Turn 2 Blog: What have been the highlights of the racing season so far?


Richard: With April behind us, the 2014 racing season is now a third of the way through.

East Tennessee fans have been fortunate to have already seen some great performances. A number of nationally recognized series races have been contested in our region as well as weekly racing shows that have kept fans on the edges of their seats.

Also, several of our area drivers have demonstrated great skills behind the wheel in all classes.

Let’s start with the races first. What events have you seen that have stood out to you so far?

Michael: Several stand out to me at this point. The first being the two NDRL events at Smoky Mountain Speedway. The caliber of drivers in attendance rivaled what we used to see in this area on a regular basis 10-15 years ago. Attendance wasn’t great the first night, but the second night was something else.

Another is the second night of the Spring Nationals-sanctioned Spring Thaw at Volunteer Speedway. I had my doubts what kind of track we would see, but the track was in great shape and the racing was really good. Credit Ray Cook for getting on the grader around 4 p.m. to get the track into the shape it turned out to be.

The last one that comes to mind is the World of Outlaws Late Model Dirt Series race at Tazewell Speedway. A dark cloud hung over the event after Joe Loven decided to schedule his own $10,000 to win race at nearby Volunteer Speedway. As it turns out, his race had little impact on Tazewell’s WoO race. There were 2 or 3 drivers that went to Volunteer that probably would have been at Tazewell. The crowd was really good too.

Richard: Three races so far have stood out to me as being the best of the season. Like you, I felt as though the NDRL races at Smoky Mountain, particularly the Saturday night event, were a top notch affairs. The driver list for that race was as strong as almost any you’ll see all season.

Also, the Saturday night Spring Nationals race at Volunteer was a really good race with Chris Madden and Scott Bloomquist battling it out for the win. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.

A third race I’ve seen that was outstanding was the Friday night NeSmith Dirt Late Model Touring Series event at 411 Motor Speedway. There were multiple lead changes in that race, including Jimmy Elliott’s last turn of the last lap pass on Ryan King for the win. For me, I’d probably call that the race of the year so far.

What drivers have caught your attention so far in 2014?

Michael: Just from our area, I have to start with Mike Marlar. He won the WoO race at Tazewell, won the Spring Nationals race at Tri-County, and has had several other strong runs in recent weeks. I would add Riley Hickman who has started off really hot in his new car, Cory Hedgecock who seems to win every time he shows up in either LLM or crates, Phillip Thompson in classics, and the Horton gang at Tazewell have been strong every week in the three classes each of them compete in.

As for drivers outside the area that have run well in this area, Chris Madden goes to the top of the list. He already has two wins in this area and should have had a third win had it not been for a lapped car making contact with him at the SMS Spring Nationals race. Billy Moyer, Jr. was impressive in his near win in the second NDRL race at SMS.

Richard: It’s always tough when you start listing over racers who have been doing well because it’s easy to forget someone when there have been so many great performances. That said, I agree that Mike Marlar has been a standout in the Super Late Models. Racing on a bit more of a limited schedule than in years past has not slowed him down one bit. And anytime a “regional guy” is able to beat the national touring series drivers, it’s a real accomplishment.

Riley Hickman has also started off very well in Southern All Stars and other events, and Billy Ogle, Jr. appears to be ready to break out.

Both Cory Hedgecock and Adam Beeler have picked up right where they left off last year. Hedgecock won double-digit numbers of Limited Late Model races in 2013 while Beeler accomplished the same in Crate Late Models. It appears as if both are headed in that same direction once again. Jamie Perry, Jason Welshan and Jensen Ford are also piling up wins around east Tennessee through April.

Michael Courtney has been almost unstoppable in the Mini Stocks at 411. As you mentioned, the Hortons and Philip Thompson have been impressive in Tazewell.

What drivers or events do you have on your radar for the next few weeks or months?

Michael: I will be interested to see if any more of the revenge races go off as planned. It’s not good for anybody if they continue. There are three national touring races in six weeks in this area. I will be interested to see how the attendance will be for those events. It would be nice to see those spread out a little bit. But the tracks are at the mercy of the series as to when they get a date. I’m just glad we get more opportunities to see those series in this area.

Richard: Yes, it’s a nice problem to have when there are almost too many big races in the area. I also hope we have seen the end of the “vengeance”. With two of the three soon-to-come national events due here being Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series races, which removes the possibility of another track luring crowd pleasers Jimmy Owens and Scott Bloomquist.

On a positive note, it has been a great first third of the season so far. I see no reason to believe that won’t continue in the future.

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