Ridgeway … his way

Happy Monday, everyone! (Yes, that is a possible outcome and not a contradiction in terms.)

This weekend the racing world remembered the great Jack Ingram, whose obituary will appear in the next edition of Late Model Digest to be released July 9. Earlier this year the racing community lost former NASCAR youngster driver Eric McClure, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser, NASCAR pioneer Charlie Glotzbach, former FIA president Max Mosley, MotoGP development-series rider Jason Dupasquier and others.

But one has hit the Late Model world harder than anyone – perhaps even harder than the death of official Rusty Crews on the third night of Florida Speedweeks at New Smyrna Speedway. On June 18, Todd Ridgeway suffered a serious motorcycle accident in his home state of Ohio, and three days later he passed away.

Todd was best-known as a photographer, usually around his home area on pavement and dirt tracks, but also every February in the Sunshine State where he’d tell me stories about Daytona, Volusia and East Bay between races at New Smyrna. He also wrote now and then, about racing and also high school football. A large part of his day job was pulling a large animal trailer, hauling bulls to farms around the Midwest, and he had some good road stories (usually about food, which as we all know is a crucial part of any road trip).

Todd was only 56. His mom Judy and son Matthew are still around, as are plenty of other relatives and friends who will think about him more than anyone. The news of his passing from a week ago has really put a damper on this racing season for me.

Here are the two most recent editions of Late Model Digest; just copy the links into your web browser, or contact us if you’d like to have a format that would be easier to print yourself. The June 11 issue contains Todd’s last-ever photo in LMD. RIP Todd.

LMD 33-11 (6/11/21): online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/icrd/

LMD 33-12 (6/25/21): online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/brsy/

Todd Ridgeway (Earl Isaacs photo)

Memorial Day binge

Hello! We hope you’re having a great Memorial Day weekend. There’s plenty of racing over the holiday, but please remember the reason for the season, so to speak.

Plenty of families have people who never returned home from their time in the service. (And remember that the day to honor living veterans is in November, and the day set aside for honoring those on active duty was about two weeks ago.)

For some, a favorite activity on Memorial Day is binge-watching TV shows. Several channels have marathons of popular shows (or war movies).

Well, here’s another type of marathon which you can enjoy anytime. Here are the links to the 10 issues of Late Model Digest from 2021. Enjoy, especially if you’ve missed one. The next one is scheduled for release June 11; look for it that evening on the LMD Facebook page or get on our email list.

LMD 33-01 (1/22/21): online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/zejm/

LMD 33-02 (2/05/21): online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/wcsy/

LMD 33-03 (2/19/21): online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/qoeo/

LMD 33-04 (3/05/21): online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/fseu/

LMD 33-05 (3/19/21): online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/exfn/

LMD 33-06 (4/02/21): online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/ehuv/

LMD 33-07 (4/16/21): online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/oxbo/

LMD 33-08 (4/30/21): online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/gqhg/

LMD 33-09 (5/14/21): online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/gkxd/

LMD 33-10 (5/28/21): online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/zgdx/

A final Beach vacation

The 2020 season has had another dark cloud hanging over it, at least in and near the Carolinas. Before the racing season began, Myrtle Beach Speedway was the subject of rumors of its demise. Then during the coronavirus layoff, the death knell of the historic .538-mile oval was confirmed. By the end of the year – and possibly as early as right after the August 18 Sun Fun 101 race – the track will be sold and earmarked for demolition and development.

The two latest issues of Late Model Digest, found at the two links below, include pieces on the Myrtle Beach track. At least there is a positive spin, with the MBS owners taking over Florence Motor Speedway; frequent Florence race winner Jamey Lee has his thoughts in the issue completed this past Friday.

LMD 32-10 (7/03/20): online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/ejkq/

LMD 32-11 (7/17/20): online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/emta/

Anyway, the photo is from the lovely Porsha, during a 2014 visit over Independence Day weekend. Twin-50 Late Model Stock Car races were on tap, and this was the way things looked just after the first race. The storm came a few minutes later, and by then I had congratulated the winner Jeremy McDowell and gotten his phone number for a call later, then Porsha and I got the heck out of there. The bottom fell out about 15 seconds after we hustled into the Beef o’ Brady’s in a nearby shopping center.

