Thompson Hits Pay Dirt With Rookie Run

Thompson Hits Pay Dirt With Rookie Run

Adams County Champ Claims Div. V National Title In First Season

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s hard to imagine any driver can win a championship in their first full season of racing, but for 26-year-old Iowa resident Dustin Thompson, that’s exactly what happened.

Thompson, who calls Villisca, Iowa, home, got to celebrate not just one, but two championships in his first full season of racing. His first championship came on dirt at Adams County Speedway in Corning, Iowa, where he captured the TriState Ford Compacts championship.

He followed that up with a championship on a much bigger scale when he was officially crowned the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division V National champion. It’s all a little overwhelming for Thompson, who started out the year just hoping to visit victory lane.

“I pretty much just started the year out trying to win a feature. That was my main goal. I won the second night out,” Thompson. 

With the primary goal accomplished, Thompson now had a new mission: become a champion.

He did just that thanks to an impressive season at Adams County and another dirt track, I-80 Speedway in Omaha, Neb. Between the two tracks he made 21 starts, scoring five victories as well as 18 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes. When all the points were tallied, Thompson had defeated Stafford Motor Speedway’s Johnny Walker by 21 points for the Division V National crown.

“I never expected to do that well. It’s very surreal,” Thompson said. 

Thompson gave particular thanks to three people – his father, Ron Thompson, his father-in-law Mark Herzberg and his cousin, Eric Marsh – for helping him attain the success he enjoyed this year. Without them, he said none of this would have been possible.

“Those three guys are in the pits with me every single week helping me out and all throughout the week helping me get the car ready. They’re definitely to thank for the success this season,” Thompson said.

NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II-V drivers are ranked by their best 14 NASCAR points finishes in series-sanctioned events. Drivers receive two points for every car they finish ahead of – up to 18 cars – and two points for a win, with an additional three points available if the driver starts 10th or lower.

The dream of going racing started, as it often does, when Thompson was a child. He went to the race track with his father and first got bit by the bug, but it wasn’t until his father bought a race car of his own that Thompson got his first real taste of racing.

“I grew up going to the races with my dad as a kid and always wanted to do it,” Thompson recalled. “He started racing like five or six years ago. He raced one season and I kind of helped him in the pits. That really started it there. I knew it was something I wanted to do.”

After graduating college Thompson got his feet wet last year by driving his father’s old race car in five Division III Keystone Light Kombact events at Adams County Speedway. That class proved to be a bit more expensive than Thompson would have liked, so he made the decision to do something else in 2017.

“I got into my dad’s old car and raced it for five nights and it was just too expensive, so I had to sell that car and go down to the Division V class,” Thompson said. 

That decision obviously paid off in spades, but the 2017 season wasn’t all roses for Thompson, who had sponsorship from Thompson Trucking, Herzberg Seed, Southwest Iowa Dirt Work, Green Giant Lawn Care and Preferred Properties. He nearly lost his shot at both the Adams County track championship and the Division V National championship when a big crash at I-80 Speedway destroyed his race car.

“I was in a heat race and there was a wreck in front of me and I just kind of got tangled up into it. I totaled the car,” Thompson recalled. “I was in the (fight) for the track points at Adams County Speedway on Saturday night and the wreck happened on a Friday night. I knew if I wanted to stay in the points out there I had to get a car ready.

“I had a car that was going to be built at home, but I hadn’t even started on it yet. So I just got a group of five or six guys and we just went to work through the night and all the next day and got it put together. We got to the track in time and we ended up winning the heat race and feature that night.”

Thompson would go on to win two more features in that same race car, catapulting him to both the track and Division V championships. Now Thompson’s focus is on the trip he gets to make to Charlotte, North Carolina, to take part in the NASCAR Home Tracks Awards at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Dec. 8.

“I just honestly can’t believe it. I’m in shock. I can’t believe I did that well. It’ll be pretty awesome to go out there and experience that,” Thompson said. 

