IRVINGTON, Ala. -With Spring right around the corner, and the winter season fading away, things are about to heat up in Southern Alabama—and it won’t be just the temperature.
After a five-month break, Mobile International Speedway is set to shake the offseason rust this weekend and create some heat of their own, in the form of fast cars and fierce competition. And for the drivers, crew members and fans who call the half-mile track home, it could not have come at a better time.
Whether it’s a defending champion looking to retain their crown, or a rookie with hopes of asserting their name among the track’s legends, this weekend marks the culmination of their preparation and hard work during the offseason. It offers the chance to start the season on a high note; as well as an opportunity to send a message to your foes that you will be a force to be reckoned with between now and season’s end.
It also presents an opportunity to showcase your talent in front of some of the biggest names in major motorsports.
Not only will the drivers of the Pro Truck, Sportsmen and Bomber divisions kick off the season on Friday night, but they will battle with the watchful eyes of the ARCA Racing Series looking on. Sure, it adds additional pressure, but it also presents an opportunity to be noticed, and the possibility of taking the next step in their racing career.
Needless to say, there is plenty on the line Friday night.
For Kushla’s Okie Mason, the 2015 season is all about momentum, and retaining it. The defending Pro Truck champion bested Ricky Vice by 57 points last season to secure the crown—and it’s a feat that he hopes to replicate. However, a hungry group of drivers are looking to dethrone Mason and make it their own.
Based on last year’s results, Theodore’s Jay Jay Day will more than likely be a factor this season. A winner of multiple races in 2014, Day and Mason spent most of last year nearly tied in the point standings. A failure in post-race technical inspection late in the season, and the loss of championship points as a result, however, unfortunately ended Day’s championship hopes. With a new number and look adorning his truck, Day looks to make 2015 his and finish off what he started last year.
Keeping in mind the phenomenal racing that this division provided last year, the Pro Truck division will certainly be one to watch all year long at Alabama’s fastest half-mile.
Arguably the most competitive at MIS last season, storylines are aplenty for the drivers in the sportsmen division who will also kick off their season on Friday night.
Edging Lee “Red Dog” Reynolds by 58 points last season, Mark Barnhill won the division’s championship, but will not be returning to defend his crown. Electing to sell his No. 3 car in late January, the Irvington resident is making the move to the Pro Truck division for the 2015 season.
As for Reynolds, a scary accident during Snowball Derby weekend at 5 Flags Speedway in December landed him in the hospital and having to build a new car. With his No. 32 machine not being race-ready for Friday night’s season opener, Reynolds’ shot to compete for the championship was in serious doubt. On March 1, however, the Theodore (Ala.) driver announced that he had reached a deal to pilot the Tipton/DRT No. 88 on Friday night—a move which will allow him to still contend for the division’s crown. Barring a disappointment or an unexpected delay, his new car should be ready for the second race of the season later this month.
Mobile’s James Patrick, who finished third in the division’s standings last year, has also been extremely busy preparing for the 2015 season. A common sight near the front of the field last year, most expect similar results from the driver of the No. 11.
For the Bomber division, the 2014 season was the year of B.J. Leytham. Winning all but one of the division’s races, the Mobile (Ala.) driver won the division’s championship by a whopping 242 points over his teammate, Gene Denmark. Despite having a bounty placed on his head midway through the season that he eventually won, and dealing with adversity head-first on multiple occasions last season, Leytham nearly batted a perfect average at MIS.
With such success, however, people begin to notice. Expectations are created and the resulting pressure becomes a factor. Additionally, a target is placed on your back as you become the driver that everyone wants to beat. Such rings true for the defending champion.
Topping the list of potential drivers to dethrone him would have to be his teammate, Denmark. The only driver to beat Leytham at MIS last season, the Dauphin Island (Ala.) driver did so during the track’s biggest race weekend of the year: the Lee Fields Memorial in late August. A factor near the front of the field for most of last year, Denmark is primed for what could be a breakout season in 2015.
Also making noise in the offseason was the transformation of the Kane Motorsports squad. Ditching his infamous No. 5 Cougar/Mustang racer, Derek “Kane” Long has made the move to Chevrolet as he looks to take the next step in his championship campaign. Also adding fourth-place points finisher Matthew Jackson to the team, the now two-car operation could be serious contenders for Leytham and Denmark.
Although the season has not started yet, storylines are aplenty at Mobile International Speedway as the start of what should be fantastic season is now just days away. With a total of 13 race weekends on tap between now and September on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month, there is plenty to see and do at Alabama’s fastest half-mile.
Adding the ever-popular ARCA Mobile 200, the annual visit from the Must See Extreme Sprint Cars and four visits by the Southern Super Series super late models to the fold, 2015 will be an action-packed year for the historic speedway.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit mobilespeedway.net or call the ticket office at 251-957-2063.
-Mobile International Speedway Press Release. Photo Credit: Speed51.com photo