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.