It's been an interesting year to say the least in the Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco. The 2015 crusade has seen new winners, new contenders and some great racing. Only five races remain with big stops taking place at Mobile International Speedway (AL) for the Lee Fields Memorial and the 52nd running of the Alabama 200 at Montgomery Motor Speedway (AL).
The Title: Casey Smith has been solid this year and has yet to finish outside of the top-10 in the eight events completed thus far. Smith has also picked up two wins to fuel his strong start. Smith told Speed51.com a few weeks ago he still wants to improve his qualifying performance and hopefully that will push him over the top in his bid for the $10,000 championship crown.
Behind Smith is a former series champion in that of Daniel Hemric, who will not be finishing his title run this season. Hemric recently told Speed51.com that he will no longer by driving the Carswell Motorsports No. 98. That seat will be filled by Ross Kenseth, the son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Matt Kenseth.
Next in line is Donnie Wilson, who has not visited Victory Lane this year after three wins in 2014. Wilson has had some strong runs, but he's going to need a good run of luck to help aid his quest for his first Southern Super Series title.
Casey Roderick is fourth and still in the mix. Roderick won the biggest races (Rattler 250 & World Crown 300) a year ago in the series and now is turning consistency into a championship run.
Surprises: Harrison Burton has emerged as a weekly contender and has already picked up a win this season with new crew chief Chris Wimmer calling the shots. A strong push down the stretch could land them a top-five finish in the points. He and Garrett Jones are battling to see who will be the top rookie in the series this year. Jones has seven top 10 finishes in eight races, which has him sitting fifth in points after eight races.
Dominique Van Wieringen has also been impressive this year with a runner-up finish at Five Flags and recently a fourth-place finish at Mobile. Look for more success and maybe even the first win by a female in the series later this season.
How about Allen Karnes? Four top 10's this year and a career-first top five run. It's been a good year for Karnes, but he wants more and to keep it going.
Jeremy Pate has done wonders as a weekly driver and finds himself in the top 10 in the standings which could prove to be valuable at season's end.
Off Their Game: Augie Grill has not been an every week driver, but he's contended when he has raced. It almost seems like the lag of last season is pulling at Grill again and until that win comes even he will tell you he's off his game.
Twice a winner in 2014, Anderson Bowen is a little down on his luck as he continues to search for his first SSS win of the 2015 season. His last three races have resulted in top 10's so things look to be turning around.
Cold: Bubba Pollard has been the biggest surprise of the 2015 season when it comes to racing in the Deep South. His ventures out of the region have been very good, but back home he's been bitten by bad luck and sub-par runs. Still, you can never count Pollard out for a trip to victory lane, as his best tracks remain.
What's on the Line: Donnie Wilson and Casey Roderick have another championship on their mind as well. The two are only separated by six points in the Blizzard Series at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. The titlist gets an automatic starting spot in the prestigious Snowball Derby. Also on the line is the Mobile track title in which Hemric leads Smith going into the final two rounds.
2016: Series officials have already informed us that plans for the 2016 Southern Super Series season are already in the works. Tracks are already negotiating dates. Look for more announcements on Speed51.com in the coming months.
4: Point leader Casey Smith has only finished four races outside the top 10 in 24 career series starts.
6: 2015 has produced six winners in eight races. Going back to 2014, that is now eight different winners in the last 11 races.
7: Five Flags Speedway has produced seven different winners in 10 races. Mobile is a close second with six different winners in eight races. For years other drivers have claimed that it's hard to go down south and win and these numbers just show the parity in the series.
14: Bubba Pollard is the all-time fast time award winner with 14 awards for setting the fastest lap.
152: Number of drivers who have raced in the three year history of the series.
Daniel Hemric at this point is the only driver to win a race in each of the three seasons. Augie Grill and Bubba Pollard could add their name to that.
Part-time drivers in the series Mike Garvey and David Rogers have combined for 35 starts and 25 top 10 finishes.
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Contributor
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com