Short Track Roundup (02/04/98)
4 February 1998
Mobile, AL - Short Track fans all across the southern tier of the country had plenty to shout about this past weekend as the 1998 season appears to be underway with a vengeance. There was action on both dirt and asphalt and from open wheels and Late Models. After the quiet of last week, it almost seemed like mid-season!
The action got underway at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, where the SCRA opened its 1998 season and J.J. Yeley showed everyone how it was done as he took two wins in two races. Trailing Yeley to the line on Friday were Rip Williams and Kevin Doty, while in the Saturday night feature Richard Griffin and Mike Boat were the next two finishers.
Across town at Phoenix International Raceway the Copper World Classic was held and it seemed to be a Tony Stewart benefit by the time it was over. Stewart beat Brian Tyler and Jack Hewitt in the USAC Silver Crown race after he had disposed of the midget field where he beat David Steele and Ryan Newman. Tony was unable to perform the hat trick as Troy Regier took the WSMRA Supermodified race, but Stewart finished in second while Rebel Jackson Jr. was third. Unfortunately during the Silver Crown race, veteran driver Jim Keeker was seriously injured in a crash and was taken to the hospital with a basal fracture of the skull. Latest reports indicate that a full recovery is likely and that Jim will suffer no ill effects of the mishap. Our prayers are with him and we hope to see him back behind the wheel soon. In the midget race John Heydenreich suffered a mild neck sprain and was taken to the hospital for observation while Sarah McCune was released from the track medical center after having an injured finger treated.
In Cordele, GA the 1998 Hav-A-Tampa season got underway as Skip Arp led the season off with a win. Donnie Moran was second and Bart Hartman took third. The track was not in the best shape with plenty of dust and virtually no passing during the 100 lap event. Many in the large crowd were headed for the exits before the checkered flag flew. One groove dusty tracks are the bane of the dirt trackers existence and its a shame that the debut of the premier dirt Late Model series had to suffer from one. Billy Godowns Jr. won the Limited late Model event.
The NASCAR Southwest Tour held its second event of the new season at PIR as part of the Copper World Classic, and it was Winston Cup veteran Ken Schrader driving Scott Hansen's winning car from last year that took the win. Rick Carrelli was second and John Metcalf finished third. Hansen served as Schrader's Crew Chief for the race. M.K. Kanke finished the race in fifth place and now hold the points lead after two races on the series. Ron Eaton is second in points with Metcalf holding down third.
David Russell took the win in the Orange Blossom 100 at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. Bruce Lawrence finished in second spot with David Demers taking third.
There is plenty of news coming from the World of Outlaws series as the 1998 season debut looms just 10 days away. Steve Kinser is vehemently denying rumors that he will use MOPAR power in 1998, and although he admits he might toss the engine into the car once he has no plans to run it on a regular basis. Craig Dollansky, left in a void by the departure of Jim Wahlie, along with crew chief Mike Botzek have managed to put together a deal for 1998 that will have Dollansky driving a Gambler chassis with Kriner power and sponsored by Polydome. He will make a full assault on the WoO Rookie of the Year title.
Former World of Outlaws star Brad Doty was honored with the National Sprint Car Poll's Outstanding Contribution to the Sport Award as well as the Media Member of the Year Award. Both prestigious awards are well deserved.
NASCAR and Gatorade have announced that they will enhance the Front Runner Awards for the 1998 season and this will make a lot of Short Track racers very happy. Increased monetary amounts go to all halfway leaders of every NASCAR touring division race as well as an increased amount to the leader of the NASCAR Winston Racing Series at the midway point of the season. In addition all drivers will be able to pile up points towards a season ending bonus in all NASCAR series.
NASCAR also announced the acquisition of the ARTGO Late Model series. Details of the deal are sketchy but expect a new name, tour director and sponsor for the 27 year old series.
The Texaco/Havoline Series has announced it will run an 8 race tour in 1998 in New York, Vermont, Canada and New Hampshire. NEPSA, the sister series, has yet to announce its 1998 schedule but appears to be looking at a couple of races in Quebec for 1998.
Out west there is news coming from the NARC camps as Paul McMahan, erstwhile driver of the #75 MOPAR WoO car, is returning to NARC in a JB Chassis with Tri-C power owned by John Sullivan. Bobby McMahan will switch from JB to a TCR Chassis in 1998 as the midget chassis builders expand into the sprint cars. Another driver who will be piloting a TCR is Tommy Tarlton who will use Bob Andrews power to contest the entire NARC season.
This coming weekend the place to be is central Florida as Speedweeks has finally arrived. From East Bay Speedway in the West to Lake City and Columbia Motorsports Park in the North to Volusia Speedway Park and New Smyrna in the East, there will be more racing action than one can take in. Combine that with the annual debut of NASCAR at Daytona and it will be a racing fans delight. From Late Models to Winged Sprints, to those wild Super modifieds to Dwarfs, on both dirt and asphalt there is an absolute plethora of racing to be seen over the next two weeks. Some of the bigger events include the 1998 debut of the NASCAR All-Pro Series at Volusia, the Northern All Stars will make their first ever series appearance at Lake City Speedway, the All Star Sprinters will be on both coasts at Volusia and East Bay, the STARS series will open its season at East bay and closing out the short track week will be the 1998 opener for the National Late Model Sportsman Series at Valdosta, GA. If that isn't enough, the World of Outlaws will begin its 1998 season with two shows in Southern California at Hanford and Perris.
Short Track Roundup will come to you from Daytona Beach next week and we will attempt to bring you as many results and news items as possible from Speedweeks. No matter where you live, remember that the best action to be found is at your local short track...make plans to go out and support these stars of tomorrow, today. Have a Ball, Ya'll!
John Kaiser -- The Auto Channel