NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour News & Notes - Whelen Southern Modified Tour 150 Loftin Seeks Third Straight Victory Benson Wraps Up Caraway Late Model Title Labonte Remembers His Short Track Roots Brian Loftin (No. 23 L&R ...
NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour News & Notes - Whelen Southern Modified Tour 150
Loftin Seeks Third Straight Victory
Benson Wraps Up Caraway Late Model Title
Labonte Remembers His Short Track Roots
Brian Loftin (No. 23 L&R Transmission/QMF Solutions Chevrolet) has been a man on a mission in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour as of late. He has won the last two races including a wire-to-wire victory at Bowman Gray Stadium, in what he called the biggest win of his career.
Loftin will look to extend his streak to three in a row on Friday night in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour 150 at Caraway Speedway.
"We've been pretty good the last couple of weeks," said Loftin, a resident of Lexington, N.C. "All the guys on my team have been working hard and we have three cars at the shop and there's really not one car better than another. I've got to say this is the best crew I've ever had behind me and that make my job as a driver a lot easier. Sometimes you get things clicking and find a package that you really like.
"I don't want to sound over confident but it's like sometimes you can't do anything wrong. There were a million things that could have gone wrong at Bowman Gray the other night but everything stayed together and we were fortunate enough to win. I just want to keep plugging and try to keep this momentum on our side."
Loftin said that the Bowman Gray victory was a special experience
"To pull that win off at Bowman Gray was huge for me because I know how good guys like Burt Myers and Tim Brown are at that place," Loftin said. "Winning that race really meant a lot to me as a driver as well as all the guys on my crew. Going into every race with the mindset that we have a very good chance to win really gives us all a lot of momentum."
Loftin has not only been winning on a regular basis. Loftin has also been chipping away at the points lead that defending champion L.W. Miller (No. 36 John Baker Plumbing & Utilities/Sink Towers Pontiac) has held since the first race of the season. Heading into Friday night, Miller holds a slim 11-point advantage over Loftin.
"I'm not going to sit here and lie and say I don't worry about the points because it is too early," Loftin said. "The bottom line is L.W. is going to win some more races this year and hopefully we will too. The guy that runs up front and has the best consistency is the one that will be the champion at the end of the year."
Loftin is 54 points ahead of third-place Tim Brown (No. 83 Hayes Jewelers/Triad Auto Sales Chevrolet) and up by 59 over Burt Myers (No. 1 JRC Investments Ford) in fourth.
Frank Fleming (No. 07 Patterson Automotive/ProHealth Center Pontiac) and Andy Seuss (No. 47 Advance Auto Parts/ Q Racing Oil Dodge) hold down the fifth and sixth position and are both less than 100 points behind Miller.
"It's not just a two-man race like everybody thinks it is," Loftin said. "I know Burt and Tim are going to have a say in this championship, just like Frank Fleming and Andy Seuss are. It's not just limited to those guys either because anything can happen."
So what would it mean if Loftin were to win this year's NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship?
"I've never won a championship in any kind of racing I've ever done so that would be awesome if we could finally win a championship at this level," Loftin said. "I've always been more worried about winning races than racing for points. I'd just as soon wreck if I'm running second because I want to win so bad.
"I've always said I'd rather win four or five races a year than to win the championship, but over the winter we as a team sat down and talked about it. We went into the season just trying to put ourselves in a position to win the championship so it's been a little bit of a different approach.
"To finally win a championship would be huge. There are a very few select people that can say they won a major NASCAR touring series title. To put my name on that list would be unreal."
Loftin said his love of racing dates back to when he was a young child going to the local short track to watch his father, Bobby, race on Friday and Saturday nights.
"Racing is all I've ever wanted to do and I knew that from the time I was a young kid," Loftin said.
Loftin said he is excited to get back to Caraway and try to extend his win streak at the famed .455-mile short track.
"I love Caraway and I think that track is one of the best tracks in the country to run these cars," Loftin said. "It's got two distinct grooves and that makes for some fun racing for the fans and drivers."
The Race: Whelen Southern Modified Tour 150
The Place: Caraway (N.C.) Speedway
Race Purse: $25,920
The Date: Friday, August 22
The Time: 8:00 p.m.
Track Layout: .455-mile paved oval
2007 Winner: L.W. Miller
2007 Pole Winner: Burt Myers
Schedule: Practice: 4:00-4:45 p.m. Time Trials: 6:30 p.m.
REMBERING HIS ROOTS: Labonte reflects on Caraway past
Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte is used to driving on historic race tracks like Daytona International Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, there is one North Carolina short track that holds a fond place in Labonte's heart from helping him move from a local weekly level to NASCAR's top series.
That track is Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C., which is not far from where he lived and worked on his older brother Terry's race team while moving up through the NASCAR ranks. In 1987, Bobby Labonte won the Caraway track championship after a season-long battle with current NASAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Dennis Setzer.
Twenty years later, the driver of the famed No. 43 car on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series took time to reflect on his rise to fame from a .455-mile track in the Piedmont Region of North Carolina.
"The thing that helped me out the most was when I was running here and at tracks like Orange County (N.C.) and South Boston (Va.), Terry sat me down and told me that if I was ever going to get better I needed to pick one track and race there every weekend," Bobby Labonte said. "I really needed to race at one place if I ever wanted to go anywhere in my racing career because I didn't have enough experience anywhere else.
