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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Matt Bowling spent the entire season being chased by some of the best short-track racers in North America.
In the end, nobody could catch him.
The 22-year-old from Ridgeway, Virginia, culminated his incredible run with a third Late Model Stock Car championship at Virginia’s South Boston Speedway last Saturday night. The laurels continued during the week, as Bowling was officially announced as 2016 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion.
“This year’s championship was one of the most exciting and closely contested in NASCAR history,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR vice president of touring & weekly series. “The championship came down to contenders from three different regions of the country, and came down to the very last weekend. On behalf of the France family and NASCAR, we are proud to have Matt Bowling as the 2016 champion. We look forward to presenting his trophy and his NASCAR championship ring and all his accolades at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards in Charlotte in December.”
Bowling also earned his first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Virginia championship, by virtue of his success at South Boston, Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, and Dominion Raceway in Thornburg.
“There was just so much work that went into the whole year,” said Bowling. “We put a lot of effort to make this happen. We had to get the job done and we were able to do that.”
Bowling finished six points ahead of Connecticut’s Keith Rocco and nine points in front of Wisconsin’s Ty Majeski.
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I drivers are ranked by their best 18 NASCAR points finishes in series-sanctioned events. Drivers receive two points for every car they finish ahead of – up to 18 cars – and three points for a win, with an additional two points available if the driver starts 10th or lower.
Bowling wasn’t the only NASCAR national champion crowned this week, as the final standings for Division II through V were announced. The drivers in those divisions are ranked by their best 14 NASCAR points finishes in series-sanctioned events.
Patrick Thomas won the Sportsman Division race at Florida's New Smyrna Speedway on the final weekend to vault from third to first in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II, and edge Chris Hawkins from Oklahoma's Salina Highbanks Speedway, 473-471, for the title.
Hawkins also won the B Modified feature at Salina this past weekend, but it wasn't enough to hold off Thomas. The Oviedo, Florida, driver won the Division III championship last year and finished 2016 with 10 wins and 16 top fives in 19 starts. Michael Ostdiek from Minnesota's Elko Speedway finished third.
Ryan Jenkins used 10 wins and 25 top fives in 28 starts in the B-Modified Divisions at Nebraska's I-80 Speedway and Iowa's Adams County Speedway to earn the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division III championship. Jenkins, 16, also won the UNOH Youth Achievement Award national standings, recognizing the top drivers in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series who are 17-years-old and younger.
Jenkins won Division III by 20 points over Kyle Davis, who races at Salina. Billy Byington from Tennessee's Kingsport Speedway finished third.
Nathan Campbell won the Pure Stock division race at Salina last week to hold off Brennon Lacy, 495-480, for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division III championship. Lacy also runs at Salina. Campbell finished with seven wins and 13 top fives in 17 starts.
Wayne Burroughs Jr., who has competed in the Mini Stock Division at Connecticut's New London-Waterford Speedbowl and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, finished third.
In the closest national race, Cory Dumpert edged Tommy Davis Jr., by one point (421-420) to win the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division V championship. Dumpert had nine wins in 14 starts in the Grand National Division at I-80 Speedway. Davis collected 11 wins in 34 starts racing in the Front Wheel Drive Division at South Carolina's Anderson Motor Speedway and the 4-Cylinder Division at South Carolina's Greenville Pickens Speedway. Chad Redding, who also raced at Anderson and Greenville, finished third.
To earn the Division I championship, Bowling drove the No. 83 Hopkins Lumber Ford to 14 wins, 35 top fives and 42 top 10s in 49 races at South Boston, Motor Mile, and Dominion, as well as South Carolina’s Anderson Motor Speedway; Kingsport; East Carolina Motor Speedway in Robersonville, North Carolina; Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina; and Caraway Speedway in Sophia, North Carolina.
“The pressure was on us,” said Bowling, who led the points season the entire season but saw his cushion narrowed to one point in the closing weeks. “It seemed like every time we won one, Rocco did too and then Majeski did.”
Bowling credited his dad and car owner, Tim Bowling, along with crew chief HC Sellers and his crew members for the consistent success week in and week out. In addition to Hopkins Lumber, Bowling said his team got support from Bill Lemons, Clearway Logistics and Bandit Chippers, along with Sellers Racing, Hedgecock Racing, and Billy Banks Racing Engines.
Despite coming up short to Bowling, it was another banner year for Rocco.
The 31-year-old from Wallingford, Connecticut, won 14 races and collected 30 top fives and 39 top 10s in 45 starts in the Modified divisions at Connecticut’s three tracks: Thompson, Stafford Motor Speedway, and New London-Waterford.
