(updated April 24)
Quotable: Assorted sound bites from the Late Model world from the past six months:
"They can talk to everybody until they're blue in the face, but it's up to us to get the show in without suffocating when we get the helmets on."
- Nick Gullatta, on the drivers meeting before the ARCA/CRA Super Series opener at Toledo Speedway. The previous CRA-sanctioned race was SpeedFest in Cordele, Ga., where there were 24 cautions in 200 laps and was a general disaster. The 150-lap Toledo feature was slowed only five times. Gullatta finished eighth.
"It's real fun getting to race against the Southern boys like Bubba Pollard and Kyle Benjamin. I'm sure them guys watch us and we watch them and see them in Late Model Digest. They've been kicking some butt down there. To be able to beat them here
maybe we ain't too far off."
- Skylar Holzhausen, who finished third at Toledo; the race was a combination event with the ARCA Midwest Tour. Pollard placed fifth and Benjamin 11th.
"I broke exactly the same vertebra as Denny Hamlin. I'd love to talk to him about it. Everybody says he'll be back in a few weeks, but if that kid gets in that car before six months, he's an ass."
- George Bessette, who won the Pro Stock feature at the Icebreaker at Thompson, Conn. In July 2005 Bessette suffered a back injury and was out of racing until the following spring.
"Bobby Wilberg works at Lefthander. He said, 'That dash bar's bent a little bit, but it don't know the difference."
- Alex Papini, on the often-reclipped Limited Late Model he used to win the Big 8 Spring Classic at Rockford Speedway in Loves Park, Ill. Seven-time track champion Wilberg started next to Papini on the front row, but he was taken out in an early accident.
"I made some enemies the first time I was there. I voted for double-file restarts. If you don't entertain the people on the other side of the track, then you might not be at the track."
- Troy McNabb, on his first time in a Florida United Promoters Late Model Series drivers meeting in March at Auburndale Speedway. At the first few races, series director Rick Williams put single- or double-file restarts to a vote of the drivers, and single-file won the first two. They'll be double-file the rest of the season.
"Mobile's given quite a few of 'em out that's pretty big. The guitar's awesome too; there's nothing better than a guitar."
- Bubba Pollard, winner of the inaugural Southern Super Series race at Nashville, Tenn., on the seven-foot-tall trophy he received. Pollard has won several tall pieces of hardware at Mobile International Speedway in Irvington, Ala.
"This is the funnest racetrack in the world. I hope or wish or whatever that the people that are involved with this city and this facility would just realize how much for us it's a treat."
- Dennis Schoenfeld, who finished sixth in that SSS race, on Fairgrounds Speedway. The past few years have been tumultous for the historic Nashville track, to the point where mayor Karl Dean declared an October 2010 race to be its last (missed on that one, youronner). With support from fans and returning promoter Tony Formosa, its future seems safer, with races scheduled about once a month from April to November.
"It's basically the tracks we run all the time anyway."
- Augie Grill, on the SSS schedule which includes trips to Mobile, Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., Montgomery Motor Speedway in Catoma, Ala., Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., and the season finale back at Nashville in the reborn All-American 400.
"It's good to be a position like that, but it's time for someone else."
- Jacob Gomes, on Derek Thorn's run of eight wins in the last 12 Spears SRL Southwest Tour races, including both in 2013. Gomes finished third in the April 6 race at Stockton 99 Speedway and has four wins since 2011, but none since Thorn started his hot streak.
"It looks like a big quilted blanket. But they made sure we bought all the right pieces for the race car first."
- Jim Parker, the crew chief for Jay Beasley who won the first two Super Late Model races of the year at the Bullring at Las Vegas, Nev., on Beasley's firesuit which appeared to be two sizes too large for him.
"She was the biggest surprise of all. She made me work harder than a lot of people have made me work at Tucson in the past."
- Scott Rueschenberg, who won the first race at the reopened Tucson Speedway, on second-place finisher Mariah McGriff, a Late Model rookie who is the granddaughter of West Coast legend Hershel McGriff.
"I don't know what it is that makes me a black sheep, but I'm good with it. I can handle it. I'm a big boy."
- Preston Peltier, the all-time winningest driver in the PASS South Super Late Model Series and the winner of its Easter Bunny 150 March 30 at Hickory, N.C., on the fact that he sometimes seems to get more than his share of the blame for contact. Trevor Sanborn felt that Peltier squeezed him out of his groove too much on a late restart in this race.
