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:

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!

Post-Speedweeks bonus

Hello and happy almost-spring,

The latest issue of Late Model Digest, featuring the coverage from the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway, has been released. It will be made free for everyone; just contact us through this website or the LMD Facebook page and we’ll zip it to you. All subscriptions will be extended by two weeks.

It’s possible that the scenes at Speedweeks can’t be properly shown in just 32 pages. Here are some extra looks at the New Smyrna festivities; click on the photos for descriptions and credits.

Enjoy the upcoming season, everyone!