Old Dominion Speedway -- The 2004 Season in Review I woke up early this morning, took a look out the window and saw the fall leaves that had covered my yard, the thick fog just above the trees, and the squirrels preparing for the winter...
Old Dominion Speedway -- The 2004 Season in Review
I woke up early this morning, took a look out the window and saw the fall leaves that had covered my yard, the thick fog just above the trees, and the squirrels preparing for the winter months ahead. My plans for the weekend included raking up those leaves, but with the heavy rains that came through last night, that option appeared to be put off for at least another day. So I went downstairs to my office, sat down, and reflected a bit on the season we had just completed at ODS. The first thing I did was to try to find an article I wrote back in March regarding my predictions for the 2004 season. It's always cool to review what you thought would happen, then revisit those thoughts at season's end. Once I found that article, buried deep in the depths of my hard drive, it was interesting to note that, for the most part, I was in the ballpark. But much more than what I put down on paper early in 2004 would transpire as the months progressed.
Quoting directly from my release:
"After walking around the historic facility, and speaking with Hayne and Steve, I could not help to start to get a bit excited about the upcoming season. Many have asked me what I expect in 2004 on the oval track side. My predictions? No less than 8-10 different winners in the Late Model division. And quite possibly a surprise winner of the LM track championship. But I do think that an old veteran still has one more championship left in him, so don't count him out either--------On the Grand Stock side, I have to say about 6 or so different winners, with the championship coming down to the very last race of the season between no less than 4 drivers. The Mini Stocks and the Speedway Sportsman divisions should be exciting as well. How close are my predictions? We'll see in about 6 months. But regardless if I am right or wrong, I believe this will be one of the most exciting seasons at ODS in a long time."
Reviewing this portion of the release, it turns out that I was just about on target with the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Late Model Stock Cars, as there were in fact 6 different winners in 2004, with Danny Fair leading the way with 8 wins. Andreas Kestermann and Jack Bailey had 4 wins each, Mark McFarland had 3, Brandon Butler had 2, and Mike Colabucci's late season triumph in Sam Beaty's machine gave him his 1 win for the season. Interestingly enough, 1 of the 3 wins McFarland had was on opening night, which extended his opening night win streak to 4. He has picked up opening night wins at ODS for 4 consecutive years. So I was 2 drivers off in the win column, but who would have thought that Mike Southard would have gone winless, Richard Boswell Jr. would still be looking for that elusive first points paying win, or Chris Donnelly would have had the horrible season he had after moving up in the LM division. As for the track championship, my "surprise" winner? I am sure that all the Brandon Butler fans were not "surprised" by him winning his 3rd ODS track championship (also Mini Stock champ in 1989 and Late Model champ in 1993). But face it, the odds were not in his favor by coming back to ODS after not competing on a regular basis in several years. But he did what he had to do, finishing out of the top 5 on only 2 occasions in 2004. But one must mention that he did in fact have a bit of help from the Danny Fair team, as they shot their selves in the foot late in the season with some illegal items that were found on his car by track officials. Regardless, one must compete week in and week out, stay out of trouble, be consistent, and pass tech. That's exactly what Butler did, and it paid off with a track championship. Congratulations to the entire Bailey's team for a well deserved title.
Moving over to the Redman Fleet Service Grand Stock division, it appears I was about half right. I got the number of winners correct, as Willard Lawrence (12 wins), Michael Hardin and Ron Jardine (3 wins each), Les Miranda, Chris Donnelly, and Mark Winstead (1 win each) visited victory lane at some point during the season. But only 2 drivers battled it out for the title on the final night of racing action. And quite honestly, if someone were to have asked me back in April who the 2 drivers were that were going to battle for the championship, Lawrence would have been one of them, but Michael Hardin would not have been the other driver. No disrespect given to Michael or that entire team, but with the likes of veterans Ron Jardine, Les Miranda, Mark Miller, and the rest of the Grand Stock teams competing, I would have never guessed Michael would have done what he did in such a short period of time. 3 wins, 9 runner-up finishes, and only one finish out of the top 4 in his rookie season is quite impressive. It appears Michael is beginning to pick up where his Dad has left off. Congratulations to Willard Lawrence for his first track championship, and also to Michael Hardin for probably the best rookie seasons ever to grace ODS.
I mentioned in the early release that the Kay Jennings Springfield Toyota Mini-Modifieds and the Winning Edge Performance and Graphics Speedway Sportsman divisions were going to be exciting as well. At the time, I was not sure who was going to compete in those divisions, so it was difficult to determine winners and champions. I will say that these divisions, regardless of how many drivers made up the fields each week, put on some of the better racing seen in 2004. Let's recap a bit. The Mini-Modifieds had 6 different winners in 2004, so 1/3 of the drivers competing in 2004 visited victory lane at least once. Leading the way was Colt White, the 2004 track champion with 11 wins. Early championship contenders Tom Beckman and Johnny Lowery has 2 wins each, followed by Mike Carte, Bobby Able, Ken Datesman with 1 win each. White of course dominated the division, locking up the track title with a couple of weeks remaining in the season. He never finished further back than 3rd all season long. Congratulations go out to the entire Colt White team for their accomplishments this season. Jamie DeMattio had the same amount of success in the Speedway Sportsman division as White did in the Mini-Modified class. DeMattio essentially clinched the title a few weeks prior to the final race of the season, picking up 12 wins in the process. Although only 12 different drivers competed in the division this season, 5 of these drivers visited victory lane. Along with DeMattio's 12 wins, former track champ Jeff Sisak, running on a limited basis in 2004, took home 3 wins. Mark Avery, David Smith, and 2-time Mini Stock champ Sean Dawson took home the checkers one time apiece. DeMattio only finished out of the top 4 on one occasion. Congratulations to the DeMattio race team for the 2004 track championship.
I failed to mention at all in my original release, anything about the INEX Legends division. Being that these guys travel all over the East coast, it's hard to say who will show up on a consistent basis each time, so predicting a champion would have been difficult. I will mention that I would have never predicted the domination that Jason Miller put on the division in 2004. Miller, who picked up the track championship, took home the checkers in 5 of the 8 races he competed in. The other 3 races he finished 2nd. And he takes home the championship by running 1 less race than all the other championship contenders. No way would I have thought that would happen. Others who visited victory lane in the Legends division were Ryan Ellis, Patrick Molesworth, Sean Dawson, and Kyle Hendershott. The Legends division did in fact come down to the final event of the season, with 4 drivers chasing the title. Miller would lead every lap in that final night, and take the title by 14 points over Ellis. Congratulations to the Miller team for their accomplishments. Let's recap my predictions real quick -- I would say overall I was about 30% correct. That certainly sounds like a failing score in any school test. But if I were a baseball player, batting .333 would make me millions. Maybe I need to speak with Steve Britt before the 2005 season begins to renegotiate my contract------
For now, it's time to hibernate for a few months and relax over the upcoming holidays. It seems like April is so far away, but before you know it, the 2005 season will be upon us.
Have a safe and happy holiday season. I look forward to seeing everyone in 2005.
Old Dominion Speedway
October 30, 2004