"Qualifying is two laps and pays $100. The race is 150 laps but pays $3,000."
- Chris Lawson, the crew chief for Ronnie Bassett Jr. in UARA. Bassett won the pole for the March 23 show at Hickory Motor Speedway, then fell back as far as seventh in a conservative race plan before coming back to lead the last 10 laps and win for the second straight time in the Late Model Stock Car tour this spring.
"I got real excited. I haven't won since I've been in legends cars."
- Ben Rhodes, who tried to take the lead from Justin Milliken on the last lap of the Myrtle Beach 250 LMSC race but was penalized after they made contact and Milliken spun. The 16-year-old Rhodes is in his second full year of LMSC racing and first with Hawk-McCall Motorsports.
"They've used the same compound for four or five years, and I've struggled for four or five years here."
- Casey Smith, the third-place finisher in the Hardee's Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway, on the Hoosier F40 tires used at SAS. Years ago Smith won several times in Super Late Models at SAS.
"I'm a snake guy. I love snakes. I just don't like the ones that'll kill me."
- Rattler runner-up Stephen Nasse. Area snake handlers revived the race's dormant tradition of draping a rattlesnake over the winner's shoulders for victory lane ceremonies, and this year they did the same treatment to the second-place finisher. Supposedly the snakes aren't dangerous in early-mid-March because they aren't fully out of hibernation.
"I wonder what he'd be more scared of, that or the rattlesnake."
- Freddie Query, crew chief for Rattler winner Kyle Benjamin. Query didn't tell his 15-year-old driver that one of the right front wheel studs had broken off, and after the race they discovered a second stud was missing.
"Jeff Fultz's car owner came up and asked what it'd take to get one of them made. I said, 'You probably don't wanna have one of them made.' "
- South Alabama Speedway owner John Dykes, on the Rattler 250 trophy. The hardware cost more than $300 because of the snake heads and body that Dykes has to order.
"I wouldn't've come down here if I only had one car."
- Russell Fleeman, on running the Grasshopper Pro Late Model 125 on Rattler weekend. Fleeman was in an accident, and this car wouldn't have been ready by the March 30 Larry Fleeman Memorial race at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga. Russell had another car in place for the race honoring his father.
"Midway through Friday night practice, they brought in this crazy-looking contraption in the back of a pickup truck. It was full of liquid nitrogen, just for making homemade ice cream for all of us with SRL. It's something else that shows how much they appreciate the racers."
- Tim Huddleston, the father of SRL S2 race winner and California teenager Trevor Huddleston, at the Spears SRL Southwest Tour season opener at Madera Speedway. This was the first raceday exposure of the Huddleston family to SRL procedures. S2 is a growing entry-level class which will accompany half of the premier SRL series' dates in 2013.
"That's got nothing to do with her name, but everybody asks me that."
- Bradley McCaskill, whose daughter was born in December; her name is Kinley. His home track is Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, N.C., and the girl's name and the town are pronounced the same way.
"I think I've only got one person mad at me; that's not too bad."
- Ryan Wilson, after finishing third in the season-opening Late Model Stock Car race at Caraway Speedway near Asheboro, N.C.
"You win some and you lose some. Actually you win some and you lose a lot."
- Preston Peltier, who finished second in the PASS South race at Dillon Motor Speedway after Austin Theriault muscled him out of the lead on the last lap. Peltier has nine wins in the series in about six years of following it.
"It's unbelievable how much you actually have to slow down."
- Theriault, who fell back as far as ninth while saving his tires and equipment in the first half of the race at Dillon, S.C.
"Can you spell calm with a K, like 'Krazy'?"
- 'Krazy' Kevin Powell, who thanked spotter and car owner Dick Woodman for keeping him calm en route to a third-place finish at Dillon. Powell is an exciteable driver and auto/motorcycle dealership owner who does his own voiceovers for radio commercials around Winston-Salem, N.C.
"I said, 'We've got a 3-4-car length lead. Now do what I ask you to do. Gimme two laps higher, and if you don't like it we'll go back to your way.' He moved up and we picked up two tenths. It felt good. I said, 'Then stay up there.' "
- Brandon Ward, the spotter for Jared Fryar during Fryar's Feb. 20 Pro Late Model win at New Smyrna Speedway in Samsula, Fla., trying to get him to run a line higher than the very bottom.
"This time last year I'd never even pictured myself in a Late Model."
