Championship Hunt Drives Sanders
Whelen All-American Series Division II-V Update
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — AJ Sanders has been around racing long enough that he knows exactly what is at stake.
With just under two months remaining in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season, Sanders is hoping to turn his early-season success into a NASCAR national title.
“I’d love to win the NASCAR championship,” said the 46-year-old from Mocksville, North Carolina. “It’s a big goal. I’m going to try everything I can to win this championship.”
Sanders has won nine of 10 starts at two North Carolina tracks, racing Stadium Stocks at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, and Caraway Speedway in Sophia. He is fifth in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division IV national standings.
“I’ve been a NASCAR member ever since I was 18. It’s been great – NASCAR has always been good to me” said Sanders, who said he’s won nine division championships at various NASCAR and non-NASCAR tracks, and hundreds of races.
But, he added, “I’ve never been this high up and had this good a shot (to win a NASCAR national title).”
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II-V Championship program determines support division national championships. In each division, dirt and asphalt tracks are combined in point standings. The four national champions will receive a trophy and a trip to the series national awards event. In addition, the top-three dirt and top-three asphalt drivers will be invited to the series awards event.
At season’s end, drivers in Divisions II-V will be ranked by their best 14 NASCAR point race results. The season concludes September 21.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Championship Division II-V leaders this week include:
• Division II: 1. Jesse Dennis, I-80 Speedway, Greenwood, Neb., Adams County Speedway, Corning, Iowa; 2. Ryan Robertson, Bowman Gray Stadium, Winston-Salem, N.C.; 3. Keith Rocco, Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl, Thompson (Conn.) Speedway Motorsports Park; 4. Jared Umbenhauer, Grandview Speedway, Bechtelsville, Pa.; 5. Taylor Branch, Bowman Gray.
• Division III: 1. Jerod Weston, I-80, Adams County; 2. John Ketron, Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway, Lonesome Pine Raceway, Coeburn, Va.; 3. Blain Petersen, I-80, Adams County; 4. Josh Sink, Adams County, I-80; 5. Jason Ketron, Lonesome Pine, Kingsport.
• Division IV: 1. Brad Derry, Adams County, I-80; 2. Corey Kyer, Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway; 3. Jimmy McElfresh, Columbus, Kil-Kare Raceway, Xenia, Ohio; 4. Jeremy Menninger, Columbus; 5. AJ Sanders Jr.
• Division V: 1. Brian King, Anderson (S.C.) Motor Speedway, Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway; 2. Donavan Beacham, Anderson, Greenville; 3. Chris Harvell, Greenville, Anderson; 4. C.J. Huitt Jr., Greenville, Anderson; 5. Don Tavernia, Anderson, Greenville.
Five of Sanders wins have come at Bowman Gray, where he is fourth in the standings; four have come at Caraway, where he is second because of missing a race.
His standings deficit at Bowman Gray was caused by misfortunate at the most inopportune time: He wrecked during a double-points feature and finished 16th.
“It was just a racing incident,” said Sanders, who added he was going for third when the accident happened. “I looked to the outside of one guy and another tried the inside; he got into me and I wound up in the wall. It was just typical racing on a tight quarter-mile track.”
Remarkably, given the close quarters racing that goes on at Bowman Gray, Sanders has managed to stay out of trouble despite having to come up through traffic to get his wins. Four of his victories at the historic flat-track have come when he’s started 10th or further back.
“The biggest thing is getting your car to really, really handle – especially on the outside,” Sanders said. “Everybody will give you the outside at Bowman Gray. Nobody will give you the inside. You have to get your car to really, really rotate through the corners.
“I’ve raced for 35 years and know how that’s done.”
Sanders credits his dad, Archie Sanders Sr., for teaching him through the years. The elder Sanders passed away last October. But when they were at the track, AJ Sanders said they were inseparable.
“I wish he was here seeing me doing this well,” Sanders said.
It’s been a long road. Sanders said he started out racing on dirt in local divisions, although he admits “I thought I could drive. And couldn’t. That was a bad experience. I was going out and wrecking cars.”
He bounced around at various short tracks in North Carolina, learning from the veteran racers and having fun. Eventually, he decided that he wanted to race in a division where he could have fun and be more competitive. A maintenance worker at Wake Forest University, Sanders said the best thing about the Stadium/Mini Stock is he can work on the car himself and do the repairs, and then race with family and friends on the weekend.
Two years ago, he was involved in an accident where he was hit by a truck while pushing his race car into his shop’s driveway. Sanders said he was dragged more than 80 feet, and suffered a multitude of injuries including broken ribs, ruptured spleen, broken bones in his right foot and a broken collarbone.
