After 25 years of racing, starting the season then having to stop due to rainouts and the coronavirus pandemic didn’t hurt Brad May’s momentum at his home track of New Smyrna Speedway.
May started the season off with what he called a great week, finishing second in annual World Series Stock Car Racing championship for the Super Late Model Division for the second straight season.
Even though it was nearly four months until May was able to race again, the winning didn’t stop. With five wins and 10 top fives, he leads the Florida championship and is 30th in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Division I standings.
"As far as momentum, we started off right off the bat with a win. We had a really good start," May said. "I’ve ran there for so long I think being away for a couple months doesn’t really affect us as much as some guys that don’t really run there as much.
"By the end of Speedweeks you pretty much have worn out everything you’ve got so it kind of gave us an opportunity to go through the car, kind of freshen everything back up and get everything back. Just go through everything really to try to prepare."
May has won three of the last four super late model championships at New Smyrna – a NASCAR-sanctioned half-mile oval just south of Daytona International Speedway in Florida.
He started racing at New Smyrna in 1995, but only began racing at the track full time a few years ago. Throughout his career, May mainly picked big races to run at the track rather than going for points. He also spent a few years in the 1990s travelling up and down the east coast while racing in the Hooters Pro Cup.
"I’ve raced in 30 different states in my life," May said. "I couldn’t even tell you how many race tracks."
It was when May stated racing for car owner Bobby Sears he began focusing on racing for points.
"He had always been somebody that was loyal and hit the track every week," May said of Sears. "And he was always somebody who was interested in trying to run for points and race as much as possible. So the last four or five years it’s given us the opportunity to do a lot more racing."
Racing at New Smyrna gave May a chance to race alongside one of his childhood racing idols – David Rogers.
Rogers, an award winning super late model legend at New Smyrna who passed away from cancer earlier this year, was a friend of May’s parents.
"We would go out and watch him when I was really, really young," May said of Rogers. "He gave me my first trophy when I was like three or four years old."
May always wanted to race when he was a kid, with an obsession for go-karts, motorcycles, and 4-wheelers. He raced quarter-midgets from the time he was seven until he was about 16 before switching to late models. When May and his family got interested in starting to find a late model to race, Rogers found one of his old cars and gave May advice on if it was good.
"He knew the car and helped do a lot of the setup," May said. "He coached us on changes and coached me on different things as far as the driving end of it, giving me pointers and helped me really get started."
May raced Rogers’s car as a pro late model at some speed weeks from 2012-2014.
"We ran a lot of the big races and speed weeks for a couple years for him, which was an awesome opportunity," May said. "Kind of a dream to be able to get into a David Rogers car. With him kind of being my idol my whole life, it was a huge opportunity for me and kind of something I had always dreamed about."
May makes sure to always remember his mentor whenever he gets in the car at their home track.
"He’s such a huge part of New Smyrna Speedway," May said of Rogers. "He always parked right next to us so we just definitely are always thinking about him every time we’re at the track and thinking about all his crew guys and all his family and sponsors. Everybody that we usually see on an ongoing basis, our thoughts are just constantly with them every time we’re at the track."
May is tied for the super late model lead at New Smyrna with one race remaining. He knows he may need to win in the track’s final race to get his fourth title.
May and the team, which is sponsored by R.K. Edwards, have a goal of winning the track and state championship. He would also like to get a win at New Smyrna’s Florida Governor’s Cup on November 13, the track’s biggest race of the year. The best he’s finished in the race is third.
Until then, the team will try to win the NASCAR finale on October 17, not only to secure the track title but to continue proving his team’s hard work has paid off.
"We’ve got a lot of experience there. We spend a lot of time working on a car that’s good at the end of a race, and I think a lot of times people work on cars that are quick for qualifying or quick for short runs. We just continue to focus on how to make a car the best by the end of the race. I feel like in most scenarios by the end of the race we’re usually the best car," May said.
"I think even though a lot of times people have bigger sponsors and more money and probably smarter people working on the race cars, you can sometimes just take a team that’s worked together and a couple guys that have done it for a long time and find ways to outrun guys that if you looked on paper should be able to easily beat you. Finding ways to still win without having a huge budget and all the technology that some people have. A lot of people say it’s so much about money but there’s still so much you can do to still win races without all that money. And I think it’s still a challenge for me to find ways to run with guys that are spending three, four times as much as we are and I still love doing that.
"Everybody just pitches in. Nobody is paid, it’s just a lot of guys having fun and we’re just out there to have fun."
The end of the NASCAR Points Season at New Smyrna will take place on October 17 with the Southern Super Series Hart to Heart 100 featuring David Rogers Super Late Models, Mod Minis, and Ground Pounders.