The ball will drop in Times Square Saturday night signifying the end of the year 2016.  With that, a new year of short track racing will be upon us. But before we move on to 2017 we at Speed51.com powered by JEGS decided to take a look at the top 25 stories of the 2016 short track racing season.

 

This list of stories and the order they are in was determined by the amount of reads/interaction they received on Speed51.com throughout the year.

 

Short track racing fans will make their way through these gates in 2017. (Speed51.com photo)

1. New Short Track Event to be Held at Bristol

The news of a new short track racing event at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) captivated the short track racing faithful in December.  Plenty of excitement surrounds the return of Late Models to the "Last Great Colosseum."

 

2. Wild Night at Madhouse Ends With Modified Driver in Handcuffs

North Carolina’s Bowman Gray Stadium is known as the ‘Madhouse’ for a reason.  During a Saturday night in June, under a full moon, the Madhouse lived up to its nickname.  In the second race of a twin feature for the Modifieds, Joe Ryan Osborne and James Civali got into each other on the race track.  The contact led to Civali going for a spin on the race track, and eventually Osborne leaving the race track in the back of a Winston-Salem police car in handcuffs.

 

3. Hearn's Tech Refusal Much Bigger Than it First Appeared

Brett Hearn knew if he won the Short Track Super Series race at Orange County Fair Speedway (NY) in April that he would not be going through post-race technical inspection.  He wasn't trying to hide anything; he was trying to make a statement after what occurred during the previous year's Eastern States 200 at the track.

 

4.  Marlin Wins Late Model Race, Gets Disqualified After 

Former Daytona 500 winner Sterling Marlin took the checkered flag in a Pro Late Model race at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville in July.  He celebrated in victory lane.  Then he was disqualified in post-race technical inspection by chief technical inspector Ricky Brooks.

 

5. Driver Dies From Injuries Sustained in Crash at Eldora

Dirt Late Model racer Shane Unger passed away on September 10 at Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater, Ohio, where he was transported following a multi-car crash at Eldora Speedway. Unger, of Rossburg, Ohio, was 35 years old.

 

Timmy Solomito and his team were left unhappy after the NWMT race at Bristol. (Speed51.com photo)

6. Bristol Penalty Has Modified Team Re-Evaluating NASCAR Future

As a result of alleged miscommunication during the rain-delayed NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Bush’s Beans 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN), the Flamingo Motorsports team, which Timmy Solomito drives for, was re-evaluating its future in motorsports, 

 

7. Engine Builder Removed From Spec Program After Governor's Cup

Cope Engines and engine builder Jimmy Cope are no longer an approved engine builder for Florida spec engines following a discovery during the Florida Governor’s Cup at New Smyrna Speedway (FL). Chief Technical Inspector Ricky Brooks and officials from New Smyrna Speedway made the announcement, stating that one of the engines built by Cope Engines did not meet numerous requirement of the spec engine rulebook.

 

8. Clauson Passes Away After Injuries Sustained in Crash

Bryan Clauson, 27, one of the most decorated and accomplished drivers in the history of the United States Auto Club, succumbed to injuries sustained in a crash while leading the “Belleville Midget Nationals.”

 

Despite the scary crash, Wallace was able to walk away unscathed. (Photo credit: @KennyWallace)

9. Kenny Wallace Goes for Wild, Fiery Ride in Dirt Modified

Sometimes a part that costs less than five dollars can lead to damage that costs over a thousand to fix.  Kenny Wallace learned that lesson on Sunday evening during a Dirt Modified race at Quincy Raceways in Illinois when a cheap piece of Chinese metal broke and caused his car to flip more than four times and ignite in flames.

 

10. 15 Cars Disqualified After Modified Race at Florida Track

In asphalt short track racing it’s not too rare to see a race decided in the tech shed with a couple of cars here and there getting disqualified. Sometimes it’s the winner that gets tossed. Sometimes it’s the guys that finish second or third.  More often than not, nobody gets disqualified.  But very rarely does what happened at Florida’s Citrus County Speedway take place.

 

11. Blaney Transported to Hospital After Sprint Car Crash

Veteran racer Dave Blaney was injured in a crash during qualifying for a World of Outlaws Sprint Cars Series race at Eldora Speedway (OH) in May. The crash occurred during time trials at the Rossburg, Ohio dirt track and sources at the track told Speed51.com that Blaney flipped several times before coming to a stop on the race track.

 

After an extensive rehabilitation process, McCaskill returned to the driver's seat in September. (Mary McCaskill photo)

12. Bradley McCaskill Suffers Burns in Frightening Crash 

Late Model racer Bradley McCaskill was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital after being involved in a frightening crash at East Carolina Motor Speedway (NC) in June. McCaskill suffered burns when hot water from another competitor's radiator poured onto him as he sat trapped in the driver’s seat.