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Dustin Thompson collected five victories as well as 18 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes in 21 starts between Iowa’s Adams County Speedway and Nebraska’s I-80 Speedway. Linda Freeman

UNC-Chapel Hill NABJ Chapter Visits Charlotte Motor Speedway

UNC-Chapel Hill NABJ Chapter Visits Charlotte Motor Speedway

Students Granted Behind-the-Scenes Access

Journalists from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill attended the NASCAR Xfinity Series Drive for the Cure 300 in Charlotte, N. C., on October 7. The Carolina Association of Black Journalists student chapter had the opportunity to interact with race officials, drivers, pit crew members and executives during their first NASCAR race experience. 

Green (& Orange) Means Go Fast For Roelofs

Green (& Orange) Means Go Fast For Roelofs

Michigan Driver Pilots Colorful Car To Division IV National Title

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – On the race track it’s nearly impossible for fans or competitors to miss Cole Roelofs. 

That’s because the 33-year-old driver from Dorr, Michigan, who competes in the Kalamazoo Vapors 4-Cylinder class at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway and the Outlaw Cyber Stock class at another Michigan track, Kalamazoo Speedway, with his car wrapped with a bright orange and green scheme. 

As Roelofs tells it, the scheme came about thanks to a partnership with an old friend from high school who owns Wrap Tek, a local business specializing in vinyl wraps for cars of all shapes and sizes.

“I love green and ever since we started putting green and orange on the car, I’ve been winning. So I’m like, well, we just need to go green and orange,” said Roelofs, who also receives sponsorship from C.J.’s Coating and Sealing, HD Photo, D&B Heat Transfer and Quick Start Batteries. “I went to high school with the owner and he contacted me and said, ‘Hey man, I’ll wrap your car for free if you put my name on it.’ I said awesome, I’m down with that because I know what wrapping costs.

“So me and my wife went on vacation for our anniversary and we sat on the iPad and looked through tons of different stuff and that’s what we came back with,” Roelofs recalled. “We sent it to him and he went, ‘Wow, that’s bright.’ Everybody has a black car or a blue car or a red car. Those are the main colors racers always pick. I have a nephew and he loves coming to the races and watching and I always want him to know which car I am out there. He knows green and orange so if it’s a green and orange car, it’s probably me.”

Roelofs isn’t just about showing off with the color of his race car. He also likes to show off with his performance on the race track. His performance was so good this year that he captured the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division IV National championship.

In 17 starts between Berlin and Kalamazoo, Roelofs won seven times while also collecting 14 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes. That gave him the Division IV National championship by 21 points over Oklahoma competitor Nathan Campbell. All seven of his victories came at Berlin, where he also captured the Kalamazoo Vapors 4-Cylinder track championship for the second time in his career.

NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II-V drivers are ranked by their best 14 NASCAR points finishes in series-sanctioned events. Drivers receive two points for every car they finish ahead of – up to 18 cars – and two points for a win, with an additional three points available if the driver starts 10th or lower.

The chance for Roelofs to race for the Division IV National championship came about after Berlin Raceway became a NASCAR-sanctioned track prior to the 2016 season. Unfortunately he ran into a small problem when he tried to chase the Division IV title last year.

“I live 30 miles in between two NASCAR tracks. I live 30 miles from Kalamazoo and 30 miles from Berlin. When Berlin became a NASCAR track that really kind of opened my eyes,” said Roelofs, who credits his wife Heather and brothers Chay and Chad for supporting him during his march toward the NASCAR title. “Now I have two tracks that I have a good chance to try and get some points. Last year we tried it and the 4-cylinder division (at Berlin) and the division that Kalamazoo Speedway has, it wouldn’t coincide with both to get the same (national) points. I tried it, but it didn’t work. At Berlin, it was in Division V then.”

Luckily for Roelofs, Berlin switched the 4-cylinder division from Division V to Division IV for the 2017 season. That was music to his ears.

“This year they changed the points and they (Berlin) made it Division IV. That’s what really helped me out this year,” Roelofs said. 

It’s been a long road for Roelofs to get to the Division IV National championship. He started his racing career by competing in demolition derbies when he was 16, but the demolition part of the demolition derbies began to get a little frustrating for him.

