*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the dirt racing topics of the day from east Tennessee and beyond.
Richard: The long 2014 racing season has finally come to a close around east Tennessee. It began on January 1st with ‘The Hangover’ at 411 Motor Speedway and finished the weekend before Thanksgiving with ‘The Gobbler’ at Cleveland Speedway and Boyd’s Speedway with lots of racing in between.
There were some great performances along the way by our area drivers in all classes. There were multiple winners, expected winners, and surprise winners throughout the campaign.
Any talk of driver performances around the area has to begin with Jason Welshan. The Maryville driver was simply unstoppable around east Tennessee this year, particularly in the Crate Late Model division. In all, he scored 34 victories at just about every track across the region.
He really was amazing, wasn’t he?
Michael: I’ve had some people tell me they don’t put much stock into Welshan’s wins because he was winning against some lesser competition for some of those wins. My response has been it does not matter who you are racing against, 34 wins is still impressive. There are so many things that can go wrong in a race. A flat tire, a lapper spinning in front of you, a mechanical problem are all things that can derail a driver from any win. To avoid those pitfalls 34 times and win each of those is an amazing feat.
Richard: I agree. And furthermore, for some to say that the competition was weak is disrespectful to the other racers. I saw many of Welshan’s wins, and like you, believe that his season was impressive. There was never a race that I saw him win in which I thought anything was guaranteed before the start.
Aside from Welshan, there were other east Tennessee Late Model pilots who had great seasons in 2014. Cleveland’s Riley Hickman won another Southern All Stars championship and piled up wins in Super, Limited and Crate Late Model competition throughout the year.
Also, Hickman’s mentor, Ronnie Johnson, won the NeSmith Dirt Late Model Series championship for 604 Crate Late Models as well as the Chevrolet Performance Super Late Model Series title in 2014.
Randy Weaver also had an impressive season as he scored 11 total wins, including a streak of six consecutive victories in July. That success coming after a well publicized chassis change in mid-season.
Michael: Another stand out was Cory Hedgecock in the Limited Late Models. Whenever Welshan wasn’t winning an LLM race somewhere, it was usually Hedgecock getting the win. I don’t know what his win total was for the year, but it had to be in the double digits.
A few others that stood out in other classes were Chuck McMahan in the Four Cylinders at Tazewell, Jeff McLemore and Brad Davis in Street Stocks, and Phillip Thompson in the Classic cars.
Another driver that didn’t get as many wins, but won most of the big money races, was Greg Estes in Street Stocks. He won $4,000 alone in October/November at 411. Some drivers could win ten races in two seasons and still not earn that much money.
Richard: Indeed, there were some very impressive performances in the support classes around the area. Not only those drivers you mentioned, but Michael Courtney totally dominated the Mini Stocks at 411 and other tracks he raced on. And his young nephew, Kyle Courtney, looks as if he may be poised to do the same in the near future.
Jordon Horton proved to be almost unbeatable in the Sportsman ranks around the area after his pairing with Warrior Race Cars. Ultimately, his success spurred a move into the Crate Late Model division by the end of the season where he also saw success.
Also, Booger Brooks continued his domination of the A-Hobby class at Boyd’s Speedway as he scored numerous feature wins during the season.
There were definitely some great driving performances in our area over the past year. There were no doubt a number of area hot shoes we left out, but these were the ones who came most readily to mind. And all of the drivers we discussed here did not even take into account the deeds of more nationally known stars Jimmy Owens, Scott Bloomquist and Mike Marlar.
There should be much to look forward to in 2015, and that season will be here very soon.