comeback story of the season by claiming his first-career NeSmith touring victory Sept. 1 at Magnolia Motor Speedway. The 22-year-old former NeSmith weekly points champion dominated the 40-lap event, winning by more than five seconds over Hall of Famer Ronnie Johnson.
Most improved drivers: With just one finish worse than eighth, Neil Baggett notched 12 top-five finishes in 18 MSCCS events on his way to a career-best runner-up finish in the tour’s points chase. The consistently solid performances included Baggett’s second-career series victory.
Best newcomer: In his first year following the NeSmith tour, former weekly competitor Brent Barrett of Cleveland finished second in the tour’s Rookie of the Year chase and seventh in the overall standings.
Most memorable moment: After charging from 20th to win October’s MSCCS-sanctioned Gumbo Nationals at Greenville, Bub McCool used a profanity-filled outburst to voice his displeasure over a mid-race call series director Charles Thrash made when McCool tangled with the lapped car of Chad Thrash.
Biggest news: Just a few months after wrapping up the 2012 NeSmith weekly points title, Chase Washington is diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer in March. After successfully undergoing major surgery and six chemotherapy treatments, Washington returns to win Magnolia’s NeSmith touring event. ... Citing conflicts with college football games, officials with Magnolia’s Cotton Pickin’ 100 and Whynot’s Fall Classic swap weekends for the two annual October events. ... Cotton Pickin’ 100 sees a purse increase of $5,000 for a $20,000 winner’s pay in 2013. ... Rain washes out Jackson’s Lucas Oil event and Whynot’s World of Outlaws date. ... MSCCS tour sanctions Jackson’s $5,000-to-win All-American 50 for the first time; third annual event’s $5,000 winner’s check went to eventual series champion Chris Wall on Sept. 28. ... Pike County Speedway in Magnolia sits idle 2013 after closing in November 2012. ... Ross Camponovo of Clarksdale, Miss., is among top voted drivers for Fans Fun voting to receive tow money for the Aug. 1-3 USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis. ... WoO regular Bub McCool of Vicksburg hired Chase Winkles, 22, of Falkville, Ala., as a full-time crew member.
Top performer: Brasstown’s Ray Cook made the most of sticking closer to home in 2013, picking up 12 victories highlighted by a $10,000 Crate Late Model victory in November’s NeSmith Series finale at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.
Best national driver: None.
Best regional drivers: Ray Cook; Mount Holly’s Chris Ferguson (Ultimate victory at Dublin; second in series points); Rutherfordton’s Ricky Weeks (NDRA Crate special event victory at Carolina Speedway; fourth in Carolina Clash points); Kannapolis’ Tim Allen (first Carolina Clash victory since 2009; third in series points); Gastonia’s Jeff Smith (Southeastern Sportsman Series victory at Carolina; third in Ultimate points); Mount Airy’s Ryan Atkins (NDRA special event victories at Charlotte and Carolina Speedway; Fastrak weekly wins at Friendship Motor Speedway and Virginia’s Wythe Raceway).
Best weekly drivers: Franklin’s David McCoy (43 victories in Crate and Limited action at Georgia’s Toccoa, Hartwell and Lavonia Speedways; Lavonia Limited track title; three Southeastern Sportsman Series victories); Union Mills’s Furman Parton (10 SECA Crate victories between Cleveland County and Laurens County; SECA weekly points championship and SECA track titles at Cleveland County and Harris); Stanley’s Jay Sessoms (seven Limited Late Model victories between Carolina and East Lincoln; Carolina Limited track title); Denver’s Adam Yarbrough (nine SECA Crate victories at Cherokee and track championship; third in SECA weekly points); Troutman’s Steve Banal (double-digit NDRA Crate victories between Lancaster, I-77 and Carolina Speedway); Castalia’s Christian Joyner (nine victories en route to County Line Raceway’s Limited track title); Whiteville’s Dean Bowen (double-digit Limited victories between Dublin and Carolina; Dublin track title); Murphy’s Johnny Chastain (weekly Super Late Model victories at Tri-County and Georgia’s Dixie Speedway; Tri-County Super champion); Concord’s G.R. Smith (eight Crate victories at 311).
Best homegrown performance: Preventing a home-state shutout at the Dirt Track at Charlotte’s World of Outlaws World Finals, Chris Ferguson of Mount Holly charged from his seventh starting spot and used a nifty three-wide move to overtake WoO stars Darrell Lanigan and Shane Clanton to finish second in a Saturday heat race at the WoO doubleheader. He was the only North Carolina driver to make either World Finals features.
Most improved driver: After going winless in his first two Limited Late Model seasons, Castalia’s Christian Joyner not only broke through for his first victory in 2013 but added eight more on his way to claiming County Line Raceway’s Limited Late Model track title.
Best newcomer: Lincolnton’s John Ruggiero Jr. logged top-five finishes in NDRA, SECA and Fastrak weekly Crate action while racing mostly at I-77 and Cleveland County.