Last year, he was leading the points at Bowman Gray when he suffered a heart attack at Bowman Gray.
After all that, Sanders is back racing.
“We’ve been through a lot but we’re going to come through this year,” Sanders said. “We’re going to dig our way back.”
Sanders had his frame – a stock Ford Mustang Chassis with a roll cage – built by the students in the motorsports technology program at the Richard Childress Race Car Technology at Forsyth Tech in Winston-Salem. He’s been supported by Triad Choice Reality, Twin City Towing, MAHLE Clevite, and Jerry Hunt Auto Sales. Crew chief Terry Thompson has helped in every week and crew member Chuck Hall have also contributed to the effort.
“I’ve had a lot of good help from good friends,” said Sanders, whose sons Andrew and Stephen also race with him. “
Under the NASCAR point structure in Divisions I-V, drivers receive two points for every car they finish ahead of in an event, up to 18 cars. Three bonus points will be awarded to a race winner with a single-digit starting position and five bonus points will be awarded to a race winner with a double-digit starting position.
Drivers must be NASCAR-licensed and cars will be verified for display of required series sponsor decals to be eligible for NASCAR points and awards.
AJ Sanders (44) has won five of six starts in the Stadium Stock division at Bowman Gray Stadium. Courtesy of Bowman Gray.
Historic Weekend Set for Evergreen
Track’s Late Model Special Event Expected To Draw Record Field
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR legend Herschel McGriff as the honorary Grand Marshal. More than 30 track champions competing. A field of more than 50 of the fastest Late Models on the West Coast.
This weekend’s 3rd Annual Summer Showdown presented by Coors Light at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington, is shaping up to be one of the premier events on the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series calendar.
Race fans at the track and around the globe will have the opportunity to watch the action on FansChoice.TV.
Qualifying and heats are Friday, and the 200-lap feature race is scheduled to go green at 6:30 p.m. PT on Saturday.
Evergreen Speedway is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Doug Hobbs, president and chief executive officer of Evergreen Speedway and Highroad Promotions, said this year’s version of the track’s signature Late Model event has attracted more sponsors and competitors to the track than any time in his third-year tenure at Evergreen.
“We have drivers from 13 states and four different countries,” Hobbs said. “We have a fly-over with World War II aircraft to commemorate the track’s anniversary. The University of Washington alumni band will perform the U.S. and Canadian national anthems. And we will exceed the record of 53 cars trying to qualify for the feature event.”
Those competitors range from talented up and coming youth to veterans with multiple championships, including Pete Hardin, winner of the inaugural Summer Showdown in 2012.
Four female drivers will attempt to qualify for Saturday’s race.
Molly Helmuth, a 19-year old regular Super Late Model driver and 2012 Rookie of the Year at Evergreen , will be attempting to make her third Summer Showdown. When asked if her experience at the track gives her an advantage over the competition, Helmuth said qualifying is her first focus.
“I do have a little more track time at Evergreen than most of the drivers, and I know my strengths and weaknesses there, but I still have plenty of room to improve. First we have to qualify, and then it’s a survival race – everyone will be chasing that $20,000 first prize, and you really have to put your heart and soul into it,” she said.
McGriff, a member of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame and 1986 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion under the old NASCAR Winston West banner, will serve as the honorary Grand Marshal and also get to watch his granddaughter, Maria McGriff, attempt to qualify for the race. Her home track is Tucson (Arizona) Speedway, NASCAR’s newest Home Track, and she will be making her first trip to Evergreen. Jessica Dana, from Olympia, Washington, is a two-time entrant in the Summer Showdown.
The youngest of the four female drivers, 16-year old Nicole Behar from Otis Orchards, Washington, races at Stateline Speedway in Idaho and will be attempting to qualify for her first Summer Showdown.
Evergreen Speedway will host the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West 150 on August 16th. Last year’s winner at Evergreen, NASCAR Next driver Dylan Lupton, is currently second in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West standings.
For more information and updates throughout the weekend on the Summer Showdown, go the Evergreen Speedway website at EvergreenSpeedway.com
Car No. 99 K&N Pro Series West Team Penalized
For Rules Violations At Sonoma
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR announced today the No. 99 team that competes in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West has been penalized as a result of rules violations committed Saturday, June 21 at Sonoma (California) Raceway.