“I got sick of having to build a car every time we went to the races for the demolition derby,” Roelofs said. “So I got into what they call off-road racing or bump-and-run racing, where you go over jumps with front-wheel drive cars. I did that for three or four years and it was the same thing, you’d end up having to build four or five cars or six cars some seasons just to continue the season.”

Finally, in 2009, Roelofs and a friend got together and built a 4-cylinder car to race at Berlin Raceway. Fast forward to 2017 and Roelofs is officially a NASCAR National champion. He’ll be honored during NASCAR Home Tracks Awards at the NASCAR Hall of Fame/Charlotte Convention Center on Dec. 8. 

It’s all still a little surreal according to Roelofs.

“It feels awesome,” Roelofs said. “A lot of people don’t understand when you say. ‘I won a division in NASCAR.’ They’re like, ‘Come on, NASCAR?’ I’m like well, yeah. You kind of have to go through it. I wish people realized just how big a deal this is. You’re not just racing against your local guys. You’re racing against guys all across the country in all different styles and divisions of cars. I know the guy that got second, he was in a dirt car, a street stock. I won it in a front-wheel drive car. It’s so crazy to realize that. I’m going to get recognized for winning a NASCAR points title. I wouldn’t have thought it, that’s for sure.”

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It’s hard to miss Cole Roelofs’ car has he drove it to seven wins, 14 top fives and 17 top 10s in 17 starts at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway and Kalamazoo Speedway. Randy Ellen Photography

Rain Washes Out Day 3 of D4D Combine

Rain Washes Out Day 3 of D4D Combine

Weather Doesn’t Dampen Evaluation Process, Though

NEW SMYRNA, Fla. — Heavy rains overnight and throughout the morning combined with track conditions in the afternoon to wash out Day 3 of the 2017 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine presented by Honda Generators. The 12 participants competing for a spot on the 2018 Rev Racing roster were slated to take laps in the team’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series cars. The early end to the session, however, did not adversely affect the evaluation process.

Drivers took part in media and physical assessment at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona on Monday, and each of them got two sessions in a Late Model Stock Car Tuesday at New Smyrna Speedway.

“This has been probably our most talented group of drivers we’ve brought to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine,” said Jusan Hamilton, NASCAR manager of racing operations & event management. “Each driver really stepped up both off the track and on the track. We had two great days of evaluation.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t get on track on the third day, but based on the body of work we’ve seen, we feel we’re at a point to make a decision on who we’re going select for next year.”

The first two days were comparable to the experience of previous NASCAR Drive For Diversity Combines. The additional day of testing, in the K&N Pro Series cars, was scheduled to be a new addition this season to provide another layer of data; until inclement weather changed those plans.

As part of the evolution of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, though, the enhanced focus the overall driver profile means Monday’s off-track evaluations will factor more into the 2018 roster than in the past. The team is also looking at increase in seat time to ramp up the competition next season.

To that end, a smaller pool of 12 participants were invited to the tryout, out of which four will be selected for the 2018 Rev Racing team. Three of those drivers will race full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, while also running full-time in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in a Late Model – totaling more than 30 races next season. In addition, the fourth driver will compete full-time in the Late Model program and serve as an alternate for the K&N Pro Series program.

It also meant that current Rev Racing drivers who were invited were also part of the on-track testing, which was new this year.

One of those drivers looking to reclaim a spot with Rev Racing is Ruben Garcia Jr. The 2015 NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series champion, Garcia has driven for Rev Racing in the K&N Pro Series each of the last two years. He finished fifth in the 2017 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship points.

“Seat time, especially for those of us trying to get up in the ranks, is the most important thing,” said Garcia. “I think it’s a great step for the program. I’m actually really, really excited and hoping I can get back into the program to be able to get that seat time. I think it’s a great, great opportunity for us.”

Garcia is one of two drivers from the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series who were invited to the combine. He was joined in New Smyrna by Fabian Welter, as they look to follow in the path paved by 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion and current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Daniel Suarez, who got his start in NASCAR Mexico. Welter has already clinched the championship for the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Challenge Series — the second level for NASCAR in Mexico — with a race remaining.

