The ball will drop in Times Square tonight signifying the end of the year 2015. With that, a new year of short track racing will be upon us. But before we move on to 2016 we at Speed51.com powered by JEGS decided to take a look at the top 25 stories of the 2015 short track racing season.
While the crowd chanted, “Rico, Rico, Rico” following his victory at the 2015 Chili Bowl, veteran racer Sammy Swindell and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson exchanged a few pleasantries after making contact following the race. 51’s Bob Dillner caught up with both drivers and their “war of words” caught the attention of race fans all over the world.
Minutes after winning the biggest race of his life at the 48th annual Snowball Derby, Christopher Bell’s No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports ride was pushed out of Ricky Brooks’ “Room of Doom” for failing to meet left-side weight requirements. His disqualification sent social media into a craze and ultimately handed the Tom Dawson Trophy to Chase Elliott.
Jordan Ives, the nephew of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s crew chief Greg Ives, was lucky to escape without injury following a fiery crash during Super Late Model practice at New Smyrna Speedway during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. Speed51.com’s Tim Quievryn was on the flagstand during the crash and detailed the crash from his viewpoint.
Steve Wallace had a host of drivers unhappy with him following his Super Late Model win on Wednesday, February 19 at New Smyrna Speedway (FL). The most notable of those drivers being Harrison Burton, who was eliminated from the race following contact with Wallace while battling for position. Wallace eventually made it to victory lane, but he did so while making enemies that night.
Joan Feller, a school teacher and Legends Car driver from Iowa, had the entire short track racing community on her side as she battled life-threatening injury following a crash at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Iowa. Unfortunately, Feller succumbed to those injuries on August 6, five days after the crash.
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship owner Ed Partridge became the proud owner of Riverhead Raceway (NY) in August. Partridge purchased the facility from the Cromarty family for $4 million and promised to continue the rich racing tradition on Long Island.
Veteran racer Leon Gonyo continued one of his best season’s behind the wheel by winning the Modified feature during Vermont 200 weekend at Devil’s Bowl Speedway (VT) in September. While carrying the checkered flag around the West Haven, Vermont oval, Gonyo appeared to suffer an undisclosed medical event and made contact with the frontstretch wall. Gonyo was later pronounced dead at the age of 63.
Glen Luce experienced emotions that he had never felt before as he climbed out of his car after winning the 42nd annual Oxford 250 in August. With not a single touring series victory to his name prior to the Oxford 250 win, Luce surprised everyone in attendance, most notably himself.
It wasn’t the way Justin Bonsignore wanted to win the 13th Annual North-South Shootout, but at the end of the night, he was standing in victory lane at Concord Speedway (NC) with the $10,000 check. Bonsignore inherited the win after apparent race winner Matt Hirschman was disqualified for an unapproved adjustment during a red-flag period with nine laps to go in the 125-lap event. Speed51.com covered every angle of the story with quotes from Hirschman, Bonsignore and race promoter Darren Hackett.
Erik Jones took advantage of every opportunity he had to race a Super Late Model in 2015. Jones turned in one of the most impressive Super Late Model seasons in recent years be sweeping the Redbud 300 at Anderson (IN), Battle at Berlin 251 at Berlin (MI) and Winchester 400 at Winchester (IN) to win the $100,000 JEGS Triple Crown.
Timothy Peters led a majority of the 2015 Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown, but it was an altercation in the last corner of the last lap that led to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver’s victory. Late Model Stock Car aces Lee Pulliam and Josh Berry tangled in the closing laps allowing Peters to drive to victory lane.
The short track racing world suffered a tragic loss in April when Gary Terry passed away while working as a driver instructor at Walt Disney World Speedway in Florida. Terry was riding in the passenger seat of a Lamborghini when the driver lost control of the car and struck a guardrail. The news hit home for many in the short track racing community, specifically those who remember his time racing in the Midwest region.
Fans said their final goodbyes to the New York State Fairgrounds in October at the “Finale at the Fairgrounds.” History, drama and emotions ran high throughout the 200-lap event before a familiar driver visited victory lane.
During a time when you hear about short track racing facilities all over the United States becoming vacant or a piece of land for a new mall, it was reassuring to hear of a dirt track in Louisiana finding a new life. Mark Underwood re-opened the quarter-mile dirt track in Louisiana under the name “Underwood Speedway.”
Days after being involved in a fiery crash at New Smyrna Speedway (FL), young racer Jordan Ives spoke to Speed51.com powered by JEGS about the crash. Included in his explanation of the crash, he explained that “he either had to either crawl through the fire or die.”
The historic Talladega Short Track was ablaze overnight on the night of December 27. Both the press box and officials tower located on the frontstretch of the track burned to the ground and was a complete loss.
Bubba Pollard made his first trip to the West Coast this past year and it paid off on two separate occasions. Pollard won the inaugural Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway Park (CA) before heading back out to Washington to race the Summer Showdown at Evergreen Speedway. By sweeping both events he pocketed an impressive $61,000.
18. Drivers Both Young and Old Strap in Behind the Wheel
During the 2015 season, Speed51.com covered two separate stories showing the wide gap in age among competitors in the short track racing world. First it was a story on a 10-year-old driver making his debut in a Late Model at Shenandoah Speedway (VA). Next it was a 75-year-old Modified driver still turning laps on the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour.
One of the most iconic voices in racing, that of legendary broadcaster Ken Squier, was heard by those in attendance at New Smyrna Speedway’s (FL) World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in February. In between his time on the microphone, Speed51.com caught up with Squier to discuss his thoughts on the current state of short track racing in America.
The brand new Bay Area Modifieds series kicked off its inaugural season on Saturday, April 11, at Alabama’s Flomaton Speedway with a great amount of controversy. The top four finishers were disqualified after the race by series officials. The fifth-place driver, Jason Barnhill, was awarded the victory. But what makes all of this even crazier, is that Barnhill wasn’t even on the track when the checkered flag waved at the end of 25 laps.
Sprint Car driver Kevin Swindell underwent a second surgery after a serious crash in a heat race for the Knoxville Nationals at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway in August. After the surgery, his father, five-time Chili Bowl winner Sammy Swindell, said in a statement that the doctor’s are “heartened by his progress.”
It was a scary scene in the later stages of the season opening Modified event at Pennsylvania’s Big Diamond Speedway in March. About seven cars were involved in a horrific crash, with one car pirouetting on its rear end before coming to a stop on its wheels at the entrance to turn one.
We’ve all heard the stories of racers putting tires on their race cars rather than putting food on their table. Well, the Church family will never go hungry, but they did borrow a bunch of money solely to go to the Pro All Stars Series South season opener Saturday at Dillon Motor Speedway in South Carolina. Fortunately for the defending PASS South champ Tyler Church, his team won the race in convincing fashion.
Racers are known for spending money, even sometimes when they don’t actually have the money to spend, to try to get that extra tenth of a second of speed on the race track. But unfortunately, there are drivers out there at every local short track who won’t spend the money in a place where they should: On themselves and their own safety behind the wheel. 51’s Rob Blount shares his opinion on the topic in a July edition of “51’s X-Factor.”
In typical Patrick Laperle fashion, the Canadian driver didn’t hold back his thoughts while discussing his disqualification from the Fall Foliage 200 American-Canadian Tour event at Airborne Park Speedway (NY). In that interview with Speed51.com he stated that he was done with racing, but he would be found at a Speedway 51 (NH) just a few weeks later.
-Speed51 Staff Story. Featured photo credit: Glen Starek