One number you’ll hear brandied about a lot in the coming weeks is “49”. The 2015 running of the New Smyrna Speedway World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing will be held for the 49th time in the history of the track, running from February 13th to February 21st.
The World Series started with a one-off race at the then-known ‘Daytona Raceway’ in February 1967, grew to a few-day late model-only event for the next few seasons and then blossomed into the multi-divisional, week-long event that it is today starting in the late 1970s.
Along the way, some of the greats in asphalt racing have made their mark in the February event and produced some of the most competitive fields one will ever see in racing. If you’re curious as to the origin of this feature’s photo, that’s Dick Trickle racing an “Ole Blue” Lenny Boehler modified in the World Series in the mid-1980s, the only time those two legends ever got together.
Here are some of the numbers that define the World Series past and can help give a glimpse into what to expect for 2015.
0: The number of rainouts during last year’s World Series. With the typical Florida humidity and simply the length of time the event goes on (9 days), it’s not unusual to see 1, 2, or even 3 nights rained out. While last year’s World Series went off without a weather hitch, it is unlikely to happen again. 51’s Third Turn is currently scanning in World Series’ history and of the 17 seasons we’ve thus far documented, 14 had at least one night rained out. Rainouts most benefitted Kyle Benjamin back in 2012. Due to school, the youngster was going to miss the first two nights of the series but both of those nights were rained out. The six nights Benjamin did get to race were enough to let him claim the Super Late Model title.
3: The number of Canadian champions in World Series history. How can you call it a ‘World’ Series if you don’t get a little representation from au nord de la frontière, eh? Junior Hanley, who won just about everything else there is to win in racing, captured three World Series LM titles while often competing with Gary Balough in the 1980s for driving most creatively engineered machine (to put it generously). Jerry Artuso, who relocated to warmer climates early in his career from Sault Ste. Marie, won both the IMCA-Modified and Crate Late Model title in 2005 while Martin Latulippe was the top Pro Late Model man in 2011.
5: Number of post-race technical DQs handed out during the 2014 World Series. Tech director Ricky Brooks has helped reign in a wild, anything goes tech area of years past and has helped make a level and even playing field for the competitors. To win the title this year, a driver is going to have to avoid trouble on the track and in the tech shed. Just ask Ronnie Silk – despite dominating the Modified competition last season, a mid-week DQ meant he would have to eke out the Tour-Type Modified title after coming into the last race trailing in the points.
7.5: Spencer Davis’ average finish in the 2014 World Series. Davis competed in 20 total races during the event, competing full-time across the Super Late Models, Pro Late Models, and Tour-Type Modifieds. Davis won the Pro Late Model championship, came close to winning a few Super Late Model events, and finished in the top-ten in every Tour-Type Modified race despite it being Davis’ first outing in the open-wheeled machine.
10: Ted Christopher’s titles in World Series action, the most of any driver. Nine come from the Tour-Type Modifieds while he was also the SK co champ with brother Mike in 1991. Christopher also leads the Smyrna World Series all-time feature wins list and is tied for most championships in a row in any division (1998-2001).
11: David Rogers’ iconic number. It’s hard to imagine a World Series without Rogers, who first competed in this event in 1974 and won the Super Late Model titles in 1999, 2001, and 2009. But the champ has been in a bit of a slump in both World Series and weekly Late Model competition at Smyrna in recent years. He’s only won one World Series feature since 2010 and that was thanks to a DQ. Will he regain his form in 2015?
12.2: The number of miles it takes one to get from Daytona International Speedway to New Smyrna Speedway. It’s a hop, jump, and a skip for most fans down I-95, and everyone in town for the Daytona 500 needs to come out and take in a full night of action at least once. That number was pretty crucial back in the 1970s, when Modified drivers would compete in the Permatex 300 on the high banks of Daytona in the afternoon and then scoot down to Smyrna at night to race their regular machines.
13: The number of Super Late Model champions in the last 13 World Series – Steve Wallace, Ryan Moore, Kyle Benjamin, Tim Russell, B.J. McLeod, David Rogers, Jeff Choquette, Jeff Scofield, Travis Kittleson, Louie Mechalides, Mike Fritts, Wayne Anderson, and Jimmy Cope. In fact, Rogers and Anderson are the only repeat champions since Jack Cook won three straight from 1992 to 1994.
19: The number of previous Tour-Type Modified champions over the previous 39 World Series the Modifieds have been in action. In addition to Christopher and Richie Evans (more on him in a moment), Steve Park, Tom Baldwin, Eric Beers, and Reggie Ruggerio are multi-time champions.
20: The number of events on tap for the 2015 Joey Coulter’s Truck Series teams. After a really strong first year thanks to long-time Pro-Truck icon Rick Bristol, the tour is expecting to put on a good show for fans when they are the featured division Saturday, February 14th. Racing on some of the state’s most iconic dirt tracks as well as asphalt, this tour is one to watch in 2015. Their inaugural champion was Becca Monopoli, whose 6 wins in 14 races was the most by any female in any major short track touring division in 2014. Expect her name to pop up again come World Series time.
29: The number of ACT drivers entered for their three-night American Racer Challenge Cup. Both of last year’s ACT champs – Joey Polewarczyk Jr. and Alex Labbe – spearhead a contingent that feature 8 different states and Quebec. Polewarczyk was the ACT World Series inaugural champion in 2011.
39: Number of New Smyrna wins for Richie Evans. The “Rapid Roman” almost single-handedly got the speedway to invite the Modifieds in for the first time in 1976. His reward was a complete domination of the Modified division – scoring the championship in 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983, and 1984. In 1984 he won each and every race he started – missing one feature due to a heat crash. After tragically losing his life at the end of the 1985 season, Evans’ name is now memorialized in the week-ending Richie Evans Memorial 100 for the Mod Squad.
180: That is the number of entries across the six divisions that competed at New Smyrna last season. The Super Late Models added 52 towards that total, the most of any division.
183: The number of words combined in the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and ‘Oh Canada’, which will be played prior to the start of each night’s racing action.
1846: The number of laps scheduled to be run in the 2015 World Series. We hope to see you at the track and if you can’t make it out to central Florida, we hope to have you join us for every single one of them on Speed51.com
— By Tim Quievryn // 51’s Third Turn // @thethirdturn
— Photo credit: Mid-West Short Track Racing Facebook Group