The 2016 short track racing season featured many storylines. There was dominance, close calls, feel-good moments and heartbreak. We take a look back on the exciting season with our resident “Stat Boy” Elgin Traylor in this edition of “By the Numbers” on Speed51.com.
Berry’s Batting Average: In 2015 Josh Berry won 75% of the CARS Tour Late Model Stock races he entered. In 2016 that was lowered to 55% for the year as he won five of the nine races he competed in. Overall his CARS Tour winning percentage is 62%, an almost unheard of number. He’s finished all but one of his 13 starts in the top five.
The Old Number One: Josh Richards had a year to remember. Sure he won 18 times on the World of Outlaws Late Model Stage, but he also won six times with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. Along with being the WoO LM champion, Richards won 29 races during the season becoming the all-time wins leader in World of Outlaws.
The Top Two: Now that we can look at reality and see that the NASCAR Southern Modified Tour is no more, we can look back at the all-time best drivers. George Brunnhoelzl, III and Andy Seuss combined for six championships and 55 wins during the 12-year history of the series.
On The Pole: Doug Coby won a remarkable nine pole awards this season on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. He started on the front row 11 times and inside the top four some 14 times. His average start of 3.0 is remarkable. To put it into perspective, Mike Stefanik won 13 times in 1998 and only sat on the pole five times.
Pulliam’s Six Shooter: Lee Pulliam won the July South Boston 200 for the sixth straight season. It’s hard to imagine that anyone will ever top the feat of winning a major Late Model Stock race six times in a row. Next year he gets to go for seven.
New Majors Anyone?: With Christian Eckes winning the Snowball Derby, Bubba Pollard winning the All American 400, Travis Braden scoring the Winchester 400 and Wayne Helliwell, Jr. taking the Oxford 250, the history books see four new winners of the biggest Super Late Model races for the first time in many years. Will we see fresh faces again next year?
Nasse Leads Some More: He calls New Smyrna Speedway his hometown race track, but Stephen Nasse has had anything but kind results in the venues biggest race, the Florida Governor’s Cup. The Florida native has led the race four times for 350 laps including 103 laps this year, which was the second-time in his career he’s led over half the race.
All But One: Jon McKennedy left no doubt in winning the 2016 Modified Racing Series title. His eight wins were enough to push him ahead of the pack, but the fact he finished in the top five some 17 times in 18 starts helped propel him to his third title.
Freezing the Competition: There may not be another active driver that has had control over their biggest race of the season like Stewart Friesen has. The driver known as Mr. Freeze locked up his third straight Super DIRTWeek win in October and has now won five of the last seven SDW titles. He’ll look to make it four in a row and six of eight next October.
Big Money Sweep: Matt Hirschman seems to keep raising the bar in big Modified events and this year was no different. He swept the SK and Tour races at the Turkey Derby to cap off his 2016 season on a three-race win streak after taking Myrtle Beach. He also won the Race of Champions and the SBM 125 for the third time.
Another Notch in the Turkey Gun: Jimmy Blewett pocketed another win at the Turkey Derby at Wall Stadium to run his feature total win count to 18 in the November event. This time it was a Dirt Modified win on asphalt at the Stadium as he missed out on the SK and Tour mod events this year.
10 Races & 10 Faces: If you want some parody look no further than PASS South. This year they had 10 races and 10 winners. The last four races of the year were won by first time PASS winners. Look for more up and coming drivers to come from the PASS ranks next year.
Thorn at Six In a Row: For the sixth year in a row Derek Thorn led the SRL series in wins. Can you imagine if they ran 20 races a year how many wins he would have? Still, he’s won 27 of his last 53 starts and holds a winning percentage over 50%. He also won the title for the third time.
Super Dominance: There may not have been a more dominant driver in 2016 than “Super Matt” Sheppard. The Waterloo, New York driver dominated the Big-Block Modified scene with 14 Super DIRTcar Series wins and his fifth career series championship. He also won three Race of Champions Dirt Modified series races and a combined 15 races in weekly Modified action at tracks throughout his home state for a total of 32 wins.
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent – Twitter: @ElginTraylor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Bruce Nuttleman