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National notebook

Notes: Upgrades continue at sparkling Golden Isles

February 3, 2016, 9:21 am
From staff and series reports
New stands at Golden Isles. (ronskinnerphotos.com)
New stands at Golden Isles. (ronskinnerphotos.com)

What Golden Isles Speedway promoter Darryl Courson told DirtonDirt.com during December’s Performance Racing Industry trade show in Indianapolis still holds true as the Super Bowl of Racing begins at the 4/10-mile oval near Brunswick, Ga. | Slideshow | Complete Speedweeks coverage

As Courson pointed out while detailing the myriad improvements done to the facility leading up to this week’s season-opening extravaganza of speed, “2016 will be just like 2015 — everybody will have something new to look at.”

Indeed, the transformation of Golden Isles Speedway since it was purchased in July 2014 by Johnny Langdale rolls on. The teams and fans that began arriving at the track Wednesday in advance of three consecutive Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned nights of competition got the first glimpse of the place’s fresh new look.

After attendees of last year’s Super Bowl of Racing were greeted by an array of changes — including a new track wall, wider racetrack, new clay racing surface, redesigned lighting system and a general sprucing up of the grounds — there’s even more significant upgrades for 2016. Since the track’s ’15 season concluded in October, Courson has overseen an army of workers who have put in long hours to construct new bleachers topped by skyboxes and an announcer’s booth, a new concession stand and a new campground; improve the fencing; and install new frontstretch lighting.

And Courson and Co. aren’t done with their plans to make Golden Isles a showplace. After the weekend’s action crews will return to the track and put up another line of bleachers that soar to a height of nearly 50 feet above the existing set and the skyboxes and will double the track’s capacity to approximately 6,000.

There’s no doubt that the Golden Isles management is committed to building a track that’s not only a worthy host of the Lucas Oil tour’s season opener but also a can’t-miss stop on the Georgia-Florida Speedweeks schedule. In fact, along with all the physical improvements, the Super Bowl of Racing has grown even bigger this year with Saturday night’s Lucas Oil Series finale paying a Speedweeks-best $15,000 to win. (Thursday night’s show offers a $7,000 top prize and Friday’s program pays $10,000 to win.)

“We’re hoping to make it the best,” Courson recently told the Deep Dixie Racing website. “I had a text come through me the other day … a man come through, he said, ‘You’ll have to go all the way to Charlotte or on above to see anything any better (than Golden Isles).’ We want to have the best place we can.” — Kevin Kovac

Wilmoth eyes WoO run

Paul Wilmoth Jr. of Clarksburg, W.Va., can’t wait to start his 27th season as a race car driver — and it’s easy to understand why. For the first time in his career, he plans to hit the road on a full-time basis and follow the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series.

“I’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” the 45-year-old Wilmoth said of the WoO circuit. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to run the season this year and do it on the level you need to in order to be competitive. Having the Bloomquist cars, two new engines and the equipment we have is exciting.”

Indeed, Wilmoth is loaded for bear as he heads to the season-opening WoO weekend, the Feb. 12-13 Winter Freeze VI, at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. His long-time friend, former driver Eric Hudkins of Clarksburg, W.Va., reentered the sport as a car owner last summer and has quickly assembled a formidable team that includes three Custom-powered cars (a former Chris Madden-driven Bloomquist Race Car and two Sweet-Bloomquist machines) an experienced crew chief to prepare them in Austin Hargrove, a former World 100 winner with Bart Hartman of Zanesville, Ohio.

Wilmoth owns more than 200 career feature wins in local and regional action, but he’s never competed on a national tour so he’s entered his name to be considered for WoO Rookie of the Year status. He harbors modest aspirations for 2016.

“My main objective is to run the whole season and try to finish every race and every lap,” said Wilmoth, who after Screven will head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., for the Feb. 15-20 DIRTcar Nationals (three UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned events, three WoO programs). “When you finish races you have better chances of winning races, so the main goal is to run well and put all the laps together.” — Jordan Morris

Moran’s move to Wright

Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, is among drivers making the trip to south to enter Lucas Oil Series Georgia-Florida Speedweeks events at Golden Isles Speedway, East Bay Raceway Park and Bubba Raceway Park. With a new sponsor and two new Barry Wright Race Cars, the second-generation driver is ready for the 2016 season to begin.