Those of you who have been to MBS surely have stories that don’t involve rainouts, but this is definitely the coolest photo we’ve produced from there.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Some special numbers

The latest issue of Late Model Digest, released May 8, contains our judgments of the top current pavement Late Model performers using each of the 110 one- and two-digit car numbers.

Remember that LMD editions are now digital and free. Last Friday’s issue is available here: http://online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/kpvl/

There were some very close races, so to speak, for the top honors of some of the numbers. Some were reflected in the cover images, such as the #02 of Late Model Stock Car standouts C.E. Falk III and Justin Milliken, and the #26 of Super Late Model powerhouses Bubba Pollard and Travis Braden plus LMSC star Peyton Sellers.

One number with surprisingly few Late Model regulars using it was #18. I figured plenty more would try to copy Kyle Busch, the most polarizing driver in NASCAR today, but there weren’t that many regulars. Keep in mind that Georgia superstar Casey Roderick was not considered because he’s switching to #25 with his own team this year, and that outlaw Late Model standout Steve Needles and his car owner Brian Short went to #14 at the start of 2019 in memory of Needles’ former car owner Terry Gentry.

And there were some numbers which not many drivers use at all, like the #62 and #69. Personal story: once I was in the infield at New Paris IN for qualifying of the Summer Sizzler. At that time the cars qualified in the order of their car numbers, with a draw determining the starting point. There were several duplicate numbers in the field (a lot of #10s). I remember chatting with another photographer, saying that if I ever owned a car (don’t count on it), I’d pick a number that no one uses, like #85. And sure enough, there was an #85 in the field; I don’t remember who it was or whether or not he made the feature.

We did a number contest piece like this one other time, in the off-season before the 2007 campaign got rolling. That was 11 years before the digital switch for LMD, so it was still printed on paper. For that article each driver’s accomplishments were almost exclusively judged on the previous season, instead of several recent seasons like we did in last week’s edition. Back then we also considered ARCA, Pro Cup and what was then called the NASCAR Camping World Series (now merged with ARCA); now it’s only about pavement Late Models.

Since we can’t reproduce that article here (it’s buried in a storage unit), we could find the list of selected drivers from 2007 (with refreshers for some of those names which may be unfamiliar):

