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Hendrick Scores 200. Now what?
Hendrick Motorsports accomplished its primary goal of the season at Darlington: 200 wins. Now the team hopes to move on and win more, but then again what team doesn’t want to win more? Right now Hendrick is two for two after grabbing the 200th at Darlington. Oh, and by the way, if a Hendrick driver clenches the Sprint Cup Series title this year, Hendrick will obtain its 11th-straight Sprint Cup Series championship.
What is the key to Hendrick’s success? The positioning that the team finds itself midway each season seems to be as well as the overall determination of the team. Currently two Hendrick drivers are positioned for a top-10 spot this year. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ranks fourth in points and has already clenched nine top 10s this year. Then let’s not forget about the Hendrick’s five-time Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson who sits fifth overall in standings and has led 501 laps so far this season, more than any other driver. Hendrick also has Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon on its list of drivers. Both Kahne and Gordon are currently positioned right outside of the top ten in point standings and have legitimate wild card opportunities.
Kahne has six top ten’s this season and is second, behind Earnhardt, for the most top ten’s to date. Kahne won his third Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, taking him from 31st to 15th in points. Who knows, maybe Kahne will keep up the push for the remainder of the season and wind up in the top ten as well?
Gordon has been graced with a lot of bad luck recently. However, even though the numbers show him at 22nd in points, his driver rating currently stands at 88.1 (13th) and a win could boost his chances of making the chase.
Dover is on the schedule for the weekend. Johnson holds Hendricks best chance of a win at Dover, and if he pulls it off he will tie NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison on the all-time Dover win’s list.
The Late Model Experience
Motorsports are ranked pretty high in my book, but they haven’t always been. In fact, throughout the course of my lifetime I have only experienced a handful of races, and those races have been primarily the well known races with those drivers that even non-race fans have heard about. However, last weekend I was able to expand my racing horizons when NASCAR Whelen All American Series driver Lee Pulliam allowed me to accompany him, his family and his team during their first weekend back on the track.
Pulliam, who was born and raised in Semora, NC, has been racing since 2007. With a lot of hard work and determination, Pulliam has achieved a significant amount of success so far in his career. Last year Pulliam captured 16 wins at Virginia’s Motor Mile Speedway, giving himself the single season track record. Pulliam then went on to become the track champion at the Speedway located in Radford, Va., and finished third overall in the Whelen All-American Series National Championship.
Last weekend Pulliam Motorsports had expected to return to racing at Motor Mile Speedway; however, due to rain, the track cancelled the race early Saturday morning. So Pulliam, his team and I, spur the moment, headed to South Boston Speedway, a short 4/10 mile track that hosts weekly races for a variety of different NASCAR series. Upon arrival at, “SoBo,” Pulliam spoke about the track and how he felt heading into his first weekend back. “I’ve got those butterflies in my stomach,” he said, “…it’s a good feeling though. I’d be worried if I didn’t feel this way.”
Leaving from one track and heading to another would be an intimidating feat for some, but Pulliam remained confident and focused on the task at hand: preparing his car and racing hard. Pulliam wasn’t the only one with that mindset either, his family and team performed the same way. From the moment that the group arrived at the track their business had begun. Pulliam immediately started to work on his car along and was accompanied by numerous individuals that travel with him and support his racing career. Even Pulliam’s girlfriend, Jessica Clayton, was working with the team, grabbing the tools that were needed to make the changes to Pulliam’s car and helping to push the car onto the track prior to practice.
Pulliam during the day was one of the fastest cars in practice despite the lack of preparation to race at the short track. On Saturday night Pulliam started on the pole and led every lap during the WYYD Presents USG Night 150 in his No. 1 Black’s Tire Service Chevrolet. For his first NASCAR race following a suspension last October, Pulliam could not have comeback with any more force than he did at the SoBo Speedway.
NASCAR Late Model racing is definitely a unique experience. Fans of the sport can arrive at tracks such as South Boston Speedway or Motor Mile Speedway and purchase a pit permit for 40 dollars. The permit allows fans to access practically any area at the Speedway and speak with any of the drivers.
The races are smaller than the television broadcasted races, but the competition is just as, if not more, intense than those seen on television. There are intricate rivalries between drivers and even the teams in general; each team hoping to make a lasting career out of something they really enjoy doing.
There are a few Late Model Series drivers to really keep your eye on: Phillip Morris, Keith Rocco, Pulliam, CE Falk III, and Brandon Davis. All of which rounded out the top five in the 2011 Whelen All American Series Driver Standings list.
JR Motorsports also has a Late Model Team whose driver, Josh Berry, was named the 2011 Late Model Most Popular Driver by Speed51.com. The JR Motorsports team races primarily at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va. With three third place finished in three races so far this season, the JR Motorsports team is definitely one to keep an eye on.
To find out more about the series, check out the NASCAR Home Tracks website or simply pack up and head to a track. Most of the tracks are within a days drive and they are well worth the experience.