“The main reason for doing it is because Tommy Pope, the new sponsor we got this year, he wanted to build us two new cars,” Moran, who’s piloted MasterSbilt Race Cars in recent seasons, said of his chassis switch. “He’s kind of been buddies with Jimmy Owens, so that’s the way we went. Since we’ve got them, we’ve been to the track and tested two or three times and we’ve talked to Barry and Lance Wright. So far, we haven’t raced any, but it’s been a really good connection. I’m excited to get the season started.”

Speedweeks is a special time for Moran, who grew up watching dad Donnie compete at East Bay’s Winternationals. The younger Moran has come close to etching his name in the event’s history books, finishing runner-up over the past couple of seasons. He’s looking to change that this year.

“I’ve been watching a bunch of videos on it,” Moran said. “I just want to at least get one win down there. Obviously East Bay is one of my favorites, if not my favorite track. I really want to run good down there. Dad always ran good down there. Everybody always remembers seeing Dad down there, or I always remember watching him down there. It just means a lot to me to go down there and run good.

“In my opinion, it’s one of the raciest tracks. I just want to go down there and have a solid week. We’re going to have some struggles and stuff, just because we have new cars. But I think if we just keep working through it, we’ll get through it and hopefully have a good week.”

Past Speedweeks, Moran’s not certain of his 2016 plans. While he’s not ruling out another run on the Lucas Oil Series, nothing is set in stone either.

“Right now, we aren’t planning on anything,” Moran said. “We’re going to go to Brunswick and East Bay, and we are going to go to Ocala. And then our next two races on the schedule are Atomic and Brownstown. I like both of those places, they aren’t too far away. I’m going to go into each race with everything I’ve got and we’ll see how it goes. If I run good, we might keep on it. If we aren’t doing worth a crap or tearing stuff up, then we’ll not worry about it at all and go do a bunch of regional stuff.” — Alli Collis

Coulter focuses on dirt

Joey Coulter is a name a lot of racing fans may recognize — from his four-year stint (2011-14) as a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular and occasional NASCAR Xfinity Series competitor, of course.

This year the 25-year-old driver from Concord, N.C., is hoping that he’ll start to be known for his exploits in a Dirt Late Model as well. Two years removed from his last of 91 career Truck Series starts, Coulter plans to focus on dirt-track action in 2016 as he eyes a potential chase of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series Rookie of the Year award.

A native of Miami Springs, Fla., Coulter began his racing career in 1998 competing primarily on asphalt tracks in Late Model and Truck events before moving up to the ARCA Racing series in 2009 and then to the NASCAR Trucks in 2011. He was the Truck Series’s Rookie of the Year in ’11 driving for Richard Childress Racing and captured his lone victory on the series in 2012 at Pocono Raceway before racing for Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2013 and GMS Racing in ’14.

After dabbling in the Dirt Late Model ranks during his Truck racing years, Coulter devoted most of his 2015 to running Super and Crate Late Models on dirt. He enjoyed the challenge, sparking his interest in testing his talents on the high-profile WoO tour in ’16.

“I am super excited,” said Coulter, who has won features on dirt in the Crate Late Model division. “This is going to be a first for me and my family race team. We have ran Coulter Motorsports for a long time, but mainly on pavement. Then a couple years ago my mom decided to grab the bull by the horns and get us into dirt racing.

“As things progressed on the dirt side, my NASCAR stuff started to diminish so we decided to make this move serious. Now we have Rum Runner Racing and we are going to give this World of Outlaws thing a shot.”

Coulter, who in the off-season decided to pursue a college degree at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has done some winter testing with his Dirt Late Model in Florida in preparation for the Feb. 12-13 WoO-sanctioned Winter Freeze VI at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., and the Feb. 15-20 DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.

“We have a lot to learn and we are in a position to learn it with help from Mark Richards and Rocket Chassis,” Coulter said. "I probably still haven't run 100 races total yet on dirt. The world of dirt is still new, but it is so cool the way the fans are involved. Being in NASCAR and now on dirt, I can say the hard-core racing fans go to dirt racing and it's amazing.” — Jordan Morris

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