 

13. Gilliland Scores First K&N East Win in Wild, Controversial Finish

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season began with sparks and confetti flying at New Smyrna Speedway (FL).  In a wild and controversial finish that saw Spencer Davis crash hard, and Ronnie Bassett take the checkered flag, it was Todd Gilliland who was declared the victor.

 

14. Fourth Generation Earnhardt Set to Make Late Model Debut

A fourth generation Earnhardt took to Hickory Motor Speedway (NY) in April. Karsyn Elledge, the daughter of Kelly Earnhardt and niece of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., strapped into a Limited Late Model to make her debut at "The Birthplace of NASCAR stars."

 

15. Overnight At-Track Fire Destroys Nearly Everything for Racers

For two Washington State racers, Sunday morning was just like any other race day morning.  Until it wasn’t.  It was normal until their phones rang around 7:30 a.m. PT.

 

“There’s been a fire at the race track.  You need to get down here.”

 

Bubba Pollard (left) and Justin South (right) exchange words after the Baby Rattler. (Speed51.com photo)

16. Last-Lap Tangle Leads to Harsh Words After Baby Rattler

Justin South had an opinion, but Bubba Pollard didn't care to hear it. Pollard dominated the Baby Rattler 125, but contact with South coming off turn four allowed Stephen Nasse to win the Pro Late Model event at South Alabama Speedway.

 

17. Northwest SLM Series Hands Down Big Penalties to Behar Team

The Northwest Super Late Model Series and Stateline Speedway (ID) handed down stiff penalties to Nicole Behar and her team following an incident during a race in June. Fines were handed out and Behar was suspended from NWSLMS and Stateline Speedway events for the remainder of the season.

 

18. Bassett Family Devastated After Fire Destroys Race Shop

Twenty years of hard work and dedication went up in smoke for one of the hardest working families involved in the sport of auto racing.  Bassett Racing, a family-owned team that competes in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, lost nearly their entire racing operation as a result of a fire at their Winston-Salem, North Carolina race shop.

 

19. Eckes Prevails Over Nemechek in Snowball Derby Thriller

The 49th Annual Snowball Derby was worth waiting two days for.  Christian Eckes and John Hunter Nemechek put on a show during the final laps that fans won’t forget for a long time.  The teenage drivers swapped the inside lane and the lead four times during the final two laps before 16-year-old Eckes nipped 19-year-old Nemechek at the line by 0.017 seconds.

 

Mike Niebrzydowski will be remembered by racers and fans throughout the Midwest.

20. Track Official Struck and Killed in Accident at Owosso

A track official was struck and killed during a Saturday night racing program at Owosso Speedway in Michigan.  Mike Niebrzydowski, a long-time employee at the track, was standing on the racing surface attempting to slow down race cars on the track during a caution when he was struck.

 

21. Three Florida Tracks Create Universal Rules, New Series

A trio of Florida race tracks have joined forces to create a new racing series in the Sunshine State. Auburndale Speedway, 417 Southern Speedway and Desoto Speedway will play host to the new “Sunshine State Challenge Series” in 2017.

 

22. Driver Talent Search - STAR Tryouts to Determine a Potent Ride

Each year football teams around America hold try-outs to search for that hidden talent that nobody else has found.  Football players showcase their skills in high-school and college tryouts with the hopes of one day making it to the big leagues.  In racing, those try-outs are rare or non-existent, until now.

 

Citrus County had to turn away fans after reopening in August.

23. Florida Track Forced to Turn Away Fans at Reopening

For the past decade, hard times have claimed many of our nation’s short tracks while only a handful of new tracks have risen to carry on the legacy. With the Lost Speedways epidemic taking place, it is even rarer to see a track rise once the gates have been locked for good. But Florida’s Citrus County Speedway has beaten those odds, reopening its gates this past August with a fresh new look after laying silent in 2015.

 

24. PASS North Race at Oxford Plains Declared a Tie

Following one of the closest finishes in Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North history at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME), series President Tom Mayberry announced the series’ first ever tie. Wayne Helliwell, Jr. was declared the unofficial winner of the HP Hood 150 over Joey Polewarczyk, Jr.  But after reviewing all photo and video evidence, as well as recreating the scene, Mayberry made the decision to call the race a dead heat.

 

25. Short Track Showdown to be Held at New Hampshire in 2017

A standalone short track racing event will take place in 2017 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. North East Mini Stock Tour promoter Bob Guptil has joined forces with the Granite State Pro Stock Series and Valenti Modified Racing Series for the New England Short Track Showdown on July 1 at The Magic Mile.

 

-Speed51 Staff Story. Featured photo credit: Wenatchee Valley Super Oval

Top 25: Short Track Racing Stories of 2016 on Speed51.com