"It just made sense for me to pick Caraway as that one track because it was only about 15 miles from my house. Terry pretty much agreed with me that Caraway was a track I could go racing at on a weekly basis. We went down there our first year and didn't miss a beat and won the championship. Caraway was a good track for me to learn how to race and how to learn how to win. We'd go down to Caraway every Wednesday night and practice then go back on Saturday night to race."
Labonte is quick to point that all the hard work that track owner Russell Hackett and his family are one of the main reasons that Caraway holds a special place in his heart.
"We obviously had our good days as well as some bad days because I was a driver and he was the promoter," Bobby Labonte said with a laugh. "The Hackett family has always been really good to us over the years and we've been able to make some friends. They do a good job. They're proud of their track and they should be because they've worked hard for a lot of years to make Caraway the nice facility it is today. The track has always been very good to us and the action out on the track is what keeps the fans coming out like they do."
While he no longer races at Caraway on a competitive basis, Labonte and many other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams still use the track to practice prior to racing at tracks like Richmond and Martinsville on regular basis.
"It is really neat to go back to Caraway," Labonte said. "When I started racing at Caraway I had no idea that it would lead me to where I'm at now. To be able to go back to a track where I got my start is pretty cool and I realize that's where I had my career kind of launched. I can remember when I was racing at Caraway and I'd have some people in the grandstands who cheered for me and some that booed me and I didn't have a clue why.
"I didn't have an idea of the gist of what where my career was going to take me back then. I tell the guys we need to go to Caraway to test brakes or something like that because it's just neat that I still get to go to Caraway every now and then."
Labonte said many people thought he would get treated different because of his older brother's fame at NASCAR's top level, he said that was never the case.
"I believe the year I raced at Caraway we only had to replace one fender and that was it," Labonte said. "The NASCAR officials tore our motor apart and rightfully so because they wanted everybody to know we were legal or not. We didn't have any problem because of Terry was doing. That was never a problem. I look at more as Terry just helped open some doors for me and help me out. Then it became a matter of more pressure on me to stay after and do well. I had a lot of pressure to make a name for myself and get out of his shadow so to speak. Terry was at the very first race I ran at Caraway.
"I'll never forget that night at Caraway because it was the biggest race I'd ever won at the time and he was happier than I was. That was great."
The Race: This event is the fifth of 11 races on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour schedule. It is the third of six races in 2008 at Caraway (N.C.) Speedway.
The Procedure: The starting field is 26 cars, including provisionals. The first 24 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining two spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps (68.25 miles).
The Track: Caraway Speedway was built in 1966 and remained a dirt track until 1972 when it became a NASCAR-sanctioned track. The .455-mile asphalt oval has been owned and operated by Russell and Valastra Hackett since 1977.
Race Winners: There has been 19 Whelen Southern Modified Tour race at Caraway Speedway. L.W. Miller (No. 36 John Baker Plumbing & Utilities/Sink Towers Pontiac)
leads all drivers with six victories. Junior Miller (No. 69 Express Auto of Kernersville/Hayes Jewelers Dodge) and Brian Loftin (No. 23 L&R Transmission/QMF Solutions Chevrolet) each have five wins at the .455-mile short track. Ted Christopher has two wins and Burt Myers (No. 1 JRC Investments Ford) has one victory.
Pole Winners: Myers holds the record with seven Coors Light Pole Awards, including winning it for the April 27 race. Jay Hedgecock has four, followed by Loftin and Junior Miller with three apiece. Tim Brown (No. 83 Hayes Jewelers/Triad Auto Sales Chevrolet), who won the pole for the opener, has two.
The Records: Loftin holds the qualifying record at 15.783 seconds/103.783 mph set Sept. 22, 2007.
Benson Wraps Up Second Track Late Model Title
Randy Benson won the 75-lap Late Model feature at Caraway Speedway to clinch his second straight track championship. In the process, Benson earned an invitation to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series banquet Friday, Nov. 7 at the Rio in Las Vegas.
The 49-year-old Rockingham, N.C. driver won his first track title last season. This year, Benson finished second in the season opener March 16 and then came back to the second race of the season April 12.
Benson has collected seven wins, 14 top fives and 15 top 10s in 15 starts to pile up 704 points. Pete Stewart is second with 554 points, and rookie Ryan Wilson is third at 532.
It was B.J. Mackey, though, who won one of the track's biggest events when he held off Benson to claim the 200-lap feature that headlined the second annual Rusty Harpe Memorial 300 July 2. Jason York was third in the 32-car race, which honors the former Caraway driver who was killed in Jan. of 2007 in a farming accident.
Cole Miktuk (Late Model Super Truck), Johnny Henderson (Limited Late Model), Rich Hunter (Sportsman), Pnut Vernon (Mini Stock), Jerry Chriscoe (Custom Steel Fabricators SMT), Gary Dillard (Cab Car), Daniel Hemric (Legends), James Markwell (Street Stock) and Jimmy Cooper (U-Car) also lead their respective point standings.
In addition to the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified race, Caraway's Sportsman, Legends, Street Stocks and U-Cars will also run their features.