0 Mark Bliss, Arcade NY (2006 champion at Holland NY and Erie PA)

00 Jeremie Whorff, West Bath ME (won Oxford 250)

1 David Prunty, Brownsville WI (champion at Slinger)

01 Philip Morris, Ruckersville VA (also selected this year; Jason Hierwarter photo)


2 A.J. Curreli, Oviedo FL (Limited Late Model Speedweeks champ)

02 Ricky Bilderback, Rockton IL (Big 8 champion and Michael’s uncle … runs in the family)

3 Joey McCarthy, Mendham NJ

03 Jim Pettit II, Prunedale CA

4 Frank Deiny Jr., Ashland VA (champion at Old Dominion)

04 Mike Osgar, Mansfield OH

5 J.R. Norris, Birmingham AL (final NASCAR Southeast Series champion)

05 Eric Schmidt, Roseville CA (also selected this year; Kevin Peters photo)


6 Jeff Belletto, Salida CA

06 Bobby Gill, Dalton GA

7 Landon Cassill, Cedar Rapids IA (yeah, that guy)

07 Jeff Scofield, Plant City FL

8 Cassius Clark, Farmington ME (six PASS wins in 2006)

08 Deac McCaskill, Raleigh NC (LMSC champion at Southern National … happens a lot)

9 Will Thomas, Sharpsville PA

09 Scott Grossenbacher, San Antonio FL

10 Jack Landis, Edgerton OH

11 Jeff Lane, Knightsville IN

12 Rip Michels, Mission Hills CA (final NASCAR Southwest Series champion)

13 Charlie Menard, Eau Claire WI

14 Kevin Richards, Spokane WA

15 Colt James, Buda TX

16 Peyton Sellers, Danville VA

17 Chris Gabehart, Louisville KY (now Denny Hamlin’s NASCAR Cup crew chief)

18 Ronnie Sanders, Fayetteville GA

19 Fredrick Moore, Gainesville GA

20 Shelby Howard, Greenwood IN (won three Pro Cup races in 2006)

21 Tim Schendel, Sparta WI

22 Matt Hawkins, Canton GA (damn)

23 Eddie Van Meter, Indianapolis IN

24 Mike Rowe, Turner ME

25 John Dillon, Boise ID

26 Bubba Pollard, Senoia GA (also selected this year)


27 Greg Edwards, Poquoson VA (was #21 this year)

28 Jack Smith, Medina OH

29 Andy Loden, Stanley NC

30 Dave Mader III, Irvington AL

31 Kyle Grissom, Concord NC

32 Jean-Paul Cyr, Milton VT

33 M.K. Kanke, Frazier Park CA (became NASCAR Southwest’s all-time wins leader)

34 David Clark, Clayton NC (SLM champion at Southern National)

35 Kris Stump, Tipp City OH

36 Dan Fredrickson, Elko MN (also selected this year; Doug Hornickel/fastlapphoto.com)


37 Terry Senneker, Wayland MI (back when he was just a driver and employee at Lee Anderson’s Perfect Circle Race Cars)

38 Bo Miller, Bowling Green KY

39 Shane Harding, Surrey BC

40 Matt Kobyluck, Oakdale CT

41 Donny Reuvers, Dundas MN (champion at Elko and the old Raceway Park)

42 Andy Hanson, Ramsey MN (champion at I-94 … dang, what happened to Minnesota tracks?)

43 Van Knill, Tucson AZ (champion at Irwindale CA)

44 Clay Rogers, Concord NC (runaway Pro Cup champion)

45 Brian Hoar, Williston VT

46 Troy Conrad, Puyallup WA (Northwest Late Model Challenge champion)

47 Chris Fontaine, Lakeland FL

48 Dave O’Blenis, Boundary Creek NB

49 Rob Clarke, London ON

50 Jamey Caudill, Four Oaks NC

51 Joey Logano, Middletown CT (yeah, that Joey Logano, who won twice in Pro Cup in 2006)

52 Dave Pembroke, Montpelier VT

53 Boris Jurkovic, Joliet IL (won All-American 400)

54 Johnny Clark, Hallowell ME

55 Alex Yontz, Walnut Cove NC (won LMSC at Martinsville VA)

56 Danny Burson, Albuquerque NM (USLMA champion)

57 Joe Winchell, Davie FL

58 Burgess White, Columbus OH

59 Gary Whipkey, Doylestown OH

60 Ron Beauchamp Jr., Windsor ON

61 Mike Olsen, North Haverhill NH (champion of Busch East, now K&N East … er, ARCA Menards East)

62 Eric Holmes, Escalon CA

63 Jim Crabtree Jr., Muncie IN

64 Garrett Evans, Wenatchee WA (also selected this year; Michele Martin/Horsepower Project)


65 Tim Ice, Columbus OH

66 Benny Gordon, DuBois PA (won Pro Cup Northern division)

67 Gordie Ryan, Wellington NS

68 Mike Giessen, Greenacres FL

69 Brandon Riehl, Boring OR

70 Jeff Choquette, West Palm Beach FL

71 John Grega, Fruitport MI

72 Scott Hantz, Angola IN

73 Gary Lewis, Snohomish WA (final NASCAR Northwest champion)

74 Jay Middleton, Lake City FL

75 Mike Doss, Upper Lake CA (his son Jeremy was selected this year)

76 Jason Weinkauf, Merrill WI

77 Steve Portenga, Sparks NV

78 Charlie Bradberry, Chelsea AL (damn)

79 Joe Aramendia, New Braunfels TX (champion at San Antonio)

80 Donald Theetge, Boischatel QC

81 Jesse Smith, Wildwood MO (ASA Late Model Series Northern division champion)

82 Tom Thomas, Grandville MI (also selected this year; Stan Kalwasinski photo)


83 Jim Sikes Jr., Fountain CO

84 J.R. Fitzpatrick, Cambridge ON (also selected this year; Dan Little Jr. Photography)


85 Trent Snyder, Ironton MN

86 Dennis Demers, Shelburne VT

87 Nathan Haseleu, Sun Prairie WI

88 Brent Kirchner, LaCrosse WI

89 Kelly Bires, Mauston WI (ASA Late Model Challenge Series champion)

90 Keeton Hanks, Auburn KY