“The base is very similar,” said Garcia when asked to compare the K&N Pro cars to the ones in Mexico. “A K&N car is kind of like a NASCAR Mexico car on steroids: It’s bigger, heavier, way more horsepower. It has more variables set-up wise, so more things you need to think about while you’re practicing.”

For a driver, though, Garcia said, they still have one important thing in common: “They’re still stock cars with a V8 engine.”

In addition to being sponsored by Honda Generators, the Combine received sponsorship support from partners AiM Tech, Bethune-Cookman, Five Star Race Car Bodies, M2 Promotions, Perry’s Ocean Edge Resort in Daytona Beach, and Sunoco.

In an expanded role for next year, Rev Racing will also select an additional four youth drivers at a future combine. Those drivers will participate in the organization’s expanded Legends and Bandoleros program next season. This past season, Rev Racing had two Legends cars in the Bojangles Summer Shootout. The team will also provide several driver development test sessions in its Late Model at Langley Speedway in Virginia and New Smyrna during the 2018 race season for prospective multicultural and female drivers.

2017 NASCAR Drive For Diversity Combine Drivers:

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Rain persisted most of the morning at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway. Jason Christley/NASCAR

Yorke Scores Bigger Prize

Yorke Scores Bigger Prize

Falls Short of Sunset Title But Earns Division III National Crown

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The end of the racing season at Canada’s Sunset Speedway was bittersweet for 26-year-old Eric Yorke.

The Milton, Ontario, driver was in contention to win the Mini Stock track championship at the third-mile asphalt oval, but he was disqualified following the final points paying race of the season on Sept. 16 for what track officials deemed was an illegal body modification. 

As a result, Yorke failed to capture the Mini Stock championship and had to settle for fourth in the Sunset Speedway standings. 

Despite that bitter disappointment, Yorke still has a very big reason to smile after officially being named the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division III National champion.

“I’ve won one previous track championship (in 2012 at Sunset in the Mini Stock class), but I’ve never won the NASCAR title,” Yorke said. “I don’t even think I’ve finished anywhere near the top before. It’s a cool thing to win and it kind of took my mind off the stuff that went on for the track championship.”

So how did Yorke manage to capture a coveted NASCAR National championship despite finishing fourth in Sunset Speedway’s Mini Stock standings? It’s all in the numbers.

In 18 points paying starts at Sunset Speedway, Yorke managed to score four victories, 15 top-five finishes and 16 top-10 finishes. NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II-V drivers are ranked by their best 14 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.

Because NASCAR takes the best 14 finishes from each driver, Yorke’s disqualification in the final race of the year didn’t factor into his overall points total. His 14 best finishes were all within the top-five, which gave Yorke 478 points. That was just enough for Yorke to beat fellow Sunset Speedway driver and UNOH Youth Achievement Award winner Daniel Montanari by 14 points for the Division III National championship.

“I guess it was an up and down year,” Yorke said when recapping his season. “It started off a lot better than it has previous years. Seems I’ve always had engine troubles or something. On opening night I’ve never had my gear top notch to start the season. This year I came out swinging. I won on the second night and I think I finished in the top-five every night except for one night in the middle of the season. 

“Basically I just ran consistent and stayed out of trouble as best as possible. My top 14 nights were all in the top-five for the National championship.”

Yorke, who began his racing career in go karts before eventually transitioning to oval stock car racing, will be honored alongside all the other NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National champions during the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards at the NASCAR Hall of Fame/Charlotte Convention Center on Dec. 8. 

Thinking about it now, Yorke still has a hard time wrapping his head around the idea that he is a NASCAR National champion. In fact, he said he may not full comprehend it for quite some time.

“I don’t think it’s quite set in. I think it’ll set in when I’m actually there (to Charlotte for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards). It’s still kind of, I guess, surreal,” Yorke said.

“I’ve got to thank my crew, family and friends. We’re basically a family run team. We also have a lot of sponsors that made this happen. The main ones are probably Partimer Signs, Skytec Rentals, Can-Alignment Motorsports, Solex Steel, Budget Tire, CRP Promotions and Scentsy Consultant – Lisa DeLeeuw.”

As far as 2018 is concerned, Yorke said he hasn’t decided exactly what his plans will be. 