Most memorable moment: Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., capped off his run to a third World of Outlaws championship with a dominating victory in the tour’s finale at Charlotte’s World of Outlaws World Finals in November.
Biggest news: Highlighting a busy Silly Season, Arkansas driver Jared Landers leaves North Carolina-based Clint Bowyer Racing at the end of 2013 and is replaced by MasterSbilt house car driver Don O’Neal. ... Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C., replaces O’Neal in the MasterSbilt house car ride, allowing Cook to return to the Lucas Oil Series in 2014. ... North Carolina-based race teams AES Racing and Rumley Enterprises join forces to put AES driver Jonathan Davenport behind Kevin and Lee Roy Rumley’s No. 6 Longhorn Chassis in 2014. Davenport will race out of the Bobby Labonte Racing’s shop in Trinity, N.C., while following the NDRL tour. ... Carolina Speedway in Gastonia and Friendship Motor Speedway in Elkin add weekly sanctioning by the second-year Southeastern Crate Association for Crate Late Models. ... Billy Moyer is treated and released from a Charlotte-area hospital after suffering a concussion in a heat race wreck during the Friday night portion of Charlotte’s World Finals. ... In October, the Fast Unified Engine Late Models (FUEL) powered by City Chevrolet Performance Parts announces plans to launch in 2014 with a dozen or more events within a three-hour radius of central North Carolina. Headed up by driver Jason Atkins, the series becomes the sport’s second tour exclusively for Chevrolet’s all-aluminum CT 525 crate engine. ... Friendship Motor Speedway gets new management in June with Mike Brown and Michael Tesh taking over operations of the Elkin, N.C. oval. ... East Lincoln Speedway in Stanley adds more Limited Late Model events in 2013, expanding from two races to six as part of the Late Model Six Pack Series. ... The Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series absorbs the second-year Battle of the Eastern All Star Tour, combining the two North Carolina-based tours into a single circuit. ... North Carolina-based companies JRi Shocks in Mooresville and Dunn-Benson Ford in Dunn sponsor the Lucas Oil tour’s JRi Shocks Rookie of the Year Award presented by Dunn-Benson Ford.
Top performer: Gray Court’s Chris Madden put together another impressive season with 13 overall victories highlighted by Lucas Oil Series victories at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C., Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn., and Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Ga. Madden’s other victories were spread out among the Ultimate, Southern All Stars and Southern Nationals tours.
Best national driver: Chris Madden.
Best regional drivers: Gaffney’s Dennis Franklin (won nine of 17 Carolina Clash events en route to third series title; 13 overall victories highlighted by a $17,000 Fastrak Crate triumph Beckley (W.Va.) Motorsports Park); Clover’s Johnny Pursley (Carolina Clash victories at North Carolina’s Fayetteville Motor Speedway and Carolina Speedway; second in Clash points; four Limited Late Model victories); Clover’s Ross Bailes (15 overall victories between Super and Crate highlighted by a Carolina Clash win at Laurens County); Inman’s David Smith (Fastrak touring victories at Wythe and Toccoa; Fastrak City Chevrolet Southeast touring champion).
Best weekly drivers: Union’s Trent Ivey (seven SECA Crate victories between Cherokee, Cleveland County and Harris Motor Speedway; second in SECA weekly points); Lancaster’s Timbo Mangum (half-dozen Crate victories between Lancaster, Laurens County, and Carolina; Lancaster NDRA Crate title); Rock Hill’s Ben Watkins (seven victories highlighted by claiming the Limited Late Model portion of Carolina Speedway’s King of the Carolinas); Sugar Tit’s Hot Rod Lamance (weekly Fastrak wins at Toccoa, Lavonia and Hartwell and Lavonia Fastrak title; Fastrak touring win at Lavonia).
Best homegrown performance: Chris Madden won three of his five starts on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
Most improved driver: Trent Ivey, 18, logged seven SECA victories Cherokee, Cleveland County and Harris in finishing a close second in the SECA weekly points chase.
Best newcomer: Gaffney’s Taylor Hicks expanded from weekly racing in 2012 and claimed the Fastrak Southeast Rookie of the Year.
Most memorable moment: Facing a locked-down daytime surface, fourth-starting Jared Landers powered around front-row starters Steve Francis and Dennis Franklin in the first corner of Cherokee’s March Madness main event and led every lap for a $10,000 Southern All Stars victory.
Biggest news: Race promoter Cody Sommer won’t host a third Carolina Crown event in 2014 after $20,000 and $30,000 winner’s payouts struggled to attract full fields to Lancaster Speedway in 2012 and 2013. ... Cherokee Speedway adds a $3,000 Super Late Model event to the Saturday portion of it’s March 1-2 March Madness event. Both Saturday’s race and Sunday’s race will be run under the new Southern Nationals Bonus Races banner. ... Cherokee will also host the NDRL tour in 2014 with a late-season doubleheader weekend paying $5,000 on Oct. 24 and $15,000 on Oct. 25. ... Modoc Raceway reopens in early June under new Lenny Hobbs with Crates headlining the track’s events. ... With NDRA folding, Lancaster Speedway joins SECA for 2014. ... Southern All Stars strip Chris Madden of his April 6 victory at Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway after samples of his right-rear tire failed to meet lab testing requirements; Madden denies altering tires but is denied an appeal.
