The calendar may have just turned to bring on a new year of racing competition, but that doesn’t mean that the preparations have just started. Those began all the way back in October once the final checkered flag for the 2017 season was flown at Peterborough Speedway. Drivers and teams put their plans in order, got the equipment they needed, and work commenced in hopes of making the year even more successful than previous.
As we try to survive the freezing cold temperatures, here are five late model drivers that you should keep an eye on entering 2018.
Jade Franklin caught everyone’s attention in 2017 when he broke through for his first career Super Stock feature victory mid-summer at Sunset Speedway. Of course, the ground work was laid for that moment near the end of 2016 when he was beginning to run up front more, and won the b-main at the Autumn Colours Classic.
He now hopes to cause the headlines to swirl with discussion in a new way after buying a late model, and stating his intentions to run the APC Auto Parts United Late Models of Ontario tour schedule. While it will be a steep step for the teenager based on his experience so far, success should come with seat time heading into the second half of the year.
Taylor Holdaway made it known last year that he was interested in the APC Auto Parts Late Model series, but focus caused him to remain in the Sauble Falls Tent and Trailer Park Late Model division at Sunset Speedway. However, with some time during the off-season, his pro late model plans have been kicked into high gear. His team recently purchased a new car, and has plans to go down to the United States and partake in Speedfest to kick off the new year.
If success comes his way, don’t say you had no warning because Holdaway has made himself known as a strong late model competitor over the past couple of years. Although there were some struggles this past year, you cannot let it go that he has won 21 features over the past three years at Sunset Speedway, including a championship in 2015.
Jordan Latimer burst onto the scene in the second half of last year with a victory in September, but his breakthrough campaign was as of hard work all year long. From the first green flag of the season in April with a third on opening night, to a runner-up in the final feature of the year in September, Latimer showed speed on a weekly basis. Compared to just three top-10’s in 2016, Latimer said the biggest difference between the pair of campaigns was the work put in by Kevin Reynolds.
“In the winter leading up to the 2017 season, we put the car on the jig at the RIM shop (Kevin Reynold’s place) and did a lot of work like cutting bars out for weight and rear-end work,” Latimer said. “Having Kevin in our corner was a huge part of are success this past season, but also all are crew guys and sponsors for the support. Another big part in that is all the weeks we came home without body damage we could fully devote that week to set up and making the car better.”
The JL Motorsports driver recently confirmed he will be back at Sunset Speedway in 2018, with his sets sight on a division championship. If you’re looking for a new face to be right up there with the likes of Gord Shepherd, Travis Hallyburton and Nick Goetz, you don’t need to look any further.
Gord Shepherd, he has made himself known as one of the drivers to keep an eye on without any doubt over the past several years, winning multiple championships at both Barrie Speedway and Sunset Speedway. He also has shown his ability to get the job done on the biggest stages, too, with victories in Sunset Speedway’s Velocity 250 and Peterborough Speedway’s Autumn Colours Classic.
Shepherd recently revealed his team is going to keep things status quo for 2018, once again chasing the Sunset Speedway NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Championship for a second straight year. With 11 victories and 44 top-fives over the past two years, as well as a top-five finish in the NWAAS Division I standings, there’s no doubt you will be talking about him all year long.
Rick Spencer-Walt has been making headlines prominently over the past couple seasons, from winning the championship at Peterborough Speedway in 2016, to taking home the Autumn Colours Classic victory this past season. It’s a trend that he hopes to continue in 2018 after announcing his intentions to contend for wins on the APC tour.
“I cannot wait,” he told SHORT TRACK MUSINGS in November. “Sherry and Dwayne Baker made a deal with Eldon to purchase their brand new pro late built last winter by Jr Hanley. We have tested and the car is amazing.”
Spencer-Walt got his feet wet on the pro late model scene in 2017 with a couple starts, but it pails nothing into comparison into what’s expected for 2018 with the hard work going in. With multiple wins the past two seasons, his team has proven if they set their mind to something, it’ll be achieved, so it would be no surprise to see Spencer-Walt Motorsports in victory lane in 2018.