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!
Barbecue and Cokes will bring people in.
Jacky Jones Ford has been the title sponsor of the Champ Show for several years.
Former pavement Late Model driver Mike Davidson now owns the dirt track in Toccoa.
Longtime pavement Late Model crew chief Jeff Mintz (right) is now the race director at Toccoa Raceway. Former Lanier National Speedway and New Smyrna Speedway general manager Terry Roberts (center) is now Toccoa’s marketing man. They’re shown with Billy Power, who is in charge of facilities.
Host Charles Head (right) and his first producer Dave Sherman (left) chat with dirt Late Model driver Kenny Collins. “Super Dave” competed in sportsman races at Lanier for several years. (The yellow sign is backwards here so it could show up on Facebook Live.
Here are items from the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame Association, including its quarterly publication Pioneer Pages. GARHOFA co-sponsored the anniversary show.
Former Lanier Late Model driver Tom Schuette (left) is shown with his son Sylvan (center), who now competes at Toccoa.
Toccoa resident and former USAR Hooters Pro Cup driver Jabe Jones (right) is shown with his parents, including longtime area racer Jabez Jones (center).
Hartwell Speedway owners Joyce and Marty Lance were on hand.
Ford dealership owner Jacky Jones (left) disperses an employee meeting, possibly to get barbecue.
Chairs like this one have been around since 1990.
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!
ARCA Menards Series East race winner Sam Mayer with two GMS Racing crew members (Kim Kemperman photo)
Pro Late Model race winners Jett Noland (50) and Nicholas Naugle (08) – Michael Fettig/Action Shots Photography
ARCA Menards Series East teenage stars Ty Gibbs (18) and Sam Mayer (21) lapping Brian Finney (80) – Mike Lysakowski/Motorsport Aspects
Wimmer Motorsports driver Jesse Love was the only two-time Super Late Model race winner during this World Series (Kim Kemperman photo)
Super Late Model stars Augie Grill (112), Sammy Smith (51) and eventual World Series champion Derek Griffith (12) – Kim Kemperman photo
Pro Late Model Sunday race winner Giovanni Scelzi (16) lapping Chuck Tuck – Todd Ridgeway photo
Pro Late Model champion Jamie Skinner (5) and his top teammate Hayden Sprague (51) – Todd Ridgeway photo
Daniel Dye (43), Jett Noland (50), Jerick Johnson (76), Hayden Sprague (51), Connor Mosack (28) and Jamie Skinner (5) start a Pro Late Model feature (Kim Kemperman photo)
Gus Dean’s primary Florida Speedweeks mission was his ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts at Daytona International Speedway, but he found time to run three Super Late Model races at New Smyrna in a car tuned by David “Buggy” Pletcher (Jim Carson photo)
Derek Griffith and the LCM Motorsports crew, plus his girlfriend Emily Lanpher, were the top darlings of Speedweeks, with his Super Late Model championship and his second-place finish in the ARCA Menards Series East race in his heavy-car debut (Kim Kemperman photo)
Pro Late Model drivers who peaked with fourth-place finishes: Hunter Wright (29) and Brandon Brilliant (12) – Kim Kemperman photo
Daniel Dye watches the end of a Late Model race. He also suffered a DNF in his ARCA Menards Series East race (Mike Lysakowski/Motorsport Aspects)
Pro Late Model driver Phillip Bessette was among the veterans happy to just make laps, often near the back of the field (Jim Carson photo)
Stephen Nasse is interviewed after his Super Late Model victory in the next-to-last Super Late Model race of the week (Kim Kemperman photo)
Orange Blossom Super Late Model 100 race winner Ty Majeski is joined by Andrew Hart, the son of track owner Robert Hart (Michael Fettig/Action Shots Photography)
Pro Late Model champion Jamie Skinner with his second full-week protege Christian Rose (Jim Carson photo)
Super Late Model rookie Max Calles-McDonald with his crew chief and engine specialist Jerrad Warren (Jim Carson photo)
Low-budget veteran David Weaver survived for a Speedweeks-career-best second-place finish in the Sunday Pro Late Model race (Michael Fettig/Action Shots Photography)
Multi-time Super Late Model track champion David Rogers drives away from a wreck which ended his Speedweeks two nights early (Michael Fettig/Action Shots Photography)
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.
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.
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!
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)
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)
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)
Travis Braden watches his car owner Bill Burba make an adjustment on his Super Late Model. Burba also drove in the modified class.
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.
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)
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)
Pro Late Model rookie Austin MacDonald (left) prepares for a race with King Racing crew chief Andrew Hicken.
Todd Stone starts a Pro Late Model race from the pole next to Jeremy Miller (Kim Kemperman photo)
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).
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)
Super Late Model rookie Trey Bayne saw his Speedweeks end after the second night. (Mike Lysakowski/ Motorsport Aspects)
Pro Late Model champion Sammy Smith enjoys his final trip to victory lane with his father Kurt.
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)
Derek Griffith emerges from his car with a victory in the 100-lap Super Late Model finale. (Michael Fettig/ actionshotsphotography.com)
Travis Braden gets loose in front of Super Late Model Orange Blossom 100 winner Derek Griffith. (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)
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)
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)
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.
Former Pro Late Model champion and new chassis builder Dakota Stroup (left) mentored rookie Sam Johnson.