With all of the action at Florida Speedweeks in the books, there is finally an opportunity to reflect on the weeks of racing in the Sunshine State during the month. Here are Speed51’s 10 Takeaways from Florida Speedweeks, highlighting some of the strong showings and important storylines from the trip south.
Griffith Stole the Show at Smyrna
Before winning the 2019 Orange Blossom 100, Derek Griffith had just three top-five finishes in the World Series since he first went to the event in 2013. The New Hampshire driver blew those numbers away in this year’s trip to New Smyrna.
Griffith won the Super Late Model championship, with one win and six top-five finishes, including four runner-up placements. On top of that, Griffith charged through the field in the closing laps of his ARCA Menards Series East debut for a second-place finish in that race.
His performances left social media buzzing with fans and drivers hoping to see Griffith racing more, and at higher levels, moving forward.
Jesse Love is the Real Deal
California racer Jesse Love had competed as a rookie on the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series campaign in 2019, finishing ninth in the final standings. Competing with Wimmer Motorsports at the 2020 World Series, Love finished third in the Super Late Model points standings.
Love picked up a win during the week, visiting victory lane on Night #2 over Griffith. He also finished in the top-five six times, showing consistent performance during the World Series. It was a breakthrough performance for the young driver against some of the top Late Model racers in North America.
Tour-type Modifieds Rarely Disappoint
The ground pounding Tour-type Modifieds convened at New Smyrna and put on five incredible nights of racing. With plentiful car counts, hard but clean racing and a pair of side-by-side finishes during the week, the division was the highlight of the World Series.
Even without the close finishes, the Modifieds had a week to remember and a captivating championship battle throughout the week between Matt Hirschman and Anthony Nocella. Their photo finish in the John Blewett III Memorial will be discussed, debated and dissected for years to come as one of the truly great moments in World Series history.
Wight May Be in for a Big Year
Those who say lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice were not at Volusia Speedway Park during Speedweeks. “Lightning” Larry Wight won three times during the DIRTcar Nationals, bagging the Big Block Modified title.
While the DIRTcar Nationals did not count towards Super DIRTcar Series points, Wight finished fourth in that points chase last year and has established himself as a contender when the 2020 season kicks off in April.
Williamson Hasn’t Missed a Beat
When that season kicks off, though, the Super DIRTcar Stars will still have to factor in the defending series champion. Mat Williamson picked up a pair of wins during the DIRTcar Nationals, the only driver to keep Wight out of victory lane in Volusia.
The success continues Williamson’s momentum to close out the 2019 season. Williamson won the $100,000 Centennial Race Weekend at Orange County Fair Speedway as well as three Super DIRTcar Series events in the fall months, including the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at Super DIRT Week. He clearly still has that winning touch.
B-Shepp Isn’t Slowing Down
It has not taken Brandon Sheppard much time at all to rack up eight wins during the 2020 season. The two-time World of Outlaws Late Models champion entered Speedweeks with three wins from out west under his belt. He left Florida with another five to his collection.
Sheppard scored three wins with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at East Bay Raceway Park during the Winternationals. Sheppard then went to Volusia for the DIRTcar Nationals, where he picked up two more wins.
Don’t Sleep on Nocella
After their thrilling week-long battle, Matt Hirschman left New Smyrna with the Tour-type Modified championship in the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. However, Anthony Nocella made his stamp on the event by going toe-to-toe with “Big Money” throughout the week.
The duo had a pair of side-by-side finishes during the week, with Nocella getting the upper hand on both occasions. One of those came in the John Blewett III Memorial, adding his name to a list of Modified greats to have won the event.
The World Series is Back
The World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing has been gradually returning to its prior greatness in recent years, but the 54thAnnual edition of the event reached a new level in that progression. Momentum is high for the event after an overwhelmingly successful nine nights.
Car counts across the major divisions were strong, and the marquee events such as the Orange Blossom 100 and the Richie Evans Memorial brought out some of the best in the sport. Fan turnout was also stout all week, as fans flooded the Florida half-mile and were treated to great short track racing.
T-Mac Looking Strong Early
It has been tough to stop Jonathan Davenport in recent years in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, with three titles in the past five seasons. The year is still very young, but Tim McCreadie has been up to the task so far.
McCreadie kicked off the season with a win at Golden Isles Speedway (GA), then added a win during the East Bay Winternationals. It’ll be more than a month until the Lucas Oil Late Models are back on track at Atomic Speedway for the Buckeye Spring 50, but McCreadie has already put the competition on notice.
Sprint Car Champions Still Flexing Muscle
There was also plenty of Sprint Car racing during Speedweeks, and a couple of 2019’s champions in that discipline came out of the gates firing in Florida.
World of Outlaws champion Brad Sweet scored two wins at Volusia during Speedweeks, one with the Outlaws and another with the All-Star Circuit of Champions. ASCoC defending champion Aaron Reutzel also added two wins under that series banner at Volusia. While they were non-points events for the All-Stars, those running the series know they will have to deal with Reutzel in 2020.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51