Daytona Beach, Fla. – The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship picture has a new contender.
Taylor Holdaway surged into second place on the strength of a sweep of the twin 35-lap Late Model features at Sunset Speedway. They were his 10th and 11th wins at the Ontario asphalt oval. More importantly, it gave him 19 starts and allowed him to drop his worst performance of the season.
The results vaulted the 24 year-old Orillia, Ontario, native from sixth, up four spots and 17 points behind Oklahoma’s Thomas Tillison Jr. Second-place through fifth are separated by just nine points.
“Regardless of the way it finishes, it’s going to be a heckuva year,” said Holdaway, who has 11 wins, 18 top fives and 18 top 10s. “To be sitting second in points, I’m just ecstatic and can’t wait to get going this weekend.”
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.
The Whelen All-American Series points season will run through Sunday, Sept. 20.
Tillison, who races in the dirt modified divisions in Oklahoma at Salina Highbanks Speedway and Flint Creek Speedway in West Siloam. The 41-year-old from Wellston, Oklahoma, won Friday in the Modified Division at Flint Creek and again in the AmeriFlex Hose A Modified Division at Salina.
He has 14 wins, 22 top fives and 22 top 10s in 26 starts. He is also leading the Jostens Rookie of the Year standings as a first-year Division I license holder..
Two-time national champion Lee Pulliam also picked up a pair of wins – getting his first career victory at Kingsport (Tennessee) Speedway in a photo finish over Kres VanDyke on Friday, and then winning the 200-lap late model race at South Boston (Virginia) Speedway Saturday.
Pulliam, from Semora, North Carolina, has a series-leading 22 wins, 35 top fives and 37 top 10s in 40 starts at Virginia’s Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, South Boston and Langley Speedway in Hampton, as well as Caraway Speedway in Sophia, North Carolina, and Kingsport.
Connecticut’s Keith Rocco is fourth, five points back of Pulliam and one point in front of New York’s Jimmy Zacharias.
Rocco has 10 wins, 29 top fives and 36 top 10s in 41 starts racing his asphalt Modified at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, Stafford Motor Speedway and New London-Waterford Speedbowl. The Wallingford, Connecticut, driver had a pair of wins Wednesday at Thompson, was sixth at Stafford Friday and third at New London-Waterford Saturday.
Jimmy Zacharias has 13 wins, 24 top fives and 25 top 10s in 25 starts in the asphalt Modified divisions at New York’s Chemung Speedrome and Holland Motorsports Complex. Zacharias won the Sunoco Modified feature Friday to successfully defend his track championship at Chemung. And he won the Getzoni Nationwide Insurance Pro Modified race at Holland on Saturday.
“The amount of talent across the country is insane,” said Holdaway, who added that chasing the national championship has altered his in-race strategy. “The goal at the start of the year was to be the provincial champion. And then I got a phone call from Mark Dilley (Sunset Speedway’s general manager) that we had a shot at the national title. It definitely changed the game plan.
“You went from trying to get a good finish for points to going for the win. Sometimes you make passes you wouldn’t if you were okay finishing third. But you’re not going to win the national championship finishing third.”
Holdaway can be forgiven for not even thinking about a championship run after the first race weekend on May 2. Fuel issues relegated him to a 15th-place finish after leading the first feature and he wasn’t able to even start the second.
“It puts you behind the 8 ball and doesn’t leave you a margin for error,” said Holdaway. “And then we went on one of those rolls every driver dreams of. It hasn’t ended yet.”
Because the weather in Canada mandates a shorter season, Sunset runs double features. But if a driver wins the first one, they have to start the second one in 14th. It’s actually worked out for Holdaway, as he’s picked up five second-feature wins that produced the maximum 41 points for a race.
Sunset has twin features on Saturday, and then finishes the season with a 75-lap race on Sept. 12. Which means Holdaway will have three more shots to improve his total and then will have to wait it out the final weekend.
“It’s going to be a pretty stressful (last) week if we have a good three weeks,” Holdaway said.
The highest finishing driver from Canada in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series was Steve Robblee, who was sixth in 2009 while racing at Ontario’s Delaware Speedway. Ron Sheriden was eighth that year and 13th in 2010 also racing at Ontario.
Sunset is in its first season as a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track.
Ryan Preece (Stafford, Thompson and New York’s Riverhead Raceway) is sixth, followed by Jacob Goede (Minnesota’s Elko Speedway), Craig Von Dohren (Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania), Ted Christopher (New London-Waterford, Stafford, Thompson) and VanDyke (South Carolina’s Greenville Pickens Speedway and Anderson Speedway, Virginia’s Lonesome Pine Speedway in Colburn and Motor Mile, as well as Caraway and Kingsport).
The top three in the national standings, as well as state and province champions, track champions, top finishers in the Div. II-V and special award winners, will be honored at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards in December.
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 Integrated Marketing Communications Press Release. Photo credit: Dan Little