91 Jason Hedrick, Graham WA

92 Jason Hogan, Cleveland GA

93 Jack Bailey, Stafford VA

94 Mark Smith, Meyersdale PA

95 Shane Brafford, Concord NC (champion at hometown track)

96 Steven Davis, Satsuma AL

97 John Flemming, Halifax NS

98 Brandon Ward, Winston-Salem NC (was #62 this year)

99 Bryon Chew, Mattituck NY




Back when social distancing wasn’t a thing …

A personal note from Jim Carson, and something which should have been posted almost three weeks ago (can’t totally blame COVID-19 for this delay) …

One of my racing mentors/influences is a radio show host, track announcer and former PR man named Charles Head. His weekly show airs Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. Eastern on WCON FM-99.3 in northeast Georgia, and now it’s also on Facebook Live (and when there’s a Braves baseball conflict, WCON airs it after the game). The show (originally called CHAMP: Charles Head’s American Motorsports Program, before he gave up on the all caps) was on another area radio station at the beginning, and both stations can be picked up in my hometown of Anderson SC.

Nowadays the Champ Show deals mostly with drivers at three northeast Georgia dirt tracks (Toccoa, where Charles announces, plus Lavonia and Hartwell), or out-of-town racers from upcoming touring series which visit the region. But there’s usually one guest per hour-long episode from the pavement world, either someone from Anderson Motor Speedway or a Georgian who has recently done something great on asphalt (Bubba Pollard has been on numerous times, and Chandler Smith called in after his ARCA Menards Series win at Phoenix two weeks ago).

March 5 was the 30th anniversary edition of the Champ Show, now sponsored by Jacky Jones Ford in Cleveland GA. The service bays at Jacky Jones hosted the anniversary celebration that evening, with some BBQ from a nearby greasy spoon, and Charles invited anyone who has been a guest on the show at some point … including me. I’ve been on for a segment every year or two (usually in December when he’s desperate for guests) since joining Late Model Digest, and once from the late 1990s when I was the only sports staffer at the Anderson Independent-Mail daily newspaper who cared about racing.

Here are a few photos from that night. Click on the photos for descriptions. The one on the bottom … well, Porsha had to get that photo of me making a strange hand gesture when I was behind the mike. (Speaking of Mike, that’s area dirt track legend and famed quote machine Mike Head whose shoulder Porsha is shooting around. He was one lap short of winning the last time I attended a dirt track race, at Lavonia, three days after 9/11/01.)

Here’s hoping that pavement and dirt tracks are back in action really soon. Stay safe, everyone!



A world of photos from the World Series


It’s one day later than promised, but we hope it’s worth it for you. Here’s a final look from LMD at the 54th annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, run Feb. 7-15 at New Smyrna Speedway in Samsula FL.

Obviously the Speedweeks festivities were the focus of the most recent issue of LMD (if you haven’t seen it, click on this link or paste it into your browser: online.pubhtml5.com/fpdm/rckf/

We couldn’t include many of the photos sent to us throughout the week, so here are some more, thanks to longtime contributors Michael Fettig, Kim Kemperman, Mike Lysakowski and Todd Ridgeway.

Remember that LMD is now free to read. If you’re not on the mailing list, contact us through this site or our Facebook page. The next issue is set to be released March 6.

Enjoy the rest of your winter!

Dog days … of January?

We can’t say that the dog ate our homework, but we may have said “b*!@#” or “son of a b*!@#” once or twice in the past few days.

Last Thursday we were finishing layout of the first issue of LMD, so that it could be released on the scheduled day, last Friday. One page was left to be transferred and fitted, and then came what we thought was a simple computer glitch. It wasn’t so simple, as evidenced by this notice on the screen.

Bad Screen Shot 2020-01-24 at 11.20.57 AM

You can save a computer document every two minutes, but when you get that notice you’re kinda screwed, because in this case it doesn’t matter how often you’ve saved it; every backup is also corrupted and can’t be opened. It means you have to start all over, and that’s a full day of work. And that was on top of a trip to SpeedFest at Cordele, Ga., plus travel time (and here’s a confession: I have an aunt and uncle about a 40-minute drive south of Crisp Motorsports Park and I wasn’t going to give up the planned Brunswick-stew supper with him the night before the SpeedFest features) and some family commitments the next day.

