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.
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!
Page 3 (contents; Troy Bregy/ Speedway Photography) ACT at Star Speedway: Wayne Helliwell Jr. (27), Ryan Kuhn, eventual winner Joey Polewarczyk Jr. (97) and Rich Dubeau
Page 15 (Northwest Nuts & Bolts: MEWrightsportsphotos.com) from the Summer Showdown at Evergreen Speedway: Jason Gilbert (88) and Brandon Farrington (25)
Page 5 (pit notes/obituaries; Stan Kalwasinski collection) Ray Young from the 1970s at Illiana Motor Speedway
Page 12 (Summer Showdown; MEWrightsportsphotos.com) eventual winner and polesitter Preston Peltier (48) and Derek Thorn (43)
Page 13 (Summer Showdown; MEWrightsportsphotos.com) Logan Jewell (92) and Eric Schmidt
Page 6 (track report; Sherri Stearns Photography & Graphic Design) last lap of the June 29 LMSC nightcap at Hickory Motor Speedway; Kevin Leicht (25) and Austin McDaniel (12)
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!
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!
Two of the biggest winners at the 53rd annual World Series were Derek Kraus (9), who scored the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series victory, and Bubba Pollard (11), who won three times in this Super Late Model owned by Florida legend and new cancer patient David Rogers. (Michael Fettig/ actionshotsphotography.com)
Brad May scored his first Speedweeks Super Late Model victory since joining car owner Bobby Sears four years ago. The combination had won several times in Pro Late Model action in previous World Series. (Kim Kemperman photo)
Augie Grill won features in both the Pro Late Model and modified divisions. (Mike Lysakowski/ Motorsport Aspects)
The NASCAR K&N Pro East Series cars zip past a packed main grandstand of the rain-delayed race. (Mike Lysakowski/ Motorsport Aspects)
Chance Jewels spins to the inside of the half-mile as Jerick Johnson (76), two-time Pro Late Model podium finisher Loris Hezemans (5) and Dalton Smith speed past him. (Mike Lysakowski/ Motorsport Aspects)
Drew Dollar (54) and Hailie Deegan (19) prepare for the start of the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series event, just ahead of Brandon McReynolds (74) and Sam Mayer. (Kim Kemperman photo)
Pro Late Model champion Sammy Smith enjoys his final trip to victory lane with his father Kurt.
Super Late Model driver Jared Irvan (right) had crew help on the final night from former NASCAR K&N Pro East Series and USAR Pro Cup driver Reid Wilson (left).
Former Late Model driver and current modified racer Ricky Moxley finishes an order from Brooke Jones, the wife of longtime track photographer and Speedweeks fixture Jim Jones.
Travis Braden gets loose in front of Super Late Model Orange Blossom 100 winner Derek Griffith. (Mike Lysakowski/ Motorsport Aspects)
Travis Kvapil (left), the father of Super Late Model teenage star Carson Kvapil, chats with Dean Strom, who had some announcing duties over the weekend at nearby Daytona International Speedway. Strom was the PR director of the old NASCAR Midwest (RE/Max Challenge) Series when Travis was a regular competitor in 1998-2000.
Wisconsin teenager Gabe Sommers (right), the Super Late Model points runner-up, debriefs after qualifying with his adviser for the week, Travis Sauter.
Super Late Model rookie Trey Bayne saw his Speedweeks end after the second night. (Mike Lysakowski/ Motorsport Aspects)
Jamie Skinner (51) battles Hailie Deegan in Pro Late Model action. Skinner won on Valentine’s Day while Deegan was the opening night runner-up. (Mike Lysakowski/ Motorsport Aspects)
Travis Braden watches his car owner Bill Burba make an adjustment on his Super Late Model. Burba also drove in the modified class.
Derek Griffith emerges from his car with a victory in the 100-lap Super Late Model finale. (Michael Fettig/ actionshotsphotography.com)
Super Late Model champion Bubba Pollard waves to the crowd during Orange Blossom 100 driver introductions, with Logan Seavey (left) and Tate Fogleman awaiting their names to be called. (Michael Fettig/ actionshotsphotography.com)
Jeremy Miller pushes his car through part of the tech line. Miller won two Pro Late Model races but had one taken away because of a body panel measurement violation. (Kim Kemperman photo)
Former Pro Late Model champion and new chassis builder Dakota Stroup (left) mentored rookie Sam Johnson.
Jett Motorsports teammates Tate Fogleman and Jett Noland take a restart from the front row of the Super Late Model Orange Blossom 100. (Kim Kemperman photo)
Todd Stone starts a Pro Late Model race from the pole next to Jeremy Miller (Kim Kemperman photo)
Ty Gibbs (17) and eventual winner Derek Kraus (16) take a late restart up front in the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series race ahead of Colin Garrett (18) and Brandon McReynolds. (Kim Kemperman photo)
Pro Late Model rookie Austin MacDonald (left) prepares for a race with King Racing crew chief Andrew Hicken.
