During the autumn months, numerous short tracks stage a major race that is storied in history to conclude their season.  Colorado National Speedway is no different, and perhaps the Challenge Cup flies under the radar considering that during the regular season the longstanding facility possesses one of the most comprehensive and accomplished casts of Super Late Model drivers in all of North America.

 

We wanted to demonstrate who these drivers are and take a look back at an event that has seen some big names in short track racing, on both asphalt and dirt, which have seen success in past years.  The catch is that we wanted to keep it all in line with the name of the event, Challenge Cup XLIV, so trigger your knowledge of the Roman numeral system for this one.

 

I – There could be lots of firsts on Saturday.  First off, it’s not the same Michael Scott that moved to Colorado at the end of the seventh season of The Office, but this one, from Cheyenne, Wyoming, recently earned his first career CNS championship in the Pro Truck division.  Leading the Super Late Model points a portion of the season as well; Scott will be a force to reckon with in this weekend’s show.  He finished 20th in last year’s running and will likely be joined by Mark Jones and Mark Neff as drivers looking to improve upon their previous initial appearance in 2017.  2018 Rookie of the Year Cody Dempster and 20-year-old second-generation driver Conner Snow will make their debut in the event, while veterans such as Jace Hansen, Justin Simonson, and a fellow Cheyenne native of Scott’s, Chris Atkinson, are searching for their first Challenge Cup victory.

 

II – Challenge Cup victories and CNS track championships each in which Dominic Ursetta has accumulated.  The Arvada racer splits his time on asphalt and dirt, and when making an appearance in Dacono, Colorado or anywhere else the 30-year-old travels he is one of the fastest in attendance.  The latter can also be described toward another key two-time event winner, 2015 K&N Pro Series West champion Chris Eggleston.  This year’s Chilly Willy 150 winner at Tucson Speedway (AZ) is sure to be one of the favorites if he makes an appearance from his home in nearby Thornton.  Kyle Ray has split his time between Lucas Oil Modifieds, Supermodifieds, and the local Grand American Modifieds where he claimed the track championship in 2018, but has the Challenge Cup listed on his website’s upcoming schedule where the 2016 winner hopes to match the aforementioned two’s two-win total.

 

IV – Number of Challenge Cup wins that the legendary five-time NASCAR Whelen All American Series (then Winston Racing Series) national champion Larry Phillips acquired in his years competing at Colorado National Speedway.  All of the NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee’s wins came on a dirt surface, and his son Terry even won at a young age twice prior to the speedway being paved in 1989.  A couple other notable winners that went on to fame across the country include the “High Plains Drifter” Rick Carelli and Michigan ace Fred Campbell (father of current Super and Pro Late Model force Brian Campbell).

 

VI – Amount of wins three generations of the Robertson family has combined for over the years in the prestigious event.  The patriarch, Odie Robertson, won the inaugural Challenge Cup and again in 1980, and most recently competed in 2014.  Odie’s son Jerry Robertson has three victories, and may be best known as the first ever driver for the defending NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series championship team Furniture Row Racing.  Odie’s grandson Darren Robertson definitely remains active on the CNS racing scene, capturing his second straight track championship, despite missing a race early in the season.  Darren won this event in 2013 and is the only competitor that has started every single one of the last 10 Challenge Cups.

 

VII – Number in which Kulwicki Driver Development Program participant Brett Yackey adorned when driving to the Late Model (different than the Super Late Models) division track championship this past weekend.  The third-generation racer will return to his No. 32 SLM in which he rides some momentum as well.  “The Maverick” picked up his first win in the division the last time out at CNS, besting his father Bruce to the line.  Watch out for this young gun, who finished third in 2016.

 

XI – Years since P.J. Mattorano last competed in the Challenge Cup.  The Commerce City, Colorado driver won on that night and at the final Super Late Model race of the 2018 regular season emerged after a lengthy absence.  The F-16 fighter jets in which the Tech Sergeant in the Air National Guard has actively worked on or around in his 14 years of active service drew inspiration for his racecar’s scheme.

 

XXV – Number of years since Bruce Yackey claimed his lone Challenge Cup victory.  Do not count the Greeley driver out by any means though.  Aside from being on the sidelines from the 2012 running, the longtime track regular and record nine-time champion does not seem to have a finish outside the top 10 in recent history.  That includes five runner-up results for “The Moose” in the span of 11 years.