The team was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing) and 20C-5.10.1A (unapproved modifications to the main body of the NASCAR-approved “Spec Engine” carburetor) of the 2014 NASCAR rule book. The violations were discovered during post-race inspection on June 21 and constitute a penalty level five in the NASCAR Deterrence System.
Duane Knorr, crew chief of car No. 99, has been suspended for three NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Championship Points events and fined $3,500.
Bill McAnally, owner of car No. 99, has received a reduction of 30 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Championship Owner points.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., received a reduction of 30 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Championship Driver points.
PIT STOP: Long Island Expressway
Weekend Info – Touring & Weekly Schedules, Links & Notes
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
• Defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Ryan Preece will look to get his season back on the right track Saturday night in the Hoosier Tire 200 at Riverhead (New York) Raceway. Last season, Preece swept the two races at the quarter-mile oval, where he also competes on a regular basis in the track’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series modified division. Preece finished sixth at Waterford (Connecticut) Speedbowl on Saturday, his best finish of the year. He is 13th in the standings, 60 points behind another Riverhead regular Justin Bonsignore.
• Ben Rhodes, the 17-year-old from Louisville, Kentucky, put on yet another dominating performance Saturday night, this time in the Visit Hampton VA 175 at Langley Speedway. It was Rhodes’ fourth straight NASCAR K&N Pro Series win and fifth in nine races. The win leaves Rhodes one short of tying the series record for most consecutive wins, set by Ricky Craven under the NASCAR Busch North Series banner in 1991, and of matching Dylan Kwasniewski (2013) for the most wins in the series since NASCAR lowered the age limit from 18 in 2007.
NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR
HOOSIER TIRE 200 at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway
RACE TIME: Saturday, June 28, 8 p.m. EDT
TWITTER: @RiverheadRacewa, #HoosierTire200, #NWMT
All times EDT and subject to change.
MRN – NASCAR COAST TO COAST
Kyle Rickey and Buddy Long with local and regional NASCAR racing drivers and give you all the news and opionin on NASCAR’s grassroots racing.
Don’t hear much about David Gilliland these days but there’s probably a pretty good reason for that.
As a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, Gilliland hasn’t achieved much of anything that would put his name in the headlines.
He doesn’t win races or poles and, at 31st in the point standings, he has virtually no chance to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
He competes as a teammate with David Ragan at Front Row Motorsports, owned by Bob Jenkins. It’s not a glamorous team and it’s certainly not at the level of, say, Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing or Joe Gibbs Racing.
OK, we’ve established that Gilliland, Ragan and Front Row Motorsports aren’t in the NASCAR spotlight and aren’t likely to be.
But there is something you should know.
Gilliland, Ragan and Front Row are survivors. They have been able to race, year after year, despite the obvious fact they do not enjoy the income and perks afforded other organizations.
They’ve competed unabated for several seasons. They remain steadfast. They haven’t imploded or crumbled into extinction.
And, believe me, there have been many, many teams with the same status as Front Row that have failed to survive.
Front Row started in 2006 competing on limited schedules with several drivers. In 2009, John Andretti became the first competitor to race on the full schedule.
In 2010, Gilliland came on board as a teammate to Travis Kvapil. Ragan joined the team in 2012 and they’ve been united since.
When it comes to their careers Gilliland and Ragan are not without their moments – or prestige. Both have driven for quality organizations.
Gilliland broke in with Robert Yates Racing in 2006 and remained with the team for two years – after Yates’ son Doug took control.
In 2010 Gilliland joined Front Row.
Ragan got a full-time ride with Roush in 2007 and remained with the team for five years.
The high point of his tenure came in 2011, when he won at Daytona in July.
Given this accomplishment, some touted Ragan as a future star but he was gone from Roush, and with Front Row, in 2012.
A year later Ragan won his second career race at Talladega in May. It remains the only victory for Front Row.
Gilliland’s entry into Sprint Cup racing is a Cinderella story. In 2006 he was racing, sporadically, on the Nationwide Series with team owner Clay Andrews, whose operation wasn’t elite by any means.
That may have been, but Gilliland beat the heavyweights at Kentucky Speedway. It was such an upset that Gilliland received a great deal of notice – much of it from the media and Yates, which moved him up to Sprint Cup competition that same year.
Obviously Kentucky remains special for Gilliland, who said the track has changed for this weekend’s Hollywood Casino 400 Sprint Cup event.
“For a long time Kentucky was my favorite race track after winning there in the Nationwide Series,” Gilliland said. “But it’s a little different in the Cup car.
“It’s another race track that just seems to get rougher and more abrasive on the tires, and it changes a lot from year to year. It definitely has a lot of character.
