By: Ashley McCubbin
Each week, I am going to try and put together five thoughts on something in relation to short track racing based on what happened on track. Some of these will be positive, and others will be….well, not as pretty. Hopefully there is lots to talk about this year.
Ahh….the regular season is over and the champions have been crowned, which congratulations to each of those. Really, well-deserving on the part of the Late Model Champion Gord Shepherd as he put together a killer season with consistency, and a couple trips to victory lane to boot. But now, it’s time to play. The Short Track Playoffs will begin this weekend at Sunset Speedway with the Velocity 250, and needless to say, there’s lots to talk about.
So without further-a-do, here are your five thoughts to ponder…..
Remember When….the first edition of Five Thoughts to Ponder was released in June for the Late Models? Yep, that’s right, and it only included those first three nights of 2017. So, were we close on anything?
Gord Shepherd started as the king of consistency, and remained that way with 26 top-fives in 28 races, and no finishes worse than 10th. Needless to say, as we stated, well deserving champion. Oh, and yes, he also won nine features this year, too. Surprised? Like I said then, keep an eye on him as he did the same thing in 2016, winning the title with just two finishes outside of the top-10.
The rabbit’s foot never blessed the Zardo’s boys as we hoped it would, as their seasons still continued to have that rotten luck. But, it was nice to see Billy Zardo score a sixth and a fifth in the last couple nights of racing. Maybe they’ll hit their stride in the playoffs.
So how many drivers did end up winning features this year, after all? Eight. So we didn’t hit the 10 mark that I had set at the beginning of the year, after all. There’s some reasons for that, but those are just excuses if we start rambling them off. So we’ll just move on and say it was still a great year.
Oh, Rick Spencer-Walt – yeah, he never slowed down – much. He had the wreck on August 26, when he got caught up in the contact started by Shepherd and Taylor Holdaway. He also had a mechanical gremlin strike in qualifying on the final night of racing, forcing him to miss the first feature. Regardless, this year has to be considered successful for Spencer-Walt Motorsports, though, as they scored five wins (not counting Spring Velocity and Chase for the Colors), along with 19 top-fives and 23 top-10’s. Can you complain? And by the way, playoffs are where they should shine – as noted with those two victories above.
Danny Benedict started out rough, then scored three straight top-fives….and then closed out the year with one top-fives, and three finishes outside of the top-10 in four races. Sophomore, jinx? Possibly.
Remember When….the second edition of Five Thoughts to Ponder was released in August for the Late Models? Being only a month ago, certainly our predictions were closer than we thought.
Nick Goetz remained a front contender, as expected, and he had a stellar year en route to finishing second in points. Livewire picked up six wins, 21 top-fives and 24 top-10’s. Oh, and confidence is at the right spot heading into playoffs with seven top-fives in the last eight races.
Travis Hallyburton started the year off rough, before scoring three third-place finishes and a fourth in the span of four features. Unfortunately, he didn’t keep the streak going perfectly. He picked up another three finishes outside of the top-nine, before capping the year off with two top-fives. There’s lots of speed there to contend for races in the playoffs – but can he have the luck?
So we made mention that Chris Morrow had quietly scored five top-fives in the eight races leading up to that edition and for everyone to open their eyes and watch. Okay, maybe we jinxed him now by doing that, and for that reason, I sincerely apologize. Since those eight races, he scored two top-10’s (best finish of fourth) – to go along with three finishes worse than 10th.
The mystery of Taylor Holdaway continued in September, too. He scored just one top-five, but was able to see the front of the field twice – before late race incidents took him out of the running. Could next year write a new tune? We’ll see….
A Shout-out to…..the small family teams, who stick by each other’s side working away, even with a budget smaller than those around them. One of those – Maltese Motorsports.
Everybody has heard about their budget windows compared to the other teams in the pits. However, the results from the past couple of weeks don’t show that at all. Paul Maltese scored a pair of thirds on the last night of racing, along with a third and a sixth on August 26th. Needless to say, those are some stellar results.
It’s nice to see them have a strong run to close out the campaign, too, as frustrations were at an all-time high mid-season with weekly finishes in the teens. Hopefully the momentum carries into the playoffs.
Break-out star of the year is…..Jordan Latimer. I say that with confidence based on the results to close out the campaign.
it’s worth saying that 2016 did not go as he envisioned – just three top-10’s, by the way. But look at 2017 as he scored nine top-fives and 17 top-10’s. Oh, and by the way, he also got his first career Late Model victory. If you’re looking for a younger lad to go against guys like Shepherd and Goetz, here’s your man.
Now with a fifth and a second on the final night, JL Motorsports has confirmed they will be in attendance for the Velocity 250 and are pulling all the stops to ensure the best chance at success.
Frustrating close to the season for….Kendra Adams and her team, as motor issues on the final night resulted in her running Nick Goetz’s back-up car. Combined with seven straight finishes outside of the top-10, and certainly the last couple weeks may go in the “we don’t need to remember this” bank.
Still, this is a rookie that can walk away from the year with her head held-high as she scored eighth top-10’s, including a season-best sixth. Not too shabby with their budget, and the fact that she’s learning.
She’s also making waves in the community, too. If you’re an average race fan, check out her TV show that appears on Rogers. It gives you a good glimpse of racing behind the scenes, and what goes in to make the car go around the track each week. There’s some things that you can’t understand until you’re right down there in the pits.
Now, her team will see a driver change for the Velocity 250 as her dad was confirmed to be driving her car this coming weekend. Brendan Adams knows how to get the job done, too, as he won a super stock feature back a couple years ago.