 

XXXII – The total number of drivers who competed at least once in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series Super Late Model division throughout 2018.  1991 track champion Ray Daniels, a 2017 Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee, plus past Grand American Modified division champion and Evergreen Speedway (WA) Summer Showdown participant this year, Ed Vecchiarelli Jr., were among the top 15 in the final track standings.

 

XLIII – The edition of last year’s running matching his car number was a good omen, but can No. 43 Kody Vanderwal improve upon his fifth place performance in the 44th running of the Challenge Cup?  The LaSalle racer has certainly impressed in 2018 with a pair of victories in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and returns to his home track in anything he can race on weeks when he is not traveling.  The 17-year-old recently told Speed51.com that the team has been making some huge gains and is looking forward to the Challenge Cup.

 

LXVI – Years of age for Super Late Model veteran and 2000 event winner Roger Avants.  The Littleton driver is also a five-time CNS track champion and finished fifth in the 2016 running of the Challenge Cup.  The Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame member notably won the first ever NASCAR Southwest Tour race held in 1986 and made 11 career starts in the former American Speed Association in the early 1990s.

 

LXXXIV – Many outside of CNS may not be familiar with the name Matt Zwingleberg, but if the Parker, Colorado driver is in the pit area it would be a safe bet to pick him to do well.  He has never won the Challenge Cup, but the No. 84 has a best result of third and has not finished worse than sixth in his five most recent appearances.

 

XCII – According to race results records, this many total drivers have attempted at least one Challenge Cup in the last 10 years.

 

C – The distance in laps (100) in which the Challenge Cup XLIV competitors will circulate the 3/8-mile oval.

 

MCMXCIX – The most recent year in which a driver who did not live in Colorado (defending winner Preston Peltier is not originally from the Centennial State but had moved there at the time) won the Challenge Cup.  The all-time winningest driver in the NASCAR Southwest Tour’s 21 year tenure, M.K. Kanke took the win back to Frazier Park, California in 1999, but he was technically driving for the Colorado-based Bonicelli Racing team.  If that were to be excluded, you would have to go back even further to 1992 when Midwest short track racing legend Steve Carlson traveled from Wisconsin to win.

 

Previous Challenge Cup Winners (Dirt – 1975-1988, Paved – 1989-Present):

2017 Preston Peltier

2016 Kyle Ray

2015 Dominic Ursetta

2014 Dominic Ursetta

2013 Darren Robertson

2012 Adam Deines

2011 Chris Eggleston

2010 Dan Savage

2009 Chris Eggleston

2008 Ronnie Hults

2007 P.J. Mattorano

2006 Scotty Backman

2005 Darren Crocker

2004 Jerry Robertson

2003 Rick Carelli

2002 Jerry Robertson

2001 Dave Finley

2000 Roger Avants

1999 M.K. Kanke

1998 Joe Bellm

1997 Richard Burton

1996 Jerry Robertson

1995 Rick Carelli

1994 Rick Carelli

1993 Bruce Yackey

1992 Steve Carlson

1991 Tom Carlson

1990 Fred Campbell

1989 Rick Carelli

1988 Terry Phillips

1987 Terry Phillips

1986 Larry Phillips

1985 Larry Phillips

1984 Larry Phillips

1983 Butch Speicher

1982 Larry Phillips

1981 Mike Niffenegger

1980 Odie Robertson

1979 “Wild Bill” Liebig

1978 Clayton Peterson Jr.

1977 Terry Bivins

1976 Tommy Bartolomew

1975 Odie Robertson

 

Speed51.com will be on hand for Challenge Cup XLIV race day with tweets on the @Speed51LM account.  Pit gates open at 1 p.m. MT with opening practice at 3:00 p.m.  Grandstand gates open at 4:00 p.m. and an opportunity for fans to meet and greet and trick-or-treat with their favorite drivers takes place at 5:30 before racing begins at 6:30.

 

-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com National Correspondent – Twitter: @aaron_creed

-Photo credit: Starr Photo

By the Numbers: Colorado National Speedway Challenge Cup