Action for week number 29 of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series will be highlighted by the annual running of the Marion Edwards, Jr. Memorial for the Super Late Models that this year is a part of the Bright House Challenge
Series. Also on the card is the rain out make-up race for the Southern Pro-Am Truck Series, the Sportsman cars, Modifieds and the Bombers.
The Marion Edwards, Jr. Memorial race honors the memory of the young 19-year old racer from Hialeah, FL. "Little Marion," as he was known, was a second generation driver who learned about racing helping on his father's cars. By the late 1960's he was fielding his own Chevelle late model. A familiar face as a child at Hialeah Speedway, his father, Marion, Sr., was active with the Greater Miami Racing Association who operated the speedway from its inception in 1954 until it's closing.
On Sunday evening July 5, 1969, Marion, Jr. and and several other drivers from South Florida went to New Smyrna Speedway for a 100 lap Late Model special event. At that time fuel cells were not yet mandatory in short track cars nor were drivers required to wear fire suits for protection. Edwards' car had a leaking fuel tank and despite his and others best efforts they could not completely stop the leak. In the feature Edwards' car made contact with the wall and the leaking fuel ignited and the car was ablaze. The bigger problem was that Edwards was using a seat belt and shoulder harness setup with a different locking mechanism and it would not release. Despite the efforts of track officials and other drivers including Jacksonville's Jack Etheridge, who was himself burned while trying to free the young driver, they were unable to release Edwards' belts and he perished in the fire. The inaugural Marion Edwards, Jr. Memorial 200 was held at Hialeah Speedway in October 1969 with Bobby Brack the winner and it continued each year (except 1995) through 2004. In 2009 the race was brought back here at New Smyrna Speedway to honor this young man who had such a great racing future ahead of him. Other former winners of this race include a who's who of Florida short track stars including Gary Balough, Larry Rogero, Dick & Wayne Anderson, Mike McCrary, Joe Winchell, Speedy Reeves, Tommy Duckworth, Mike Eddy, Butch Sousa, Bobby Coyle, Darryl Shelnut, David Russell, Mike Franklin, Jr. and Randy Tissot. Winners since the race has been at New Smyrna include Jeff Choquette, Tim Russell (twice), Bobby Good, Rich Clouser and Stephen Nasse who won the event last year.
The Bright House Challenge Series point race is currently a close contest
between current point leader Chris Fontaine of Auburndale and young Michael
Atwell of Naples. Fontaine has just a four point edge over Atwell going into
this week's race. Anthony Cataldi of Umatilla is third in the standings, 17
behind Fontaine. All three are expected in the field Saturday.
Other drivers expected to take part are former winners Tim Russell and Bobby
Good along with T. J. Duke, David Rogers, Brad May, Anthony Sergi, Daniel
Keene, Jr., Noah Cornman and quite a few more.
It's still not officially known if New Smyrna Speedway Sportsman driver Patrick Thomas has earned the NASCAR Division III points championship as the official standings have not been posted as of this press release. Thomas will once again be in the field this week to try for his 12th win of the year but not in his familiar #25. Damage from a crash last week needs to be fixed on that machine and his team has been unable to effect necessary repairs, so Thomas has indicated he'll be driving a "guest" car this week that he feels is capable of winning too. Another large field of cars is expected as the bounty on Thomas offered by American Auto, Tires & Service of New Smyrna Beach has ballooned to $700.
The new Southern Pro-Am Truck Series has run four races this year, all at Three Palms Speedway in Punta Gorda. This will be their first event at any other facility although they have also scheduled another race at DeSoto Speedway in Bradenton. For many of the drivers expected, it will be their first-ever time on the high-banked half-mile as they are back after being rained out two weeks ago. After four races, the Southern Pro-Am Series has seen two different winners with both Becca Monopoli of Lakeland and third generation racer Steven King of Bartow each taking a pair of feature races. Monopoli will be joined by another young female driver who will be making her first-ever start at New Smyrna, Taylor Moxley of Hobe Sound who is the daughter of veteran racer Ricky Moxley who is no stranger to the racing wars here.
Another third generation racer expected to compete is Paulie Grynewicz III whose grandfather Paul, Sr. ran everything from Late Models to Trucks but was a terror in Figure-Eight racing throughout the State of Florida. Local New
Smyrna racer Austin Howell hopes to debut his new race truck this week too. Other drivers expected include Randy Leonard of Lake Placid, Cody Martell, Rich Cordis, David Hillyer, Eddie Lichtenberger, Jr., Derek Pugh, Robert Strader, Jr. and Mark Bryer.
Jerry Symons continues to head the Modified points over Tank Tucker while the Bomber points are as close as can be between James Skinner and Aaron Overman after point leader Skinner blew his engine on the final lap of last week's feature.
Pit gates open Saturday afternoon at 2 pm with practice slated from 3-5:45 pm. Grandstand gates open at 6 pm with the usual pre-race party at the Throttle to Bottle Pub featuring live music, drink specials and half-off bar food menu.
Super Late Model qualifying for the Marion Edwards, Jr. Memorial will be at 6:15 pm and racing begins at 7:30 pm starting with a 25-lap run for the Modifieds followed by the 35-lap contest for the Southern Pro-Am Truck Series. Just after intermission the drivers will be introduced for the running of the Marion Edwards, Jr. Memorial, then will race for 100 laps around the high-banked half-mile New Smyrna track. Next on the card will be a 25-lap race for the Sportsman cars and the evening wraps up with a 20-lap run for the Bombers.
Adult admission this week is $20 with all seniors (65+) and military with valid ID being admitted for $18. All kids 11 and under get in absolutely free.
New Smyrna Speedway will be holding an open practice session this Friday night, September 25th. Pit gates open at 5 pm with practice running from 6-10pm. Admission is $15 per person. Super Late Model teams may pick up tires
for the Marion Edwards, Jr. Memorial race but no tires will be mounted/released until Saturday.
Dave Westerman for New Smyrna Speedway - Edwards Family Collection Photo