“I’ll probably stick with the Mini Stocks, whether or not I’m going to be racing a full season or not I’m not sure,” Yorke said. “I have actually been wanting for the last couple of years to travel around to different tracks. Maybe not chase points at a single track, just travel around and try to chase some wins at different tracks.

“I’ve been points racing for, I think, 12 years now. I just kind of want to step back and run where I want, when I want.”

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D4D Combine Gets On Track On Day 2

D4D Combine Gets On Track On Day 2

Returnees & Newcomers Via For Spots With Rev Racing

NEW SMYRNA, Fla. — After a day of media training and physical assessment, the 12 drivers participating in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine presented by Honda Generators finally got on track Tuesday. But not without a little extra waiting for the rain to clear at New Smyrna Speedway.

Once the clouds moved away and the track was dry, the drivers were quick to get on the gas to show off their skills around the banked half-mile short track. The drivers took turns with two 10-lap sessions apiece in one of three Late Models, which were identically prepared by Rev Racing. Competition officials from NASCAR and Rev Racing evaluated them on their times, as well as their feedback and consistency throughout their runs.\.

“It was amazing,” said 16-year-old Ryan Vargas, who is coming off a season where he finished third in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series California standings. “To be here and take what I learned and apply it today is really big step for me.

“I’ve been saying it all weekend. I’m more excited than I am nervous. I know in the end, there’s four spots available and we all have the same opportunity to get those spots. I’m just hoping I show with my dedication and my consistency on track that I am worthy.”

NASCAR.com’s Holly Cain: Excitement aplenty at the NASCAR Drive for Diversity combine

As part of the evolution of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, which will feature an enhanced focus on seat time to increase competition at the combine and on the track next season, this week has had a little different look than year’s past. Twelve participants were invited to the three-day tryout, out of which four will be selected for the 2018 Rev Racing team. Three of those drivers will race full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, while also running full-time in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in a Late Model – totaling more than 30 races next season. In addition, the fourth driver will compete full-time in the Late Model program and serve as an alternate for the K&N Pro Series program.

“The talent pool is deep and as the years progressed, we wanted to make sure we continued to upgrade and improve the support we give the drivers,” said Max Siegel, CEO of Rev Racing. “We’re having more in-depth evaluation on track in both Late Model and K&N Pro Series cars, physical assessment and off-track evaluation, and even restructuring the composition of the team for next year.”

Since 2010, Rev Racing has managed the NASCAR Drive for Diversity team. It’s compiled 17 wins among six different drivers and produced national series race winners Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Darrell Wallace Jr. Earlier this year, Rev Racing’s Macy Causey became the first female driver in the 61-year history of South Boston Speedway to win a Late Model Stock Car feature.

One of the other differences at this year’s Combine, the current Rev Racing drivers who were invited were also part of the on-track testing.

“Having a whole season under my belt with Rev Racing and knowing how calm they are and that they just want us to do the best we can do,” said Causey, “I’m excited to get back in the Late Model car and see if I can improve my time a little bit.”

“For me, I do think of it in the back of my mind, it is like I’m re-trying out all over again — they’re evaluating everybody. I don’t really try to let it get to me. I try to do the best I can do and work with what I’ve got and see how it turns out.”

The on-track assessment will continue on Wednesday, as the drivers will test in NASCAR K&N Pro Series cars under a similar format.

Wednesday’s testing will also be streamed live on FansChoice.TV.

In addition to being sponsored by Honda Generators, the Combine received sponsorship support from partners AiM Tech, Bethune-Cookman, Five Star Race Car Bodies, M2 Promotions, Perry’s Ocean Edge Resort in Daytona Beach, and Sunoco.

In an expanded role for next year, Rev Racing will also select an additional four youth drivers at a future combine. Those drivers will participate in the organization’s expanded Legends and Bandoleros program next season. This past season, Rev Racing had two Legends cars in the Bojangles Summer Shootout. The team will also provide several driver development test sessions in its Late Model at Langley Speedway in Virginia and New Smyrna during the 2018 race season for prospective multicultural and female drivers.

