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.
– NASCAR IMC press release. Photo credit: Dave Brown