The 2016 racing season in the Southeast has barely ended, but we’re already feeling the itch for 2017 to begin.
Even though the offseason has already begun, racing news never takes a break, especially in the Southeast. There’s been plenty of information trickling out to get everybody excited for the 2017 season. We catch you up on that news and information in this year’s first edition of Southeast Beat on Speed51.com.
U.S. Short Track Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway
For the second year in a row, the state of Tennessee delivers the offseason goods for short track racing fans. Last year it was the news of the North/South Super Late Model challenge at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. This year it’s the U.S. Short Track Nationals at Thunder Valley.
Six different divisions will be racing on the high-banks of the “Last Great Colosseum” on May 19-21. Super Late Models, Pro Late Models, Late Model Stocks, Florida-type Modifieds, Street Stocks and Compacts will all take to the track in the first event of its kind at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Super Late Model portion will be tri-sanctioned by the ARCA/CRA Super Series, Southern Super Series and the CARS Racing Tour.
Bristol Motor Speedway has yet to release ticket and camping information as of now for the event.
Speedco Departs JR Motorsports
Josh Berry, JR Motorsports and Speedco have been synonymous the last few years. The driver/owner/sponsor has been extremely successful the last few years with Berry going to victory lane more than 30 times at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC), Motor Mile Speedway (VA), South Boston Speedway (VA) and on the CARS Racing Tour.
JR Motorsports announced the departure of Speedco on Twitter a couple weeks ago. Speed51.com reached out to Berry recently to find out what his plans are for the 2017 season. Berry said he believes he will be back with JR Motorsports for 2017, but added that there’s a little bit of uncertainty until a sponsor is found.
“Basically, I feel like it will work out,” Berry said. “But until it does, I’m starting to feel a little nervous.”
14-Year-Old Set to Make Late Model Debut at New Smyrna
Eddie Fatscher Jr. has been lighting up the Legends Car ranks the last few seasons and is now set to make his Late Model debut in the Zack Donatti Memorial Pro Late Model feature at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) on January 7.
The young Long Island, New York native has teamed up with Jamie Yelton’s Fathead Racing for what Yelton called “the full campaign.” Yelton said the plan is to keep Fatscher in a Pro Late Model for much of the season with the hopes of running a Super Late Model by the end of the season.
Yelton said his complete driver lineup will be announced shortly, but he confirmed that Fatscher would have one teammate in 2016.
Lessard Coming Back to David Gilliland Racing
15-year-old Canadian driver Raphael Lessard will be back with David Gilliland Racing’s Super Late Model program in 2017.
However, Lessard and DGR will not be looking to repeat their CARS Super Late Model Tour championship, according to Lessard.
Lessard, who still lives in Canada, said the plan for 2017 is to hit all of the big Super Late Model races and also some CARS Tour races, but not all of them.
Lessard picked up four wins in 10 CARS Tour races in 2016. He was also the only DGR car to qualify for the Snowball Derby this year. Lessard started 31st and finished 10th.
Southern Super Series Schedule Released
The schedule for the Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco has been released, and it contained some surprises.
One surprise has already been touched upon, and that was the U.S. Short Track Nationals announcement. One of the other big surprises on the schedule was the June 10 date. The Southern Super Series is venturing north to South Carolina’s Anderson Motor Speedway. The race will be co-sanctioned with CARS Tour.
The Rattler 250 will open the fifth season for the Southern Super Series on March 17-19.
Everybody has been talking about enjoying their offseason or that they’re preparing their cars for next season. But from where we are sitting, we can’t find an “offseason.” Racing in the south is ready to start back up again right after the calendar flips to 2017.
The first races in the south are being held on the weekend of January 5-7. The Talladega Short Track (AL) is running its traditional Ice Bowl event. New Smyrna Speedway (FL) is running the Red Eye 100 and Zack Donatti Memorial 125. Super Late Models will be at Auburndale Speedway (FL) that weekend as well for the Diamond 100.
After that it’s just a few short weeks until CRA SpeedFest weekend at Crisp Motorsports Park in Georgia on January 27-29. Soon after that it’ll be time for Florida-Georgia Speedweeks and then the racing season really kicks into high gear in the southern states.
For a full list of races, head to our PFC Brakes Racing Calendar for January here.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor - Twitter: @RobBlount
-Featured Photo Credit: Speed51.com