2017 NASCAR Drive For Diversity Combine Drivers:

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Weather delayed the start of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine, but the 12 drivers were able to turn laps in Rev Racing’s Late Model Stock Cars. Jason Christley/NASCAR

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Accelerated Learning Curve For Jolly

Accelerated Learning Curve For Jolly

Missouri Driver Earns Div. II National Title In 4th Year Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In just his fourth year of racing on dirt tracks around the Midwest, 23-year-old Cody Jolly can officially call himself a NASCAR champion.

The native of Jasper, Missouri, recently secured the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II National championship, beating some of the best up-and-coming racers from the United States and Canada for the honor.

A former high school wrestler, Jolly has excelled since moving from wrestling mats to racing in circles. Jolly got started by racing go karts, but he didn’t really hit his stride until he tried his hand at dirt racing. 

“I ran go karts for three years. That’s how we really got started in racing, with go karts. I got pretty serious in it and started getting faster and faster and faster,” Jolly recalled. “That’s when I started working with Mitch Keeter.”

He credits Keeter, a fellow racer and good friend who finished 14th in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I national standings this year, for helping him get started racing on dirt.

“I just kind of jumped on board with him,” Jolly explained. “I was kind of his go-to guy. I just kind of helped him out for a year and a half or so. I traveled with him and got to know a lot about these race cars. I was trying to see if I liked it.

“It started off as a joke,” Jolly continued. “He let me jump in his car one day during a play day at Nevada (Speedway) in Missouri. I turned some laps in his A-Mod. We came back and he told my dad, ‘We need to get him in a dirt car.’ ”

So that’s exactly what they did. Jolly got behind the wheel of a B-Mod and began racing across the Midwest. Success soon followed. 

“We fell in love with it,” Jolly said. “The first three years we went to 60 shows. I lost track of how many this year. We’re winning big races. Really I’m just a country kid that comes from a really small town. It’s pretty cool to be able to run with some of the best in the country and actually pull off a national title in four short years.”

This year was, without a doubt, Jolly’s best to date. He captured B-Mod track championships at two Midwestern dirt tracks – Salina Highbanks Speedway in Oklahoma and Humboldt Speedway in Kansas. 

Between the two tracks he won 16 features and captured 24 top-five and 29 top-10 finishes in 32 points paying starts aboard his No. 00 B-Mod that carried sponsorship Larry Shaw Race Cars, Yeoman Race Engines, T-N-T Heating & Air and B&B Racing Supply, just to name a few. 

Those stats, combined with the strong car counts at both facilities, allowed Jolly to also earn the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II National championship by 37 points over Minnesota racer Conrad Jorgenson.

NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II-V drivers are ranked by their best 14 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.

Several weeks after officially being declared the Division II National champion, Jolly said he still has a hard time explaining how the honor makes him feel.

“It’ll leave you speechless,” Jolly said. “It’s such a rush to know that everything…this isn’t just a hobby to us. This is full blown, like a second job. It ain’t working on your car one or two nights a week, it’s five nights a week and race two nights a week. We put so much time and so much money into it, to be able to pull it off for my family and the people that support me…I can’t put it into words. I can’t fathom explaining myself.

“It’s just me, my dad and my brother-in-law that do this thing. My family and my girlfriend just stand beside me. I need to thank my family and more than anything in the world my brother-in-law, sister and especially my girlfriend for staying by my side through all this.”

Jolly will join all the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National champions when they’re honored during the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Dec. 8.

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Cody Jolly had 16 wins, 24 top fives and 29 top 10 finishes in 32 starts in the B Modified Divisions at Humboldt Speedway in Kansas as well as Salina Highbanks Speedway in Oklahoma. Spirit Eyes Studio

D4D Combine: Day 1 In The Books

D4D Combine: Day 1 In The Books

Off-Track Assessment Prepares Drivers To Get On Track

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Twelve drivers arrived in Florida, champing at the bit to get behind the wheel and show their talents at the 2017 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine presented by Honda Generators. But before they could put the cars in gear, they were put through a battery of tests designed to evaluate their off-track preparation and skills that will be equally invaluable to their dreams of moving up the NASCAR ladder.

