DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Since 2001, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship has seemingly ping-ponged between New England and the southeast. Eleven of the 13 championships have gone to drivers either competing in an asphalt Modified in the northeast or an asphalt Late Model in Virginia and the Carolinas.
Enter Thomas Tillison.
The 41-year-old from Wellston, Oklahoma, is in his first year in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, and he has the national championship square in his sights. With just over a month remaining in the season, Tillison has moved to within two points of the national lead held by 2010 champion Keith Rocco of Connecticut.
Tillison races in Oklahoma at Salina Highbanks Speedway and Flint Creek Speedway in West Siloam. Both are .375-mile ovals, and Flint Creek is in its first year as a NASCAR-sanctioned track. Tillison won this past Friday in the Modified Division at Flint Creek and finished second in the AmeriFlex Hose A Modified Division at Salina.
With 10 wins, 18 top fives and 18 top 10s in 22 starts, Tillison has 642 points.
Rocco has eight wins, 22 top fives and 28 top 10s in 33 starts for 644 points racing his asphalt Modified at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, Stafford Motor Speedway and New London-Waterford Speedbowl. The Wallingford, Connecticut, driver has led the national standings the entire season. He finished seventh at Stafford Friday and third at New London-Waterford Saturday.
Ryan Preece, who competes with Rocco at Thompson and Stafford in addition to racing at New York’s Riverhead Raceway, is third with 615 points and two-time national champion Lee Pulliam is fourth with 612.
Pulliam leads the series with 18 wins, adding two more at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia, Saturday night. He’s also raced at Virginia’s Langley Speedway in Hampton and South Boston Speedway, as well as Caraway Speedway in Sophia, North Carolina.
Jimmy Zacharias, competing in the asphalt Modified divisions at New York’s Chemung Speedrome and Holland Motorsports Complex, rounds out the top five with 590 points.
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 two 30s and three 32s.
• Tillison was able to drop a six-point and 10-point finish from his 18 best starts, and still has the greatest room to improve incrementally. While he has a 41 and seven 39s, his worst of 18 races include two 28s, a 30 and a 32.
• Preece has one max 41-point win and three 39s. On the other end of his 18 starts, he has a 30, a 31 and five 32s.
• Pulliam has one max point win and six wins that were worth 39 points apiece. Of his worst 18 starts, he has two 27-point finishes and two 28s.
• Zacharias has two 41s and three 39s. His worst finishes of 18 are a 20, a 24 and two 28s.
Zacharias finished second at Chemung Saturday.
Kres Vandyke is sixth on the strength of 16 wins while racing at South Carolina’s Greenville Pickens Speedway and Anderson Speedway, Tennessee’s Kingsport Speedway, Virginia’s Lonesome Pine Speedway in Colburn, as well as Motor Mile and Caraway.
Jacob Goede (Minnesota’s Elko Speedway), Matt Bowling (South Boston, Caraway, Motor Mile and Langley), Ted Christopher (New London-Waterford, Stafford, Thompson) and Craig Von Dohren (Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania) round out the top 10.
Tillison is looking to become the first dirt driver since Gary Webb in 2000 to win the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship. Brian Harris, who raced on dirt in Iowa, finished second by two points behind Virginia’s Philip Morris in 2008. Duane Howard from Grandview finished third in 2010.
As a first-year NASCAR Division I license holder, Tillison also leads the Jostens Rookie of the Year standings. Greg Atkins, racing Vermont’s Devil’s Bowl Speedway and New York’s Airborne Speedway, is 13th in the nation and second in the rookie race.
Tillison leads the championship standings at Salina with four races remaining, and is second behind Steve Holzkamper at Flint Creek with five races left.
The Whelen All-American Series points season will run through Sunday, Sept. 20.
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 Integrated Marketing Communications Press Release. Photo credit: Salina Highbanks Speedway