“But I’ve got some great memories from Kentucky from going to victory lane.”
As said, Gilliland is 31st in points. That’s three positions ahead of Ragan. Neither driver has a top-10 finish this year.
Gilliland’s best is a 20th at Richmond. For Ragan, it’s an 18th at Pocono.
Fact is, Front Row has earned only eight top-10 finishes in its five years of competition on the full schedule.
So, realistically, we can’t expect too much of Gilliland or Ragan at Kentucky.
But you never know. These guys are used to long odds.
And when it comes to survival, Front Row Motorsports has been beating the odds for years.
NWAAS Div. I Pts: Bruno Chasing Wins
Early Leader At Airborne; Rocco Moves To Second Overall
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Winning at Airborne Speedway is a Catch-22. The driver obviously gets the maximum number of points. But under track rules, it means they start the next feature in the last position.
For Travis Bruno and his fellow competitors at the track in Plattsburgh, New York, there is no debate: Go for the win and don’t worry about the next race.
“Even if you’re only racing for a dollar, you’re still going to push for the win,” said the 25-year-old Bruno.
Bruno has a pair of wins in seven starts and leads the J&S Steel Sport Modified Division at Airborne, which is in its first year as a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track.
The Morrisonville, New York, driver is fourth in the Empire State standings behind Howie Brode from Riverhead Raceway, Nick Heywood at Airborne and Stewart Friesen at Utica-Rome. As a first-year Division I license holder, Bruno is also in the running for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Rookie of the Year presented by Jostens. He’s second in New York behind Heywood and sixth in the national rankings.
“Once I get 18 under my belt then we’ll really start looking at it,” said Bruno. “I’m not a big points racer. I just try to go out and win every race and the points will follow.”
Anthony Anders already has 27 races and a firm grasp on the top spot in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national standings with 17 wins, 24 top fives and 26 top 10s for 684 points. He also holds the top spot in South Carolina, where he’s won the last three state titles.
Anders, of Easley, South Carolina, did not race this past weekend. Racing Greenville Pickens Speedway and Anderson Speedway in his home state, he has three wins where he’s earned the maximum 41 points for a victory.
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I drivers are ranked by their best 18 NASCAR points finishes in series-sanctioned events. Drivers receive two points for every car they finish ahead of – up to 18 cars – and three points for a win, with an additional two points available if the driver starts 10th or lower.
Two-time defending national champion Lee Pulliam and past champion Peyton Sellers also did not race this past weekend.
This allowed Keith Rocco to move up to second. The 2010 national champion has six wins, 16 top fives and 18 top 10s in the pavement modified divisions Connecticut’s three ovals: Waterford Speedbowl, Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Rocco finished seventh at Stafford Friday and second at Waterford Saturday to increase his points total to 608.
While Pulliam and Sellers, pavement late model drivers competing in the southeast, remained at 585 and 543 respectively, Ryan Preece, moved to within three points of Sellers. Preece was eighth at Stafford and 15th at Waterford.
Matt Bowling (South Boston (Virginia) Speedway, Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia, Southern National in Lucama, North Carolina, and Caraway Speedway in Sophia, North Carolina) is sixth, followed by Dillon Bassett, who has competed at six tracks throughout the southeast in his pavement late model. Tommy Lemons Jr. (Southern National, Caraway and South Boston), Randy Porter (Greenville and Anderson), Chad Finchum (Virginia’s Lonesome Pine and Tennessee’s Kingsport Speedway) and Randy Porter (Greenville and Anderson) round out the top 10.
Drivers in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series compete for track and U.S. state/Canadian province championships in addition to the national title.
It’s a new draw for drivers like Bruno at Airborne, in its first year as a NASCAR-sanctioned track.
Bruno is also in his first year competing full-time at in the J&S Steel Sport Modified Division. He race last year at Airborne as well as Devil’s Bowl in Vermont and the now-closed Canaan Fairgrounds Speedway in New Hampshire. He celebrated his birthday this year by winning the season opener at Airborne, and added a win in the extra-distance, 100-lap event on June 7.
The J&S Steel Sport Modifieds at Airborne run 35-lap events, or 30 when the track hosts twin features like it will this upcoming weekend. It means less time – and extra pressure – to get to the front.
Like many in racing, Bruno grew up around the sport. His father raced an assortment of vehicles and divisions. He even ran in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East when it was under the old Busch North banner.
“My father also flagged at a dirt track since I was 4, for about 10 or 12 years,” said Bruno. “I got started as an assistant flagman, on the backstretch.”
