DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — When Mark Dilley decided to make Sunset Speedway a NASCAR-sanctioned track this season, he expected some of the best drivers in eastern Canada to show up and so far he hasn’t been disappointed.
Each Saturday night, the field is a who’s who of top-notch Canadian short track drivers and the driver leading the way is 24 year-old Orillia, Ontario, native Taylor Holdaway.
To say Holdaway is on a hot streak is probably the understatement of the year. After suffering two DNF’s to start the season after experiencing fuel pickup problems, he has rebounded. Holdaway has won three of the last five NASCAR-sanctioned races he’s entered, with the other two spots being runner-up finishes.
“We are just on one of those streaks you dream about as a race car driver and team,” Holdaway said. “This is just one those times in your career when you feel you as a driver and your team are 100 percent on top of their game.”
Judging by the competitors at Sunset, you have to be if you want to win a feature event at the famed track.
“Gord Shepherd has won NASCAR titles and there are other drivers in the field who have won track titles and they are really good so to beat them is saying something about our team,” Holdaway added.
In the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national standings, Connecticut drivers Keith Rocco and Ryan Preece remain 1-2.
Rocco remained atop the leaderboard for the eighth consecutive week, 642-606 over Preece. He had a sixth and second in double features last Wednesday at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, an eighth at Stafford Motor Speedway Friday, and a 14th at New London-Waterford Speedbowl Saturday. Preece had a win and a 13th at Thompson.
Former two-time national champ Lee Pulliam (Virginia’s Langley Speedway in Hampton and South Boston Speedway, and Caraway Speedway, Sophia, N.C.) remains in third, just three points behind Preece following his sweep of twin Late Model features at South Boston Saturday.
Thomas Tillison (Oklahoma’s Flint Creek Speedway and Salina Highbanks Speedway) is fourth, with Jimmy Zacharias (New York’s Holland Motorsports Complex and Chemung Speedrome rounding out the top five.
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.
Top Five Breakdown:
• Four of Rocco’s wins have produced max points (41 per race), as well as three 39-point wins. Of his 18 starts that count towards his championship total, his worst points finishes are 30 (three times).
• Preece has one max 41-point win and three 39s. On the other end of his 18 starts, he has a 28, a 29, a 30 and a 31.
• Pulliam has one max point win and six wins that were worth 39 points apiece. Of his worst 18 starts, he has two 26-point finishes and two 27s.
• Tillson stands to make the biggest gains. While he has a 41 and seven 39s, his worst of 18 races include a six-point result, a 10 and a 28.
• Zacharias has two 41s and two 39s. His worst two finishes of 18 are a pair of 20s.
Kres VanDyke (Tennessee’s Kingsport Speedway & Lonesome Pine Raceway, Coeburn, Va.) is sixth, followed by Matt Bowling (Langley, Motor Mile in Radford, Virginia, and South Boston), Ted Christopher (New London-Waterford, Thompson, Stafford), Ronnie McCarty (Kingsport) and Greg Atkins (New York’s Airborne and Vermont’s Devil’s Bowl Speedway).
The Whelen All-American Series points season will run through Sunday, Sept. 20.
For Holdaway it’s especially gratifying to be in the lead because he doesn’t have the large number of crew members and resources to get his car ready each week.
“I can’t thank my dad (Fred Holdaway), Scott Wylie and my girlfriend Sarah (Elliott) enough for everything they do to help me get to the track each week,” Holdaway added.
Holdaway has scored four wins and 10 top-five finishes in 11 starts at Sunset and leads NASCAR rookie Jason Witty by 22 points (356-334) in the Ontario standings. Shepherd is third with Billy Zardo fourth and Wylie rounding out the top 10.
Holdaway hopes he can keep his No. 41 Toyota out front and make a visit to Charlotte in December.
“Every driver wants to win races and championships and especially the first NASCAR championship at Sunset,” Holdaway said. “I started racing go karts when I was 8 years old and I’ve been racing stock cars at Sunset for five year. What a great feeling it would be to win a NASCAR championship.”
While Holdaway has experienced god runs and luck, the same can’t be said for defending provincial champion Shepherd.
After start off the season with a couple of wins, he can’t seem to catch a break. But the Ontario native it not close to giving up yet.
“We are in one of the worst slumps I’ve ever been in,” said Shepherd. “We have lost two motors on back-to-back weekends and last weekend we were leading the race and suffered a flat tire. This has been tough but we’re going to keep going after wins until the end of the season.”
If someone knows how to do that it’s the two-time NWAAS Ontario champion.
“Last year we were able to come from behind and we have five or six more weeks to do the same thing this year and that’s what we’re going to try and do so we can get back to Charlotte and celebrate another NASCAR title.”
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 IMC Press Release. Photo Credit: Speed51.com