The drivers were put through a series of stations at Bethune-Cookman University to evaluate their skills in different media settings as well as a physical training assessment. 

“Driving a race car is a physical moment: You need upper-body strength, you need hand-eye coordination, but mainly you need muscle endurance,” said Phil Horton, who oversees the physical training program with Rev Racing. “You drive a car for three and a half hours and there doesn’t look like there are a lot of strenuous movements there. But you’re holding a steering wheel all day. In order to have muscle endurance, you first need to have muscle strength.”

Fans are seeing more drivers active on different areas outside of racing, whether it’s Jimmie Johnson running triathlons or Dale Earnhardt Jr. posting recaps of his long weekend bike rides via the Relive app. That’s trickled down to the younger drivers like Chase Elliott and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who’ve incorporated cycling or Crossfit into their daily routines.

“The mental toughness of being in shape is important — one of the things we’re looking for is their work ethic,” said Horton. “You need to get in the gym early in the morning. You need to do those situps, you need to do those pushups, you need to lift those weights. Not necessarily like athletes in other sports. But just do them on a consistent basis. Without that fitness part of it, you’re doing something every day that’s preparing you to be a driver.” 

Both the combine and the team will feature an enhanced focus on seat time to increase competition at the combine and on the track next season. Since 2010, Rev Racing has managed the NASCAR Drive for Diversity team. It’s compiled 17 wins among six different drivers and produced national series race winners Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Darrell Wallace Jr. Earlier this year, Rev Racing’s Macy Causey became the first female driver in the 61-year history of South Boston Speedway to win a Late Model Stock Car feature.

Ernie Francis Jr. is second-generation driver who is getting his first taste of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine. A multi-time champion in Trans-Am Series presented by Pirelli, the 19-year-old from south Florida is looking to make a good impression.

“It’s something new for me; I come from a road-racing background,” said Ernie Francis Jr. “I’m used to a lot of the media stuff with everything I’ve done in my career. But some of the NASCAR stuff they do, I’m not too used to right now.

“The physical assessment, I’m a pretty active driver and try to stay physically fit with some of the endurance races I do. I think I’ll do all right here and we’ll see how it goes tomorrow when I get on track.”

In addition to their time with Horton, the drivers also participated in mock press conference panels as well as conducted one-on-one interviews with Bethune-Cookman’s radio station, WRWS-LPFM 99.1. They also took a version of the Wunderlich, specifically designed from a driver attribute standpoint. The test will help with the overall evaluation of the drivers for selection. It will also be utilized to help Rev Racing determine the crew chief pairings for the 2018 season and overall team dynamic.

The NASCAR Drive for Diversity competitors are scheduled to test at New Smyrna Speedway on Tuesday in a Late Model Stock Car and Wednesday in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series car.

In addition to being sponsored by Honda Generators, the Combine received sponsorship support from partners AiM Tech, Bethune-Cookman, Five Star Race Car Bodies, M2 Promotions, Perry’s Ocean Edge Resort in Daytona Beach, and Sunoco.

From the 12 combine participants, four will be selected for the 2018 season. Three of those drivers will race full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, while also running full-time in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in a Late Model – totaling more than 30 races next season. In addition, the fourth driver will compete full-time in the Late Model program and serve as an alternate for the K&N Pro Series program.

In an expanded role for next year, Rev Racing will also select an additional four youth drivers at a future combine. Those drivers will participate in the organization’s expanded Legends and Bandelaros program next season. This past season, Rev Racing had two Legends cars in the Bojangles Summer Shootout. The team will also provide several driver development test sessions in its Late Model at Langley Speedway in Virginia and New Smyrna during the 2018 race season for prospective multicultural and female drivers.

2017 NASCAR Drive For Diversity Combine Drivers:

d4d_combine_day-1_test_101617

NASCAR Drive for Diversity participants took a specialized version of the Wunderlich, designed from a driver attribute standpoint, Monday at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona. Jason Christley/NASCAR

Dream Seasons Produce New Champions

Dream Seasons Produce New Champions

Jolly, Yorke, Roelofs & Thompson Earn National Titles

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Cody Jolly, Eric Yorke, Cole Roelofs and Dustin Thompson all accomplished something this year that very few have managed to do before them.

