DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Donavan Beacham practically grew up in a race car, while Brian King just started racing a few years ago after Beacham introduced him to the sport.
Now the two drivers are competing for a national championship.
It’s not the first time a pair of drivers who compete at the same track are challenging for a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division V championship, but it might be the first time friendly rivals who met five years ago are this close in the standings this late in the season.
King has proven to be a quick learner as he leads the Div. V standings thanks to six wins in 22 starts with 18 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes – which is good enough to give him a four-point lead over Beacham (467-463).
“Donovan got me started in racing and I guess you could say he is the one who helped me get to where I am today,” King said. “We met running and just having fun with some go-karts and I eventually bought a car and I guess that is how it all started for me.”
The four-cylinder cars that the drivers compete in each week are on the schedule at both Anderson (S.C.) Motor Speedway and Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway, and with the tracks relatively close – roughly 20 miles apart – both men are able to compete at both NASCAR sanctioned tracks.
While Greenville-Pickens has long been a member of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, Anderson returned to hosting NASCAR-sanctioned events this season and is operated by second-generation track promoter Sylvia Porter. King is quick to point out that having Porter operate the track makes him want to support her efforts to follow in her late father’s footsteps.
“I love running at NASCAR tracks and Sylvia does a great job each week,” King added. “She always gets input from the drivers when she makes a decision and she and her staff have made Anderson a fun place to race.”
King also made it clear that winning a NASCAR championship would mean something special.
“To be able to call yourself a NASCAR champion is something special and I know that it would mean a lot to me or Brian if one of us wins the division crown,” King said.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II-V Championship program determines support division national championships. The four national champions will receive a trophy and a trip to the series national awards event. In addition, the top-three dirt and top-three asphalt drivers in each division will be invited to the series awards event.
At season’s end, drivers in Divisions II-V will be ranked by their best 14 NASCAR points race results. The season concludes September 21.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Championship Division II-V leaders this week include:
• Division II: 1. Jared Umbenhauer, Grandview Speedway, Bechtelsville, Pa.; 2. Jesse Dennis, I-80 Speedway, Greenwood, Neb., Adams County Speedway, Corning, Iowa; 3. Brett Kressley, Grandview; 4. Terry Humphrey Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway; 5. Taylor Branch, Bowman Gray Stadium, Winston-Salem, N.C..
• Division III: 1. Jon Plowman, I-80, Adams County; 2. Josh Galvin, Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl; 3. Randy Stoudt, Grandview; 4 Jerod Weston, I-80, Adams County; 5. John Ketron, Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway, Lonesome Pine Raceway, Coeburn, Va.
• Division IV: 1. Corey Kyer, Columbus; 2. AJ Sanders Jr., Bowman Gray, Caraway, Sophia, N.C.; 3. Garrett Denton, Waterford, Thompson; 4. Brad Derry, Adams County, I-80; 5. Jeremy Menninger, Columbus.
• Division V: 1. Brian King, Anderson (S.C.) Motor Speedway, Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway; 2. Donavan Beacham, Anderson, Greenville; 3. Jerry Jansen Jr., Kalamazoo (Mich.); 4. Brady Walsh, Salina (Kan.) Speedway; 5. Chris Harvell, Greenville, Anderson.
Beacham, who began his racing career practicing his dad’s Renegade car at Greenville Pickens, raced on dirt before making the switch to asphalt recently. The South Carolina driver is in second place to King with seven wins, 17 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes.
He agrees that he helped get King started in racing and while the two are friends, he knows when it is time to get on the track, both men want the same thing each time they race – a win.
“It’s kind of crazy that I am sitting where I am in the points (standings) because I have never really raced for points before,” Beacham said. “I just raced for fun and went for the checkered flag.”
In fact, after a rough start to this season, Beacham almost decided to take some races off because he wasn’t getting the finishes he expected. He also explains that his opportunity to race for a national title might have not happened at all if it wasn’t for his persistent car owner.
“I had a few bad races and I was ready to take a break,’ Beacham said. “My car owner, Chris Huitt, got on my case pretty good to keep racing and look where we are now.”
As for helping King, Beacham actually drove King’s first car for him after he bought it to help him get it set up last year. While they are always supportive of one another and quick to help each other out, Beacham expects the season to go down to the wire.
“I think it is going to get intense and it seems like every week Brian and I are either racing side-by-side or nose to tail so I am sure it is going to get interesting,” Beacham added.
Under the NASCAR point structure in Divisions I-V, drivers receive two points for every car they finish ahead of in an event, up to 18 cars. Three bonus points will be awarded to a race winner with a single-digit starting position and five bonus points will be awarded to a race winner with a double-digit starting position.
Drivers must be NASCAR-licensed and cars will be verified for display of required series sponsor decals to be eligible for NASCAR points and awards.
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.