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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - In just his fourth year of racing on dirt tracks around the Midwest, 23-year-old Cody Jolly can officially call himself a NASCAR champion.
The native of Jasper, Missouri, recently secured the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II National championship, beating some of the best up-and-coming racers from the United States and Canada for the honor.
A former high school wrestler, Jolly has excelled since moving from wrestling mats to racing in circles. Jolly got started by racing go karts, but he didn’t really hit his stride until he tried his hand at dirt racing.
“I ran go karts for three years. That’s how we really got started in racing, with go karts. I got pretty serious in it and started getting faster and faster and faster,” Jolly recalled. “That’s when I started working with Mitch Keeter.”
He credits Keeter, a fellow racer and good friend who finished 14th in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I national standings this year, for helping him get started racing on dirt.
“I just kind of jumped on board with him,” Jolly explained. “I was kind of his go-to guy. I just kind of helped him out for a year and a half or so. I traveled with him and got to know a lot about these race cars. I was trying to see if I liked it.
“It started off as a joke,” Jolly continued. “He let me jump in his car one day during a play day at Nevada (Speedway) in Missouri. I turned some laps in his A-Mod. We came back and he told my dad, ‘We need to get him in a dirt car.’ ”
So that’s exactly what they did. Jolly got behind the wheel of a B-Mod and began racing across the Midwest. Success soon followed.
“We fell in love with it,” Jolly said. “The first three years we went to 60 shows. I lost track of how many this year. We’re winning big races. Really I’m just a country kid that comes from a really small town. It’s pretty cool to be able to run with some of the best in the country and actually pull off a national title in four short years.”
This year was, without a doubt, Jolly’s best to date. He captured B-Mod track championships at two Midwestern dirt tracks - Salina Highbanks Speedway in Oklahoma and Humboldt Speedway in Kansas.
Between the two tracks he won 16 features and captured 24 top-five and 29 top-10 finishes in 32 points paying starts aboard his No. 00 B-Mod that carried sponsorship Larry Shaw Race Cars, Yeoman Race Engines, T-N-T Heating & Air and B&B Racing Supply, just to name a few.
Those stats, combined with the strong car counts at both facilities, allowed Jolly to also earn the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II National championship by 37 points over Minnesota racer Conrad Jorgenson.
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II-V drivers are ranked by their best 14 NASCAR points finishes in series-sanctioned events. Drivers receive two points for every car they finish ahead of – up to 18 cars – and two points for a win, with an additional three points available if the driver starts 10th or lower..
Several weeks after officially being declared the Division II National champion, Jolly said he still has a hard time explaining how the honor makes him feel.
“It’ll leave you speechless,” Jolly said. “It’s such a rush to know that everything…this isn’t just a hobby to us. This is full blown, like a second job. It ain’t working on your car one or two nights a week, it’s five nights a week and race two nights a week. We put so much time and so much money into it, to be able to pull it off for my family and the people that support me…I can’t put it into words. I can’t fathom explaining myself.
“It’s just me, my dad and my brother-in-law that do this thing. My family and my girlfriend just stand beside me. I need to thank my family and more than anything in the world my brother-in-law, sister and especially my girlfriend for staying by my side through all this.”
Jolly will join all the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National champions when they’re honored during the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Dec. 8.
Cody Jolly had 16 wins, 24 top fives and 29 top 10 finishes in 32 starts in the B Modified Divisions at Humboldt Speedway in Kansas as well as Salina Highbanks Speedway in Oklahoma. Spirit Eyes Studio