- Devin McLeod, during Speedweeks at New Smyrna. McLeod, who won several Pro Late Model races at New Smyrna starting last April and earned the track championship, moved up to a Super Late Model this year with Tim Russell Inc. and won the Feb. 16 SLM feature.
"I don't know him too well to buy him a birthday present. I think that trophy is good enough."
- McLeod, on Russell. McLeod's win, and TRI Pro Late Model driver Joey Mucciacciaro's victory, both came on Russell's 30th birthday.
"I've been learning the whole background on the car and how to calculate roll centers. It really fascinates me. Brad Keselowski's like that. He knows everything that's going on with that car. He could be the crew chief himself. That's the position where I'd like to be."
- Mucciacciaro, a 16-year-old Connecticut driver, on reading a book on motorsports engineering.
"Going fast wasn't an issue. I could go fast right away. It was more how to drive in traffic in the race. Just going fast is one thing. Racing is another."
- Alex Guenette, a 16-year-old Pro Late Model rookie who improved steadily during Speedweeks, ending with a second-place finish in the Feb. 23 finale.
"I didn't get a win, but I got a win."
- David Rogers, who crossed the Wallace, on the major contribution of visiting NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Brian Scott to his team's Derby effort.
"If she doesn't get to hold the checkered flag, she's mad."
- Clay Rogers, on his daughter Ava's reaction when he runs a race and doesn't win. Rogers, the four-time champion in what is now the Rev-Oil Pro Cup Series, is returning to Pro Cup in 2013.
"He's got to have somebody push the car."
- Chris Davidson, on his role on Mike Garvey's crew during SpeedFest at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, Ga. Garvey does a lot of the setup work on Davidson's car when he competes.
"In football the quarterback's the star, but it might be the linemen that might be the heroes."
- Del Merritt, the owner of Speedway 95 near Bangor, Maine, on giving props to his staff after he was named the promoter of the year by Mainely Motorsports at the Northeast Motorsports Expo.
"It was all right in the beginning, or the middle at some point in time."
- Chris Davidson, who finished ninth in the Snowball Derby after qualifying 28th of the 30 Super Late Model drivers who made the field on time at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla.
"He's a Sprint Cup driver, but there's 37 other drivers here that could do the same thing that he does. He has the funds, he has the equipment, and he's a good driver. Put all that in the pot and he's gonna run well."
- Snowball runner-up Jeff Choquette, on third-place finisher and NASCAR national superstar Kyle Busch.
"He took care of our bar tab one night."
- Steve Wallace, on the major contribution of visiting NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Brian Scott to his team's Derby effort.
"It's a lotta damn money, I'll tell you that. I have to go home and recover for the next two months."
- Kevin Crider, the car owner for Chuck Barnes Jr. This was the first time that Crider, from Rolla, Mo., had brought a team to the Derby.
"I'd like to see someone try and keep up with me during the day."
- Joe Nemechek, father of Super Late Model rookie and second-fastest Snowball qualifier John Hunter Nemechek. Joe also owns and drives for NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series teams. Two crew members take care of John Hunter's Late Model and Allison Legacy cars.
"I got what I deserved last year. I got sent home. It was still discouraging, but I'm just not a quitter so I came anyways. We had a fair amount of people here, but nobody showed up a week and a half before, so I was working 'til 2-3 in the morning every night. This year it's been much better. This year we were all together, and we were all laying on it and doing what we were supposed to do, and it showed
- Steve Dorer, who qualified 20th for the Derby this year after missing the main event in 2011.
"I thought our lap was better than that. I guess it wasn't."
- Mike Garvey, who used a Blizzard points provisional to make the Derby field. Garvey won one of the Blizzard races during the season and was a serious contender in most of the other four in-season events.
"The main people that like it was kids and old people."
- Augie Grill, who drove a Pro Late Model owned by Josh Bragg in the Allen Turner Snowflake 100. The car was decorated with a wrap depicting zombie robots.
"Uncle Jimmy said that if somebody comes up with the car, he'll definitely come back in the seat."
- Travis Cope, who won the Nov. 24 Late Model season finale at Showtime Speedway near St. Petersburg, Fla. Cope's uncle Jimmy was one of the legendary racers at the track formerly known as Sunshine Speedway, which was closed for about 10 years.
"I wasn't gonna knock him out. No need to start a battle over something like that."