He got his racing start in karts, where he ran for about 10 years. He raced three years in limited late models before making the move up in 2012.
“The first year, I don’t think we made it to the track until the fourth race,” Bruno said. “We came out and finished second. That was just a huge confidence boost.”
The last two years, he’s run his own equipment before joining forces with car owner Corey McCoy this season. It’s still a family deal. Bruno said they just finished his older brother’s car, which means one more competitor on the race track but one less set of hands in the pits.
Regardless, Bruno has one focus: Racing for the win.
Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. In all, 58 paved and dirt tracks throughout the United States and Canada participate.
Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering is the series’ title sponsor. Whelen Engineering is a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting. NASCAR tracks and pace cars across North America are among the many showcases for Whelen products.
Travis Bruno (69) leads Nick Heywood during a J&S Steel Sport Modified Division event at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Dave Brown
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series: National Top 25
Santos Drives To The Victory
Passes Lia To Claim Whelen Modified Tour Win At Waterford
WATERFORD, Conn. — Bobby Santos III followed Donny Lia for much of the first half of Saturday night’s race. But Santos wasn’t content to finish second.
So Santos wrestled the lead away and went on to claim the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory in the Mr. Rooter 161 at Waterford Speedbowl.
It was Santos’ second win of the season and 12th of his career. It was his first tour win at Waterford.
A green-white-checkered finish that pushed the race to 165 laps. Lia, who earlier in the night won the Coors Light Pole Award, finished second.
Ted Christopher rallied back to finish third. Justin Bonsignore and Patrick Emerling were fourth and fifth, respectively.
Bonsignore took over the points lead from Doug Coby, who finished 10th, by two points. Santos is third, three back of Coby.
Defending race winner and tour champion Ryan Preece finished sixth, followed by Woody Pitkat, Keith Rocco, Ron Yuhas Jr. and Coby.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will race at Riverhead (New York) Raceway on Saturday, June 28.
RESULTS | RACE CENTRAL LIVE REPLAY | AUDIO: POST-RACE INTERVIEW WITH WINNER BOBBY SANTOS | AUDIO: POST-RACE INTERVIEW WITH SECOND-PLACE DONNY LIA | AUDIO: POST-RACE INTERVIEW WITH THIRD-PLACE TED CHRISTOPHER
Bobby Santos (44) leads Donny Lia during the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Waterford Speedbowl Saturday. Darren McCollester/Getty Images for NASCAR
Rhodes Keeps Rolling Along At Langley
Picks Up 4th Straight K&N Pro East Win
HAMPTON, Va. — Ben Rhodes shows no signs of slowing down.
The 17-year-old from Louisville, Kentucky put on yet another dominating performance Saturday night, this time in the Visit Hampton VA 175 at Langley Speedway. It was Rhodes’ fourth straight NASCAR K&N Pro Series win and fifth in nine races.
Rhodes led the Turner Scott Motorsports brigade, which put five drives in the top six.
But it was Rhodes’ No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet that was the class of the field. Rhodes led the final 162 laps and pulled away from a late restart to beat teammate Cameron Hayley by 1.191 seconds.
TSM’s Scott Heckert, who won the Coors Light Pole Award earlier in the day, was fourth, followed by rookie Kaz Grala and Brandon Jones.
Only Ben Kennedy Racing’s Kenzie Ruston, who came home third to match her own mark as highest finishing female in series history, broke up the party.
Rookie Nick Drake, Eddie MacDonald, Jessie Little and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top 10.
The win leaves Rhodes one short of tying the series record for most consecutive wins, set by Ricky Craven under the NASCAR Busch North Series banner in 1991, and of matching Dylan Kwasniewski (2013) for the most wins in the series since NASCAR lowered the age limit from 18 in 2007.
Rhodes extended his points lead to 71 over Hayley. Gray Gaulding, who finished 18th, dropped to third — six points behind Hayley and just one ahead of Jones.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East is next on the track on Friday, July 11 with the Granite State 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The Visit Hampton VA 175 will air on FOX Sports 1 on Friday, June 27 at noon.
RESULTS | RACE CENTRAL LIVE REPLAY | AUDIO: POST-RACE INTERVIEW WITH WINNER BEN RHODES | AUDIO: POST-RACE INTERVIEW WITH SECOND-PLACE CAMERON HAYLEY | AUDIO: POST-RACE INTERVIEW WITH THIRD-PLACE KENZIE RUSTON
Ben Rhodes led 162 laps en route to his fourth straight win Saturday in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va. Getty Images for NASCAR