All four captured NASCAR national championships, taking top honors in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Divisions II-V. 

For Jolly, a 23-year-old native of Jasper, Mo., 2017 proved to be a dream season. Not only was he crowned the Division II national champion, but he also captured track championships in the B-Mod division at a pair of dirt tracks – Oklahoma’s Salina Highbanks Speedway and Kansas’ Humboldt Speedway.

He scored 16 wins in 32 starts, which was more than enough for him to claim the Division II crown by a comfortable 37-point margin over Minnesota racer Conrad Jorgenson. Amazingly, it was just Jolly’s fourth year behind the wheel of a dirt race car.

“Honestly it leaves me speechless,” Jolly said. “It’s an amazing feeling knowing that I’ve been able to, in four years, be competitive in the national championship.”

NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II-V drivers are ranked by their best 14 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.

Those rules ended up being of particular importance for 26-year-old Yorke, who was disqualified from the final points race of the season at Canada’s Sunset Speedway because of an illegal front bumper. That resulted in the Milton, Ontario, driver finishing fourth in the mini stock track championship standings, but because NASCAR only takes the best 14 finishes of the season, Yorke still earned enough points to capture the Division III title.

“I guess it was an up and down year,” said Yorke, who earned four victories in 18 starts to clinch the Division III title by 14 points over fellow Sunset Speedway competitor Daniel Montanari. “This year I came out swinging. I won the second night out and I think I finished in the top-five every night except for one night in the middle of the season. Basically I just ran consistent and stayed out of trouble as best as possible.”

Speaking of Montanari, the 16-year-old from Unbridge, Ontario, also has reason to celebrate after earning the 2017 UNOH Achievement Award. Designed to spotlight NASCAR’s rising stars, the UNOH Youth Achievement Award is open to NASCAR drivers between the ages of 14-17 – drivers may accumulate points until their 18th birthday – and are based on the best 14 finishes regardless of division.

Track champions will receive a $500 cash award and a $500 UNOH Scholarship. As the national champion, Montanari will receive a $10,000 UNOH Scholarship and will be recognized at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards.

Montanari, who came up one point short of winning the mini stock track title at Sunset Speedway, scored three wins en route to capturing the UNOH Achievement Award by 26 points over California’s Ryan Vargas.

“We knew about the award, but we never thought we’d be able to get it racing against guys every night at a track that is NASCAR sanctioned,” said Montanari, who picked up three wins in 17 starts at Sunset Speedway. “We only have one race every weekend. We didn’t think that we’d even be close to winning it. Then near the end a friend of ours was like, ‘Did you see the UNOH Award points?’ I said no, not really. He said, ‘Oh, you’re up to 16th.’

“We were surprised at that. Then we started watching it more and more and we ended up winning it. It’s amazing to win that against the best guys around.”

At 33-years old, Roelofs is the oldest of the drivers who secured National championships, but his experience paid off in a big way.

In 17 starts at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway and Kalamazoo Speedway, Roelofs scored seven victories and captured the Kalamazoo Vapor 4-Cylinder track championship at Berlin Raceway. Those results added up to Roelofs claiming the Division IV National championship by 21 points over Salina Highbanks Speedway competitor Nathan Campbell. 

Twenty-six-year-old Thompson, who hails from Villisca, Iowa, took home top honors in the Division V National championship race. He also captured the track championship in the TriState Ford Compact division at Iowa’s Adams County Speedway. 

In his 17 starts at Adams County and Nebraska’s I-80 Speedway, Thompson picked up five victories and 18 top-five and top-10 finishes. Those consistent results gave him the Division V National championship over Stafford Motor Speedway competitor Johnny Walker by 21 points.

The champions will be honored at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame a on Dec. 8.

NASCARHomeTracks.com will provide an in-depth profile of each of the champions this week, beginning with Jolly on Tuesday, followed by Yorke Wednesday, Roelofs Thursday, and Thompson Friday; with Montanari being featured on Monday, Oct. 23.

Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. In all, 57 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.

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