DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Spring has sprung, which means the sounds of birds chirping … and race car engines getting fired up.
As the calendar is set to flip to April, the weather has begun to warm up and so have race cars across the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. A number of tracks have already celebrated their opening day, and another batch will take the green flag this weekend and next as racing begins in earnest.
Headlining this weekend’s activities are a pair of historic NASCAR tracks on opposite coasts.
Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway, in Hampton, Virginia, rolls out its 2018 calendar with the Pomoco Auto Group Opening Night on Saturday. Langley, which originally opened in 1950 and was closed briefly before re-opening last season, will host seven features as part of its first night of racing. The track’s Division I Taylor Waste Services Late Model Stock Cars, will run twin 30-lap features.
Langley will also feature the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown on Thursday, April 19. This year, the special event will also count for NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship points.
In Washington state, Evergreen Speedway, will kick off its 64th season. Located an hour northeast of Seattle in Monroe, Washington, Evergreen will celebrate Northwest Sports Legends night with its opening show Saturday. The Speedway Chevrolet Super Late Model Division is the NASCAR Division I on the .375-mile oval that was freshly repaved last fall.
Several former Seattle SuperSonics, Seahawks and University of Washington stars will be on hand as part of the evening, including Chris Warren, who was the Seahawks all-time leading rusher when he retired in 1997.
Tennessee’s Kingsport Speedway will host the Food City 175 for its Division I Late Model as part of an opening night that was pushed back from last week because of weather.
The forecast has also played a factor in opening night’s for Salina Highbanks Speedway in Oklahoma and Virginia’s South Boston Speedway. The inaugural B Mod Bedlam on Salina’s dirt oval was slated for this weekend but has been washed out.
— Salina Highbanks (@SalinaHighbank1) March 29, 2018
South Boston was scheduled to open last weekend, but will hold the Danville Toyota Twin 100s its Division I Late Model Stock Cars on April 7.
South Boston will also mark the return of four-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Philip Morris to the national championship race. The Ruckersville, Virginia, driver returned to full-time racing action last year for the first time since winning his last national tile in 2011.
“We’re going to chase car counts and chase twin races,” said Morris, who is scheduled to run at Langley this weekend. “We’re going to start out that way and if everything works in that way, we’re going to stay with it.”
Morris was fourth in points at South Boston last year and finished sixth in the national points last year. He’s already picked up a win at Southern National Raceway Park in Kenly, North Carolina.
“I just missed being in the hunt,” said Morris, who has teamed up with crew chief and former competitor Forrest Reynolds. “Last year was the closest we’d come to running for the points deal.”
Morris, 52, isn’t the only driver looking to be in the national championship hunt who has already been to Victory Lane.
Eighteen-year-old Lawless Alan (yes, that’s his real name – not a nickname) won the Happy Harvick 50 for the Late Model Divisoin at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, California, on March 15. He then picked up a win and a fourth-place in the twin 30-lap LKQ Pick Your Part Late Model features at part of the 19th season opener for Irwindale Speedway this past weekend.
Southern California has a history of national championship contenders. Last season, Trevor Huddleston finished second in the national points while racing at Kern and Irwindale. It was his third straight season in the top 11 in national points. Brandon Davis was fifth in the national standings in 2011 and Nick Joanides was third in 2009. Greg Pursley won the national crown in 2005.
Alan will have plenty of talented young racers to contend with. Fellow 18-year-old Blaine Perkins won the other Late Model feature at Irwindale last Saturday, while Ryan Schartau, 15, was second and third and shared the points lead with Alan.
Also this past weeknd, Brad May won the Super Late Model feature as Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway kicked off its slate of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing.
Looking ahead, South Carolina’s Anderson Speedway will open its 55th season on Friday, April 6.
Thunderbird Speedway, the historic half-mile dirt track in Muskogee, Oklahoma, will begin its NASCAR era with its opening event the same night. Between Salinas, Thunderbird, I-80 Speedway in Omaha, Nebraska, Humboldt Speedway in Kansas, and Adams County Speedway in Corning, Iowa, there are five midwest dirt tracks for competitors to chase NASCAR points.
Keith Rocco won his sixth Sunoco Modified title last season at Thompson and 15th NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I title overall. That moved him into a tie with Pennsylvania dirt track racer Jeff Strunk for second behind Nebraska’s Joe Kosiski (17) for most NASCAR NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I track championships.