Maybe it was fitting that the last page that was originally left to be laid out was the Pit Notes page, which contained a number of obituaries from the short-track world from the past five weeks … because our hopes of a timely release of this issue died.

So that’s why the issue dated January 24 wasn’t sent out to our mailing list until January 27. By the way, you can now get on that mailing list for no charge, because we have made it free this year. This will mean greater exposure for our valued advertisers, in addition to other benefits for you and for us. Just contact us through this blog or the LMD Facebook page to be included!

Best wishes to everyone heading to Florida Speedweeks soon, or other winter racing events such as those in Irwindale, Calif., or Myrtle Beach, S.C. … and also to anyone who sees a non-reversible error message on a computer.

Every Silver Lining’s Got A Touch of …


If you believe that a racer is only as good as his last race – and I believe that’s a wrong way of thinking – then at least one driver improved by leaps and bounds in mid-October. This photo (thanks, Hunter Thomas/ The Fourth Turn) is how Taylor Gray’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway ended. Two weeks later at Hickory Motor Speedway, the younger brother of 2018 NHRA Pro Stock champion and 2019 NASCAR K&N Pro East Series race winner Tanner Gray found his way back to victory lane, at the Fall Brawl at Hickory Motor Speedway.

Now Taylor won’t have the stigma of just being the guy who rolled his car at Martinsville. That’s unfair anyway, because more than six months before Martinsville, he won in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour, also at Hickory. But it took young Gray only two weeks to shake off the bad label, for an incident that wasn’t really his fault in the first place.

Winning seems to cure almost everything in racing, and not winning leaves situations open for the wrong memories and images. Michael Simko and Don St. Denis are still known for the Glass City 200 windshield-dropkick incident from 2006, and not surprisingly neither have won features since that time (St. Denis races very rarely now and Simko now targets bigger races which are naturally harder to win). Georgia-based Late Model driver Gary Jones’ racing program and reputation never recovered from the event in which he went out of the ballpark over the turn-two wall at the track then called Peach State Speedway in the late 1990s. And it’s going to take something really good to happen for Garrett Smithley in NASCAR’s national series, because he has two incidents of wrecking frontrunners while laps down in 2019 and now he’s known as a backmarker weapon.

So anyone who was at Martinsville or keeping track of that early-October race can feel better for Taylor Gray. Here’s hoping all of you can recover from any rough moments, whether they’re in the distant past or recent weeks.

Caution … for some disagreeable photos

Hello, blog followers … long time, no update, huh?

We’ve been busy trying to get the issues out on a regular basis and dealing with family commitments (nothing to worry about, folks; thanks for your momentary concerns), so sometimes updating this blog falls down the list of priorities. Let’s attempt to rectify that.

In the latest issue of LMD, released to subscribers over the weekend, there were six photos which didn’t come through all that well. Technology can be fickle, can’t it? Anyway, here they are, with the captions and page numbers on which they appeared. We apologize for the imaging errors.

Enjoy your summer, racers and fans!

Shouting out to crews

We all know that racing is a team sport. The crews are most important, whether their major contributions come on race days, in the shop between races, or both.

Some of our favorite stories in LMD focus on crew chiefs and other wrench-turners and/or their relationships with their drivers. Looking deeper at the chemistry between, say, Connor Okrzesik and Mike Garvey, Derek Griffith and Louie Mechalides, or Gabe Sommers and Travis Sauter, adds to regular race stories that you’ll see on the screen/in the pages of LMD. And once in a while there’ll be a successful driver who has become his own crew chief, such as Indiana star Jack Dossey III (featured in the issue following the Rattler weekend, and again in the next issue after his win in the ARCA/CRA Super Series season opener at Anderson Speedway).

Look for more of these types of articles in future editions of LMD. In the meantime, check out this clip of two of Lee Pulliam’s crewmen watching their driver clear Josh Berry for the lead en route to $30,000 in Sunday’s CARS Late Model Stock Tour race at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont NC.

Best wishes for a great season!