- Bradley McCaskill, on finishing second to Preston Peltier in the Super Late Model portion of the Thanksgiving All-Star Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, N.C. McCaskill had led more than 100 laps, but then he was black-flagged under caution for an oil leak. McCaskill pitted to get it stopped, avoided losing a lap, and raced back to second.
"There were more Late Model drivers in the crowd than on the track. I saw the Bigleys, Scot Walters, Anthony Campi, and Wayne Anderson. I guess more people didn't think we'd pull the race off."
- Robert "Showtime" Yoho, who purchased the St. Pete track in the spring and reopened it this summer. His Florida State Late Model Championship race was scheduled at an odd time. Even though the Late Model fields haven't been what he had imagined, some other divisions have been full, and the crowds have been standing-room-only.
"This is as hard as anything I've ever raced in
Pro Cup or anything. You can tell that by the times that I win."
- Jay Fogleman, on having only two PASS South Super Late Model Series victories this season. The second came at the North-South Shootout at Caraway Speedway near Asheboro, N.C.
"I'm a gray-area pusher, but I was not near the gray this weekend. I was not even close. These cars here
a lot more of 'em were more black than gray."
- Frank Deiny Jr., a Late Model Stock Car veteran and chassis builder, on his debut in the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series at Rockingham, N.C.
"She said, 'Daddy, you did exactly what I told you to do.' "
- Clay Rogers, on the first words he heard his 4-year-old daughter Ava say after he won the UARA STARS feature at Rockingham Speedway.
"When I was born I kinda knew I was gonna race."
- Joey Laquerre, a 15-year-old who competed alongside his grandfather, also named Joey, at the People's United Bank Milk Bowl at Thunder Road in Barre, Vt. The kid first tried go-karts at age 4.
"I know the right people, and I'm surrounded with the right people who know people."
- Austin Theriault, who races in the American-Canadian Tour with his family-owned team and in major Super Late Model events in the South and Midwest with Brad Keselowski Racing. Theriault won the PASS North season finale in a converted ACT car.
"It used to be big to say you had one of the fastest 20 or 22 cars. It was the same thing when I raced, and it was in 2010 when Dustin did it. I kinda hate they did away with that."
- Mark Rumley, a former Late Model Stock Car driver and father of 2012 Ace Speedway champion Dustin Rumley, on the change in format for the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 at Martinsville Speedway. The fastest 20 or 22 qualifiers used to be locked into the field, but for the first time, time trials were eliminated, forcing everyone into heat races. Dustin made the show comfortably.
"You know you're not gonna sleep Saturday night, instead of you might sleep Saturday night."
- Mike Looney, anticipating the Martinsville qualifying races.
"It's still starting on the pole at Martinsville. It's still a blessing, and it's still a lot of fun."
- Lee Pulliam, who won the first heat at Martinsville after topping the timed practice session. He went on to finish second to Philip Morris in the race, which he won in 2011.
"What I need is five real good customers, and somebody that spends the money to put the right pieces in. That'd keep me busy. There are a lot of engine builders out there, and a lot of 'em can build 'em, but a lot of times when somebody brings you parts, he's got a budget, and you know there's better stuff you can use."
- Danny Glad, who builds LMSC engines at Glad Precision Machine. Glad, who also does some drag racing work and some classic car restorations, hopes to have a bigger role in the LMSC community, now that his contract to do work for Penske Racing went away when Dodge withdrew from NASCAR. Glad had three customers on the entry list at Martinsville, with Tony Keen making the feature.
|In the next LMD:
Race coverage: The ARCA Midwest Tour and CRA Super Series combined for the first time, bringing 43 cars to Toledo and proving Johnny VanDoorn correct about his tire-saving strategy. Another season opener cracked the 40 mark: PASS North at Oxford Plains. Plus the winning streaks continue for Wayne Anderson in Florida, Clay Rogers in Pro Cup and Lee Pulliam in the mid-Atlantic, and breakthroughs for Alex Papini at Rockford, Brodie Kostecki at Rockingham and Jimmy Hebert in ACT.
Features: We chat with the only active driver to win at both San Antonio Speedway and Central Texas Speedway and look back on his success in Alabama. Among the Late Model newcomers profiled: Tyler Edwards in Georgia and UARA, Taylor Nesbitt in N.C. and Tennessee, Ryan Redmon in Alabama, and Tyler Bailey in Idaho. And we're not leaving out the veterans, like Troy McNabb in Florida and Ben Lynch from New Hampshire.