Motor Mile Speedway racers have waited more than a year to go racing again at their home track.
For some, the hiatus has lasted much longer.
At the conclusion of the 2017 race season, Motor Mile Speedway ownership suspended the track’s NASCAR program. The venerable motorsports venue shifted gears after 30 consecutive seasons of NASCAR racing, opting to promote a series of unique special events in 2018. Subsequent off-season meetings spawned another reconfigured calendar of events for 2019, however. With a new season about to begin at the Radford, Va., short track, the marquee special events from 2018 have returned… and the NASCAR-sanctioned racing program has returned as well. Motor Mile Speedway will unfurl the first green flag of the 2019 season Saturday at 7PM.
Motor Mile Speedway’s racing community has responded. Currently, 114 race teams have registered car numbers, with all five divisions boasting higher pre-season totals than 2017 season averages. The renewed enthusiasm is best exemplified by the current MOD-4 division roster: 33 teams have registered, far outpacing the healthy 14-car average the class enjoyed in 2017.
The burgeoning Super Street division has experienced meteoric growth as well. The division averaged a modest seven-car field per race during its inaugural season in 2017. The Super Street ranks have swelled threefold on the cusp of the division’s sophomore season, with 21 teams registered thus far. Of the total number of teams registered, eleven did not compete in the Super Street class in 2017.
Among the Super Street newcomers is a former Motor Mile Speedway mainstay. From 2005 to his final season in 2012, Wayne Corprew authored one of the most accomplished MOD-4 resumes of the Motor Mile Speedway era. In six seasons, the Hollins, Va., native amassed 22 victories and back-to-back track championships in 2009 and 2010.
Corprew tallied two wins in two starts in 2012. Then, in a flash reminiscent of the speed he showcased on the track, Corprew’s career was over. The race team disbanded, the race car was sold, and Corprew took to driving four-wheelers as a founding member of an ATV club in Roanoke.
“I was actually done. I was content going to West Virginia and riding ATVs,” Corprew explains. “When I ran across Norm, and he had this opportunity for me to go racing, I jumped on it.”
A chance meeting with retired West Virginia racer Norm Weaver during an ATV excursion fueled the duo’s desire to mount a collective comeback. Weaver owned a mint ARCA Series race car, and Motor Mile Speedway’s relaxed Super Street rules package presented the pair with an opportunity. Minimal technical restrictions govern the cars participating in the Super Street division; a specific shock and tire package are the only major requirements. The resurrection of Motor Mile Speedway’s racing program meant Weaver’s race car could compete in the Super Street division… at Corprew’s home track.
It was a natural fit. Corprew is slated to compete full-time in the Super Street division this season in Weaver’s no. 21 entry.
Motor Mile Speedway’s season opener will be Corprew’s first outing in a race car since 2014. Still, Corprew is optimistic the homecoming will produce characteristic results.
“I anticipate a lot of hard work. We are moving to a different class, but I do feel confident that we have the right equipment, and the right people in place, to give the team what we need to pick up where we left off,” Corprew says, suggesting a return to prominence is possible. “I won at a lot of other tracks, but it just seems like I had a knack for finding the fast way around Motor Mile [Speedway].”
Motor Mile Speedway always seemed to suit Davin Scites’ skillset, too. The Davidson, NC, Late Model racer was a perennial frontrunner during his tenure at the track. Though he only recorded one full-time Late Model season from 2005 to 2011, Scites ranks third all-time among active Late Model drivers with nine wins.
Scites’ most formidable stint at Motor Mile Speedway transpired during a three-year partnership with JR Motorsports. A three-win season propelled Scites to a career-best third-place finish in the Late Model standings in 2008. Scites garnered three subsequent victories before the partnership dissolved at the end of the 2010 season.
Scites has admittedly slowed down in recent years. He has transitioned from the cockpit to the pit box in a full-time role with Rev Racing’s driver development program. A recent father of two, Scites’ extracurricular racing has been throttled in the interest of family obligations; Scites has managed just a handful of one-off Late Model starts over the past several seasons.
“I got a ton of races in last year…a whopping two,” jokes Scites, noting that the growth of his children has predictably resulted in more time out of the house…and in the garage.
“It’s just now getting to where they are out in the shop with me and having a good time. I’m able to work on the car a little bit more,” Scites explains. ““I still enjoy racing so much. I’ve been taking my little boy and letting him RC race…so we’re staying in it.”
In fact, Scites is poised for a racing revival this season. Hearkening back to his days as a powerhouse part-timer, Scites is anticipating a partial schedule at Motor Mile Speedway in the trademark no. 06.
With hopes of replicating past success, Scites is taking a pragmatic approach to his Motor Mile Speedway return.
“During those years, it seemed like everything fell my way. Our engines ran good, and I had some great people helping me. And I don’t feel like we’re far off of that,” acknowledges Scites. “I feel like everyone has caught up. If you don’t stay in it, they’ll pass you. As things develop, you have to stay up with the times.
“I know the competition level that will be up there,” continues Scites. “I’d love to come out with a win or two, but we’ll just have to see where we’re at.”
Indeed, the competition promises to be stiff. A sampling of the notable names competing in Motor Mile Speedway’s Late Model division in 2019 include young gun Ryan Repko, Martinsville Speedway Late Model 300 winners Mike Looney and C.E. Falk, and five-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Philip Morris.
Quality and quantity. In terms of competition, it’s a theme that encompasses all five divisions ahead of Saturday night’s Shelor Motor Mile TWIN 50s. As the season opener approaches, the storylines are as numerous as the racers who have registered to compete this season.
For example, 2011 MOD-4 track champion and fan-favorite Kirby Gobble will be back at the track for the first time since 2016 to oversee a fleet of eight race teams across three divisions, including Limited Sportsman Rookie of the Year contenders Josh Gobble and Chase Dixon.
MOD-4 champions Doodle Lang and Chucky Williams will attempt to resume their reign atop the MOD-4 division; the dominant duo enter the season opener having combined to win the last 26 MOD-4 races—a streak that dates back to May 2nd, 2015.
Brothers Scott and Ricky Howell, Jr., fixtures in the UCAR division, will be welcoming a third family member into the fold this season; Ricky’s 14-year-old son, Peyton Howell, will be making his Motor Mile Speedway debut in the UCAR division in 2019.
And everyone is revved up. Scites echoes the anticipation and excitement shared by Motor Mile Speedway’s racing community.
“It’s great,” Scites says in answer to a question about racing’s return to Motor Mile Speedway. “It’s a super track. I’ve been there when the stands were packed. All you need is some good racing.”
With a slew of great racers expected to compete Saturday night, good racing is a guarantee.
Not convinced? Just wait…
-Motor Mile Speedway Press Release
-Photo credit: Motor Mile Speedway / J.W. Miller