Each year, Speed51.com does our best to cover the wide variety of short track series that build the backbone of grassroots racing across the country. But due to editorial constraints and the busy year-long schedule, sometimes there are various series we simply don’t get to devote as much attention to as we’d like.
This week, we’re partnering with our racing history partner, 51's Third Turn, to honor a wide variety of 2014 champions in some of these entry-level divisions and series. Today we’re looking at some of the grassroots racing series that make up the Southeast/Deep South region. To view all the stats, races and results for these 2014 tours, click on the series name to view their information on 51's Third Turn.
PASS South's entry level division, the PASS Pros, crowned its third titlist in as many seasons with 18-year-old Walker Yates taking the crown. He and Jacob Schneider had a tussle to the finish after posting the same amount of top-fives (6) and top-tens (10), while having just ten points separating them. The difference in the end was Yates' two victories at Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC) and Hickory Motor Speedway (SC). All of that might have been for naught had Kodie Conner been able to start the Dillon Motor Speedway (SC) race. He won 5 times and his deficit in the final points was entirely due to the missed event. Other young guns that won on the tour in 2014 were Nick Robinson, Zachary Dabbs, and Lucas Jones.
A Late Model Truck series running in the coastal plains part of North Carolina and South Carolina put together a 12-race schedule for 2014. Jimmy Herrington claimed his first championship despite missing a race at mid-season after posting 4 wins and 11 top-fives in his 11 starts. Defending two-time series champ Hal Goodson won three races but missed a few too many races to really compete with Herrington's run. Bryan Blackwell and Clay Thomas won twice with Clint Fields winning the season finale at Kenly.
Kevin Leicht became just the series' second champion when he claimed the 2014 title. Leicht has been full-time in the series since its inception in 2012 and a little extra bit of consistency helped him better his runner-up effort last year. Leicht won in the tour's summer race at Anderson Motor Speedway (SC) and led the series with 11 top-10 finishes in 12 points races. Lee Tissot missed the first two races, a fateful decision as he led the series in wins (3) and top-fives (9). Tissot's 15 point deficit to Leicht in the final points shows that by starting even a single race Tissot would likely have instead won the championship. Series ownership has announced a companion Super Stock Series for 2015.
A long-time staple in the South, the SAS completed its 32nd tour with Riley Hickman capturing his second consecutive title. Hickman started off strong with a win in the opener and then closed the tour out by winning the last two races. A solid dose of consistency in between, in which he finished all but one race in the top-10, was easily enough to enable him beat out fellow three-time winner Todd Morrow. Three-time champ Randy Weaver was another three-time winner with Joe Armistead, Jr., Billy Ogle, Jr., Shane Clanton, Brad Neat, and Ivedent Lloyd, Jr. all visiting Victory Lane once.
This first year Dirt Late Model toured the Appalachian regions of Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Despite just starting out, the tour attracted some 137 drivers in their 10 races. The issue the tour faces now is getting a few good drivers to commit to running the entire tour. Kenny Collins competed in 9 of the 10 races and had just a best finish of 6th. But it was good enough to hoist him to the title regardless as the only two-time winner on the tour, Casey Roberts, ran 7 of 10. The other eight winners were: Jason Hiett, Jonathan Davenport, Mike Marlar, Ray Cook, Chris Madden, Chris Ferguson, Scott Bloomquist, and Riley Heckman.
Dirt Modified racing is very popular in Texas with the fledgling asphalt side of the machines beginning to pick up some momentum. The TALMS concluded its sophomore season with Joey Heinaman claiming the title after a nine-race season in which he claimed two wins and finished each and every race in the top-five. Defending series champ Cody Beddoe also tallied two wins, but two rough races in mid-season derailed his charge. Other winners on the tour were Tanner Whitmire, Billy Becka, and Derek Legg. The tour will have a more open rulebook in 2015 to try to allow Dirt Modified racers to more easily adapt their machines to the asphalt world.
A long-running tradition in Central Texas features compact sedan cars. What is not traditional is a driver dominating the tour as much as Sergio Hexsel has the last few years. Following a 6-for-8 victory total in 2013, Hexsel followed it up with a 8-for-9 title romp in 2014. The only race he lost came at Corpus Christi, when he finished 2nd to James Hogan. Hogan was the distant runner-up with half of the point total of Hexsel. 26 drivers competed on the tour in 2014.
Florida's primary Dirt Late Model series capped a 16-race season with a breakout title winner in Jason Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had won just twice in 27 previous series starts, but won five features in 2014 and easily beat out Austin Kirkpatrick for the title despite missing the second race of the tour. Mark Whitener made a late charge to third in tour points by winning the final three races. Fresh blood in the winner's circle was a sign of continued health for the tour as Kirkpatrick, Brandon DeWitt, Kyle Bridges, and Jeff Mathews all won their first race.
To see all of the series stats and winners 51's Third Turn covered for this year, click this link.
-By Tim Quievryn, 51's Third Turn - Twitter: @TheThirdTurn