PULLS AWAY FROM HOLTZLANDER FOR SECOND DIVISION IV CROWN
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Halfway through the season was the turning point for Nathan Campbell.
The Oklahoma dirt racer wasn’t necessarily chasing a NASCAR Whelen All American Series national championship when the year started, but when he looked at the standings at the beginning of the summer, he realized he had a shot to score his second Division IV crown.
Fast-forward through a checkered flag filled summer and Campbell is celebrating all over again. For the second time in three years, he pulled away and defeated Berlin Raceway’s Corey Holtzlander by 14 points. He earned the title by competing at two Oklahoma dirt tracks — Salina Highbanks Speedway and Thunderbird Speedway.
This years Division II champion, Cody Jolly, competed at those same two tracks, and one other, en route to his title.
RACING-REFERENCE: Final Division IV Standings
“We started out the season decent, winning the second or third race, but looking at the points early in the season when some of the other tracks have started a little bit earlier, you see yourself with only one or two starts when others have seven or eight, and we are way down on the points grid. About the middle of the season, we gain starts and the points start showing that we are up in the mix. You start thinking you have a shot at it.”
“I’m just speechless,” Campbell said. “It’s really awesome. When you sit down and watch things start to play out in the middle of the season, you put in the extra night in the shop. You hope that luck is on your side so you can squeak out a few wins.”
After the list of accolades he put together, it’s safe to say he squeaked out more than just a few trophies using his dirt experience. Campbell won eight of his 17 starts, scoring top-five and top-10 finishes in each event. He won the S&J Plumbing Pure Stock championship at Salina in dominating fashion — scoring all of his victories on the .375-mile clay en route to a 134 point win in the track chase.
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 finished ahead of – up to 18 cars – and two points for a win, while an additional three points are available if the driver starts 10th or lower.
Winning that many races may look easy on paper, but with the competition on the track, Campbell feels lucky to have been in the right spot at the right time.
“We average anywhere from 24 to 32 cars a night, and if you don’t run top three in your heat, you end up in the B-feature, but that puts your further back to start in the A-feature. It makes everything tougher for you to have that many cars,” Campbell said. “More and more guys are building cars and coming out, and the car count is just going up every year. It’s a really good thing for everyone.”
For Campbell, the decision to sit behind the wheel comes after spending years at the track with his family in the pit area. Now, he finds himself buckling belts with his closest family crewing the car en route to another national title.
“I grew up at the race track, and my family is always there. There isn’t really a lot of time away from them, because I’m lucky, most of them come to the track with me,” Campbell said. “My dads been racing since the 1980s, so I’ve been around it my whole life. I think I started in 2004 in the Factory Stock division. When I started to run for NASCAR, that’s when I started racing at Salina. It just all kinda went from there.”
With the competition at both tracks, and Campbell knowing he needs crucial points in order to defeat others he’s competing against, he truly feels like a lot of his success is because of lady luck. But it’s clear the support of his family and sponsors combined with his work ethic helped him reach the top of the podium.
“A lot of nights, it’s luck. It doesn’t hurt spending a lot of nights after work in the shop. It’s about making sure your tires and your car is ready to go,” he said. “We are always starting fifth or six row, and there can be a lot of cautions to keep us bunched up and towards the front.”
Heading into the offseason, his plan is to soak up the thrill of winning the championship before he worries about what could be ahead.
Is another title run possible for 2019?
“I really don’t know about going after the title again, but I plan on running the same old car I have, it’s been a good one, and I hate to sell it and let someone have the same luck I have with it,” he joked. “I’m going to hang with it, and I might do some more traveling next year. We’ll see.”