Hello again, and Happy New Year again!
Late January brought the first major events of the pavement Late Model racing season: CRA SpeedFest in Cordele GA (co-headlined by the pictured Pro Late Model battle between #18 Casey Roderick and #71 Dawson Fletcher) and the Chilly Willy 150 weekend in Tucson AZ. Then the first weekend of February contained the SRL Winter Showdown in Bakersfield CA and the Icebreaker at Myrtle Beach SC. Of course there’s always action in the Sunshine State, where they really don’t know the meaning of an off-season.
The first 2019 issue of LMD meant a few pages worth of bonus stories and items, where we tried to give some racers across North America some extra coverage even though they didn’t win races in 2018, plus our annual track listing with any available scheduling and other pertinent information at a glance. But even though we enjoy doing them and they’re an integral part of our off-season, they could be construed as filler stories because there isn’t much going on.
Beginning with the next issue, to be completed this Thursday, the majority of the pages will be filled with the type of coverage you’re used to seeing in LMD, plus some short features to accompany much of this coverage. It’s what LMD has been doing since 1989, what I’ve been doing since 2000, and what has been in a digital page-flipping format since last summer. We’ll still have the regular features such as Catchin’ Up, Meet, Checkered Flag and occasionally a Sponsor Spotlight, but the bulk of the articles will be focused on what’s happening, how it happened and more about the people making it happen.
Thanks for your continued support. Have an enjoyable and safe season!
Hello and Happy New Year!
The first LMD issue of 2019 will be finished two weeks from now. In the meantime, check out a few extra photos from the 51st annual Snowball Derby December 2 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola FL. Thanks to our contributors Buddy Bryan, Kim Kemperman and David Kranak.
Stewart Friesen (112) and Austin Nason get tangled up in an early accident in turn two. (Kim Kemperman photo)
Noah Gragson enjoys a moment with Miss Snowball Derby Helena Ciappina after the biggest victory of his career. (Buddy Bryan photo)
Oklahoma veteran Donnie Wilson (2) and his teammate Cole Butcher battle for position (David Kranak/ Impact Zone Photos)
Connor Okrzesik (14) completes his pass on Casey Roderick for fourth place in the final moments. (David Kranak/ Impact Zone Photos)
Fred Nason, who owns Nason’s Landscaping which is a longtime sponsor of racing in and around northern Illinois, pushes his grandson through the infield. This was the first Five Flags Speedway visit for Fred and his son Austin Nason, who competed in his first Derby. (Jim Carson photo)
Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates Raphael Lessard (51) and eventual winner Noah Gragson (18) battle for the lead in the early moments. (David Kranak/ Impact Zone Photos)
Ty Majeski (91) and Bubba Pollard (26), arguably the two biggest names in pavement Super Late Model racing over the last few years, fight for position. (Kim Kemperman photo)
Polesitter Harrison Burton gets service from his pit crew. (Kim Kemperman photo)
Jeff Choquette (9) escapes a crash involving Perry Patino (89) and Kaden Honeycutt (Buddy Bryan photo)
Kason Plott (19) and Jerry Artuso meet an early end to their Snowball last-chance race runs. (David Kranak/ Impact Zone Photos)
The front 12 rows of the grid line up for their pace laps. (David Kranak/ Impact Zone Photos)
Chris Davidson (right) and his adviser Mike Garvey chat before the last chance race. Davidson won that consi and ran as high as seventh in the main event. (Jim Carson photo)
John DeAngelis Jr. (inside) battles Paul Shafer Jr. in one of several cases of duplicate numbers. (Kim Kemperman photo)
Pensacola native Logan Boyett, who qualified sixth, enjoys some time with fans before the race. (Jim Carson photo)
(Dale Nottestad, newly-crowned champion at Jefferson WI; Mark Melchiori/ mdmracepix.com)
It’s November, and that means there are two issues of Late Model Digest left in the season (after the one we have just released). That also means there will be plenty of track and touring series champions who will be profiled in those last two issues, set to be finished November 15 and December 7.
We realize that our coverage is often geared toward touring action, but this is our chance to tilt the scales the other way. A couple of those track champions are featured in the latest issue, because their stories went along with coverage of the Fall Finale at New London-Waterford Speedbowl and the Senator’s Cup Fall Classic at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Look for at least a dozen more in the next issue, and one will be about the youngest-ever Late Model champion at a facility in Florida.
We’re always welcome to story suggestions, whether they’re about champions or those a bit deeper in the field or outside the box; contact us through this website or our Facebook page.
Thank you for your continued support!