Top performer: Newport’s Jimmy Owens racked up a series-best eight victories in claiming his third consecutive Lucas Oil Series title. Noteworthy Lucas Oil victories included his third consecutive $30,000 Show-Me 100 victory at Lucas Oil Speedway, a $27,000 win at I-80 Speedway’s Silver Dollar Nationals, a $25,000 payday in the Hillbilly 100 at I-77 Raceway Park and his second straight Cotton Pickin’ 100 triumph at Magnolia Motor Speedway.
Best national driver: Jimmy Owens; Mooresburg’s Scott Bloomquist ($100,000 Dream victory at Eldora; $25,000 payday at NDRL’s Pittsburgher 100; Lucas Oil victory at East Bay; WoO win at Volusia).
Best regional drivers: Crossville’s Randy Weaver (seven overall victories led by a $10,000 Southern All Star win at Cleveland); Knoxville’s Billy Ogle Jr. (three Southern All Stars victories and two SRRS wins; second in Spring and Southern Nationals points); Ooltewah’s Riley Hickman (first Southern All Stars title and a $5,000 Ultimate Series win at Lavonia highlight a seven-victory season); Mosheim’s Vic Hill (Spring Nationals victory at Boyd’s and Southern Nationals victory at Volunteer; fourth in Southern Nationals points).
Best weekly drivers: Maryville’s Jason Welshan (claimed first Super victory at Winchester; seven victories between Crate and Limited events highlighted by a $6,000 Clash at the Gap); Soddy Daisy’s Rick Hixson (11 Limited victories between Cleveland and Boyd’s; Cleveland track championship); Spring Hill’s Brad Skinner (weekly Super victories at Duck River, Thunderhill, Tennessee National and Winchester; Duck River championship); McKenzie’s Ronnie Cooper (eight Crate victories among five tracks); Baxter’s Mark Martin (seven Limited wins at Crossville; won Volunteer’s Steel Head Late Model Championship); Cunningham’s Caleb Ashby (seven UMP Super Late Model victories and track title at Clarksville Speedway); Clinton’s Anthony White (seven Limited victories and track title at Wartburg).
Best homegrown performance: After a slow start to the season, Scott Bloomquist proved he’s still a force to reckon with when he dominated the closing portions of Eldora Speedway’s Dream to claim his record sixth Dream victory and his first Eldora victory in five years.
Most improved drivers: Former drag racer Cory Hedgecock, 21, of Loudon continued his transition to circle track racing with double-digit Limited Late Model victories at 411 Motor Speedway — including a $3,000 payday in the track’s Steel Head Nationals — and another win at Volunteer Speedway.
Best newcomer: After claiming 22 victories and two track titles in Crate Late Model action in 2012, Jason Welshan of Maryville makes the jump to Supers with Kyle Motorsports and picks up a win at Winchester Speedway and finishes second in SRRS points.
Most memorable moment: Billy Ogle Jr.’s last-corner slide job in Duck River’s Schaeffer Oil Southern Nationals event sent leader Chris Madden into the fence, allowing Eric Jacobsen to slip past both of them for an unlikely victory.
Biggest news: The future of Cleveland Speedway remains in doubt with a Dec. 19 bankruptcy hearing set to decide the fate of the 58-year-old southeast Tennessee facility. ... A busy 2014 season will see all three national tours visit Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville between March 8 and June 21. The track’s 12-race schedule also includes races for the Spring Nationals, Southern All Stars, SRRS, Ultimate and Southern Nationals regional tours. ... Two-time series champ Scott Bloomquist drops off the Lucas Oil tour in June after nearly five years as a series regular. ... 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour announces a return to NeSmith sanctioning for its Crates in 2014 after a one-year hiatus. ... In December, long-time Tennessee track operators Doug Sopha and Monty Morrow announce plans to reopen the former Murphy Speedway near Sweetwater, Tenn., as I-75 Motor Speedway. The new owners plan to shorten the 5/8-mile track to a third-mile oval before kicking off Saturday night racing in April. ... Camden Speedway picks up NeSmith sanctioning for its Crate Late Model division in 2014, teaming up with nearby Clayhill Motorsports in Atwood to run the cars on alternating Saturday nights. ... McCarter Brothers Racing of Sevierville absorbs the Loudon, Tenn.-based team of Matt Henderson with Henderson to share driving duties with Pierce and Mack McCarter. ... Former driver Buster Cardwell of Knoxville dies in May after a lengthy battle with cancer; he was 59. ... Also in June, Wayne Burns sells Thunderhill Raceway to Tennessee National Raceway owner Bill Hibbits.