SES: 2001 Season preview

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 16 2001) - When the NASCAR Gatorade All Pro Series kicks off their 2001 racing season, race teams will return to some very familiar race tracks that have not been a part of the Gatorade All Pro Series for years and...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 16 2001) - When the NASCAR Gatorade All Pro Series kicks off their 2001 racing season, race teams will return to some very familiar race tracks that have not been a part of the Gatorade All Pro Series for years and race fans will see some very familiar names in 2001 starting lineups.

"We are looking forward to a great year," commented veteran promoter Bob Harmon who is returning to the series in 2001 as a consultant and promoter. "We will have a challenging schedule this year and with the number of former drivers returning to the series race fans will see some great racing. "Two new venues returning to the series schedule will be Mobile International Speedway and Birmingham International Raceway," stated Harmon. "The series has not been to Mobile 1996 and Birmingham since 1991 and those were two great venues in years past," continued Harmon. "A large field of cars is expected for both events because the tracks are located in the heart of late model short track racing in the south," said Harmon.

Race fans will see some familiar names in the lineup in 2001. Returning to full-time competition will be Jody Ridley of Chatsworth, Ga., the only Gatorade All Pro driver to win three successive series championships. His titles came in 1991, '92 and '93. Add these three to the three he acquired under the former All Pro Super Series it gives Ridley six championships. Ridley was also voted Most Popular Driver with the series in 1991, '92 and '93.

Ridley has not raced full-time since 1994 and did not even compete during 1998 and '99. During the 2000 racing year he served as a consultant with another race team. He did compete twice with the NASCAR Gatorade All Pro Series in 2000 when the series visited Nashville Speedway USA.

Ridley, the 1980 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, is looking forward to getting back behind the wheel.

"I think there is another championship out there for me," stated Ridley. "I have a great sponsor in Bobby Craig of McDonough, Ga., who has been with me a long time. I am hoping that my son Anthony will come back as crew chief and my brother Biddle will be back at some events."

Ridley ranks fifth in career series victories with 12. Four of those career victories came at the Mobile track where he holds the qualifying record.

"When NASCAR starting working on the 2001 schedule I recommended that we return to tracks that have been very popular in the south to rebuild the great fan base that All Pro enjoyed for many years," commented Harmon. "In addition to great race fans in the south, many drivers will return to compete at tracks like Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham, Nashville because there will not be a lot of travel involved. This should bring more drivers into the NASCAR ranks." continued Harmon.

Harmon, the founder of the All Pro Super Series in 1980, will continue his affiliation with Nashville Speedway USA.

Another very familiar name to race fans in Alabama is Stanley Smith of Chelsea, Al., the 1989 NASCAR All-American Challenge Champion.

Smith, who went from the Challenge Series into NASCAR Winston Cup competition in 1990, has been competing at tracks in Alabama and Florida after a devastating accident at Talladega Supespeedway in 1993. He had been running about 15 NASCAR Winston Cup events each year.

"We are definitely anxious to get back into NASCAR competition," said Smith. "It has been a long time since we have raced competitively and it will be different returning to a touring series. But one thing is for sure and that is everyone is on a level playing field on the NASCAR Gatorade All Pro Series.

Another name familiar to race fans, expecting to return, is Darrell Brown of Birmingham, Al.. Brown, the 1984 All Pro Super Series National Champion, is having a Gatorade All Pro car built by veteran car builder Frankie Grill and is planning to run as many events as his business commitments will allow.

Wayne Anderson, the 1999 NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Champion, is returning to hopefully add another championship trophy to his mantle. He led all drivers in 2000 with five victories bringing his total career win to 15, just two short of the all-time winner Freddie Query with 17. Anderson is also a two-time winner of the prestigious All American 400 event at Nashville Speedway USA.

Billy Bigley Jr., 2000 Gatorade All Pro Champion, will not be defending his championship in 2001since he has a full-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Ride in 2001. That will leave the door open for a number of competitors seeking their first NASCAR Championship.

In addition to these familiar names many Gatorade All Pro Series drivers from 2000 will return like Jeff Fultz, David Reutimann, Brian Smith, A. J. Frank, Kevin Prince, Ken Weaver, Benny Gordon, Gary Terry, Casey Yunick, Ryan Crane, Greg Pope, Randy Gentry, Steven Howard, George Ingole, Shane Sieg, Billy Mills, Scott Carlson and others.

Another driver making his NASCAR Gatorade All Pro Series debut will be Road Ammons, the first African American driver to compete with the series. Ammons has been flying F-18 fighters. He will be driving a Jon Craig Motorsports entry.

The All Pro Series is one of nine NASCAR Touring Series that blanket the United States, bringing special events to many NASCAR Weekly Racing Series tracks and some NASCAR superspeedways and road courses. NASCAR Touring Series can provide a competitor with an entire career, or they can provide valuable experience to competitors moving through the NASCAR ranks. Corporate sponsors make significant contributions to NASCAR Touring Series point funds. The sponsors include R. J. Reynolds, Anheuser-Busch, Featherlite Trailers, Goody's Headache Powders, O'Reilly Auto Parts, Raybestos Brakes and RE/MAX International, Incorporated.

-Bill Desmond

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Drivers Billy Bigley , David Reutimann , Jeff Fultz , Ken Weaver , Brian Smith , Shane Sieg , Wayne Anderson