Winning from the pole? Check. Winning from the rear of the field? Check. Overcoming adversity on multiple occasions to do so? Check.
Wayne Niedecken, Jr. has done just about everything so far during the 2015 season for the Pro Late Model (PLM) division at Mobile International Speedway (MIS) on his way to five consecutive victories to start the season and remain undefeated.
By virtue of his success this season, the Florida native and Gulf Coast racing legend has a 59-point lead in the PLM division’s championship standings—a fortune that has made him the odds-on favorite to win each given week and hoist the championship trophy come September.
It all might sound easy to a casual fan, but Niedecken’s incredible streak has been anything but. For years, he has had to take the backseat to three-time and defending division champion Josh Bragg who has made the Pro Late Models his personal playground. There has been plenty of bad luck along the way, but that all appears to be well in the past now.
With two months left before the season comes to a close, Niedecken can’t afford to slow down, become complacent, or race with the championship standings in mind despite how well the year has gone to this point. One ill-advised maneuver on track, one part malfunction and disqualification in technical inspection has the potential to complete change everything and put his title foes within striking distance.
That is why Saturday’s night 20/30-lap doubleheader for the Pro Late Models comes with such importance. Besides that, it also offers a chance to extend his unfathomable winning streak in the division to seven races.
Such a streak is a truly special accomplishment in any sport—especially auto racing where the playing field is made up of fractions of a second rather than yards, feet or inches. Unlike traditional sports where an athlete only has to worry about his performance, a racecar driver has to do that as well as rely on his car, tires and smart decisions from his fellow competitors who are desperate for a moment in the spotlight.
Love him or hate him, what Niedecken has accomplished so far this season at Mobile is an incredible feat and should be respected by fans and his fellow competitors. Winning one race is hard enough, let alone two.
Needless to say, Saturday night has the potential to be very special regardless of what happens to Niedecken. Sit back, relax and take in history. Race fans will be talking about Niedecken’s streak for years to come.
Also in action on Saturday night are heat and feature races for three other divisions who are in the midst of their own battles for bragging rights and championships—adding to what will be an exciting night of racing at Alabama’s fastest half-mile.
In the ever-growing Barry’s U Pull It Pro Truck division, which has exploded in popularity in recent years, defending division champion Okie Mason looks to Saturday night’s 25-lap feature to extend his recently acquired lead in the championship standings.
Following a disappointing 10th-place effort the last time the division was on the track, Jay Jay Day, who spent the whole season at the top of the standings fell all the way fourth and currently trails Mason by 19 markers. Day, to that point, had been the model of consistency all year long, but the entire complexion of the division has changed at the midway point of the season.
Besides Mason’s taking of the lead, a new contender has emerged in the division in Steven Davis—who stunned everyone by scoring the win during the division’s last race on June 13.
Needless to say, storyline are aplenty for the Pro Truck division entering Saturday night and it will be interesting to see how they play out when the division takes to the track for their 25-lap feature.
In the super-competitive Bob’s Speed Shop Sportsmen division, much of the 2015 season has been about the comeback and resurgence of Lee “Red Dog” Reynolds following a hard crash in December’s feature for the division during Snowball Derby weekend in December. After debuting his new No. 32 card in May, the fan favorite rattled off two consecutive wins to extend his lead in the division’s championship standings.
Behind him, however, has been a swath of hungry competitors including 13-year-old division rookie Connor Okrzesik who won the division’s last race two weeks ago and the event on May 9 to book-end Reynolds’ two consecutive victories. Also in the mix is Irvington’s Jonathan Langham, who has been a factor all season long and is desperate to put an end to his long winless streak.
Mississippi native Jason Smith and multi-time winner in the division last season, Brannon Fowler, have also found success in 2015 and add to the list of drivers with legitimate chances to win each time they unload at MIS. With that said, its anyone’s guess as to who it will be when the checkered flag waves on Saturday night.
Rounding out the evening will be the wild and crazy Island Motors II Bombers division as the intense three-way rivalry between points leader Matt Jackson, defending champion BJ Leytham, and hometown driver Robert Loper takes center stage.
Each week throughout the season, the eventual winner of the division’s 20-lap features has had to go through these three to visit victory lane if it wasn’t they who did it first.
Two weeks ago, Loper and his No. 15 machine prevailed as the winner for the second time this season following a late-race duel with Jackson that lasted until the very end of the race. Leytham finished third.
Despite Jackson’s stranglehold on the division’s championship standings, which includes a hefty 76-point lead over Tommie Blocker, there has been no shortage of excitement for the entry level division whose drivers perform like seasoned veterans. Trading paint, three-wide maneuvers and fireworks have been common occurrences all year long and Saturday night will likely feature more of the same.
About Mobile International Speedway: Mobile International Speedway is the longest continuously operating sports facility in Mobile County. It was built in 1964 and has presented weekly motorsports events every year since then. As an indication of increasing community acceptance and enthusiasm, both the Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Mobile Sports Authority became MIS partners beginning in 2013.
Family attendance and participation have been the keys to the track’s continued success. Kids 5 and under are always admitted free to the grandstands. Family nights and family-oriented shows have always been staples of the annual MIS schedules. Over 30,000 people will attend the 14 scheduled MIS events in 2015.
– Mobile Speedway press release
– Photo credit: Speed51.com