Rocco, the 2010 national champion, finished in the top five in the national standings for the 10th straight season. He also won his ninth straight Connecticut championship. Rocco has races remaining at Thompson and New London-Waterford. While they won’t count toward national or state standings, those events do go to the track’s respective championships. If Rocco were to win both – he holds the points lead at each track – it would give him 13 career NASCAR Division I track titles and move him into a tie for third all-time.
By comparison, Majeski is a relative newcomer to the national short-track scene.
The NASCAR Next driver and Roush-Fenway Racing development driver burst onto the national scene winning the Super Late Model crown at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna in February. He continued his winning ways at Wisconsin's LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway, and then continued his national championship chase with races at Minnesota’s Elko Speedway, Illinois’ Rockford Speedway and Wisconsin’s Madison International Speedway.
The 22-year-old from Seymour, Wisconsin, finished with 14 wins, 21 top fives and 25 top 10s.
Nick Smith, who won the track title at Dominion Raceway and also competed at South Boston, finished fourth overall in the national standings, while three-time national champion Lee Pulliam ended up fifth.
Pulliam led the nation with 16 wins racing at South Boston, Southern National, Caraway and South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway.
Chase Purdy finished 15th overall and earned the National Rookie of the Year presented by Jostens on the strength of 10 wins in 21 starts at Myrtle Beach and South Carolina’s Greenville Pickens Speedway. Trent Barnes (Dominion) and Ryan Kimball (Ontario’s Sunset Speedway) finished second and third, respectively, in the rookie of the year standings.
This past weekend, 11 more tracks conclude their points seasons: David Roberts (South Carolina’s Anderson Motor Speedway); Nick Heywood (New York's Airborne Park Speedway), Dylan Hall (Greenville Pickens), Brian Brown (Missouri's Lebanon I-44 Speedway), Bill Kimball Jr. (New Hampshire's Monadnock Speedway), Brenden Queen (East Carolina), Shawn Solomito (New York's Riverhead Raceway), Bowling (South Boston) and Rowan Pennink (Stafford) won Division I track titles.
NASCAR WHELEN ALL-AMERICAN SERIES: U.S. STATE & CANADIAN PROVINCE CHAMPIONS
The 2016 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I national champion, as well as track champions from 58 tracks, U.S. state and Canadian provincial champions, national champions from Div. II through V, top rookies and special award winners will be honored at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards on Friday, Dec. 9 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame / Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering is the series’ title sponsor. Whelen Engineering is a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting. NASCAR tracks and pace cars are among the many showcases for Whelen products.
FINAL TOP 25 / DIVISION I NASCAR WHELEN ALL-AMERICAN SERIES
|1||Matt Bowling||Southern Natl, East Carolina, Motor Mile, S Boston, Kingsport, Anderson, Caraway, Dominion||49||14||35||42||678|
|2||Keith Rocco||Stafford, Waterford, Thompson||45||14||30||39||672|
|3||Ty Majeski||Lacrosse, Madison Intl,Rockford, Elko, New Smyrna||26||14||21||25||669|
|4||Nick Smith||Dominion, S Boston||21||12||18||19||638|
|5||Lee Pulliam||S Boston, Myrtle, Southern Natl, Motor Mile, Caraway||35||16||26||29||629|
|6||Trevor Huddleston||Irwindale, Tucson||22||11||21||22||627|
|7||Ted Christopher||Waterford, Stafford, Thompson||36||3||21||30||607|
|8||Rowan Pennink||Thompson, Stafford, Waterford||29||6||19||26||606|
|12||Tyler Matthews||Southern Natl, East Carolina||34||4||18||28||584|
|13||Brenden Queen||Myrtle, Southern Natl, S Boston, East Carolina||37||4||21||32||584|
|14||Doug Barnes, Jr||Dominion||20||2||17||19||576|
|15||Louis White||Southern Natl, East Carolina||26||6||17||26||570|
|16||Chase Purdy(R)||Myrtle, Greenville||21||10||16||20||568|
|18||Craig Von Dohren||Grandview||20||6||14||17||552|
|19||Kres Vandyke||L Pine, Greenville, Motor Mile, Myrtle, Kingsport||37||12||30||32||551|
|20||Joey Miller||Columbus, Elko||26||6||16||24||550|
|22||Steve Carlson||Madison Intl, Lacrosse||19||4||17||18||542|
|23||Michael Fose||Southern Natl, East Carolina||25||2||14||19||540|
|24||Woody Pitkat||Stafford, Thompson||26||3||16||20||539|
|25||Jimmy Zacharias||Bowman, Spencer, Riverhead,||21||7||15||19||537|