#TheWatch: Virginia Racer Expected to Take National Title Lead

The 2019 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (NWAAS) National Championship draws to a dramatic close this weekend, with several drivers within striking distance of the prestigious honor.  Unofficially, Virginia’s Mike Looney took the points lead this weekend with a pair of wins at Motor Mile Speedway (VA).  NASCAR is expected to reveal an official update Tuesday afternoon.


A pair of those title contenders appeared on Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring” Monday to discuss the final week of the NWAAS season.  Along with Looney, Nick Panitzke called in to the weekly short track racing talk show.


Panitzke shed some light on the current points outlook after entering the weekend leading the national standings, as he and fellow Midwestern competitor Jacob Goede battle with Looney and former National Champions Peyton Sellers and Philip Morris.


“It’s looking like there will be a three-way tie for second,” Panitzke said.  “It looks like Mike Looney carried out a bit of a lead on us. It’ll be all gloves off going into the final weekend.  Hopefully we have a good one.”


Looney’s lead comes after a pair of wins at his home track, Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia. Motor Mile reopened for the 2019 season and has been pivotal in Looney’s title hunt.


“Motor Mile is my home track,” Looney said.  “I’ve got over 20 years of experience there.  That’s where I’ve got to get my points made.  We’re just not strong enough on the road.  Philip and Peyton have a lot more experience at these other tracks.  I feel like we can go other places and run top-five but that’s not good enough. Getting the wins at home is crucial for me.  I won at Langley earlier this year, and I guess that’s where we’re going this weekend.”


While Looney was sweeping the weekend at Motor Mile, Panitzke had an eventful weekend at Elko Speedway (MN), finishing third and eighth in twin features at that bullring.


“I won the weekend before, so you’ve got to start in the trunk for the first feature,” Panitzke explained.  “Elko is the kind of place where there are two good lines of racing.  It kind of gets balled up there.  We had to work hard just to get into the invert for the second one.


“We got caught in the wrong lane in the second one and got caught up in a wreck in the second race, got dragged back to the trunk a couple of times and made our way back up to third. We fought hard for it, but just ran out of laps.”


Panitzke says it is difficult for him to not pay attention to how other national title contenders are faring on a weekly basis.  He even admitted to sometimes finding himself rooting for the competition.


“As much as I’d like to say we go out and do our own thing, the reality is we definitely keep an eye on it,” Panitzke said.  “It’s cool to be a part of it.  We’re humbled just to be in the mix.  We watch those guys.  They’re excellent competitors, cool guys to be doing battle with. 


“We watched interviews with Mike Looney, and when it’s over, you say, ‘I hope that guy wins.’  No, wait a second.  We hope we win.  They’re just good guys altogether.  Me and Goede up there in the mix, it’s gotten them to pull a couple of strings protesting each other and stuff.  All five or six of us are battling for the championship and it’s fun to be a part of.”


Looney says he hasn’t been able to pay as much attention to the competition, but knows there are several drivers in the mix who have had incredible seasons – and ultimately, only one of them can be champion.


“You know, I really haven’t had the time to follow what everyone else is doing,” Looney said.  “We do good to get to the race track by Friday. This weekend, Philip Morris had some bad luck at Dominion.  On one side, I hate to see his car torn up.  On the other, that’s points for us.  It’s a weird situation to be in. 


“I think all the people involved are pretty good sportsmen.  After the seasons we’ve all had, whoever wins this deal has earned it. It’s a shame only one of us can get the big trophy.  I feel like, with our little team, we’ve accomplished more than we thought we would. We could finish 50thin the points, it’s still been a special season.”


Looney hopes he will be able to seal the deal this weekend, as a veteran of racing since climbing into a Pure Stock in 1995.


“Man, I don’t know how you could describe how that would feel,” he began.  “You’d have to put in the 25 or 30 years I’ve been through to get here to put it into perspective.  I ain’t no rich kid that hopped in daddy’s Late Model and tore off and won all these races.  My daughter’s 19 now.  I started trying to build a house to give her a spare bedroom, and she’s moved off to college and the house still ain’t finished.  Every summer I’ve been off working on race cars and not getting stuff done around my house.


“I don’t know why the Good Lord has taken such a liking to us, but I’m trying to hang on for one more week.  No matter how it turns out, I feel like I’ve come out on top.”


Fans who missed Panitzke’s and Lonney’s interviews can watch an on-demand replay of “The Morning Bullring” by clicking here.  The show airs each Monday from 7-9:30 a.m. from Studio 51 in Concord, North Carolina to discuss the latest in short track racing news on Speed51.com and Speed51’s Facebook page presented by Five Star Race Car Bodies.


Last Week’s Results:


Nick Panitzke – Panitzke finished eighth in the first race of a doubleheader at Elko Speedway before salvaging a third-place run to close out the night.


Philip Morris – Philip Morris won the first leg of a doubleheader at Dominion Raceway (VA) over the weekend, but an incident in the second leg cost him a shot at a strong finish to close out the night.


Jacob Goede – Goede won the second race at Elko this weekend while competing against Panitzke at the Minnesota bullring.  He had finished third in race one of the evening.


Mike Looney – Looney swept a twinbill at Motor Mile Speedway, unofficially giving him the points lead entering the final weekend.


Peyton Sellers – Peyton Sellers claimed his fifth South Boston Speedway track championship Saturday, but the on-track results were not what he hoped, finishing second and 10th in twin features.  Sellers crossed the finish line first in the second race before being penalized for his role in an incident with Lee Pulliam.


Keith Rocco – While Rocco did win a 10-lap shootout at Thompson on Saturday, it was not a points-paying race and simply contributed to a second-place overall finish in the Sunoco 20/20 Shootout.


Ronnie Williams – Williams is a “dark horse” in the title picture, but improved his chances with a pair of wins at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) over the weekend.


This Week’s Plans:


Nick Panitzke – Panitzke will return to Elko Speedway this weekend, looking to improve on last week’s results.


Philip Morris – While Morris’ plans for the final weekend have not been formally announced, Dominion Raceway is the site of six “King Philip” wins out of 13 in 2019, making the Virginia oval his most likely destination.


Jacob Goede – Like Panitzke, Goede will be back at Elko Speedway this Saturday hoping to back up his win from last week.


Mike Looney – Looney told Speed51 on “The Morning Bullring” he will be going to Langley Speedway (VA) this weekend, which will be hosting twin features for the Late Model Stock Cars.


Peyton Sellers – Following the penalty at South Boston, Sellers tells Speed51 he may compete at Langley Speedway this weekend but otherwise believes his title run is over.


Keith Rocco – Keith Rocco is locked in a tight battle for the Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified track championship, sitting in third but just 14 points out of the top spot. He is expected to continue that title hunt this weekend.


Ronnie Williams – Who is leading the Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified points? None other than Ronnie Williams.  Both Rocco and Williams will be looking for their sixth win of the season at Stafford on Friday night. 


-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans

-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo

#TheWatch: Virginia Racer Expected to Take National Title Lead