LATE MODEL OUTLOOK: PART 2
PART 2: A Comprehensive Preview of Motor Mile Speedway’s Top 10 Performers from 2014 – JW Martin
The following is the second installment of a two-part series spotlighting the top points finishers from 2014 and their agendas entering the 2015 season at Motor Mile Speedway. It’s the 2015 Motor Mile Speedway Late Model preview: PART 2. (For PART 1, click here)
Points Finish: 5th
Points Behind: 166
Top 5’s: 3
Top 10’s: 5
On the heels of his best-ever Late Model season, Motor Mile Speedway mainstay Dennis Holdren is returning to the Radford oval full-time in 2015.
The 2007 Motor Mile Speedway MOD-4 track champion enjoyed a career year in the MMS Late Model ranks in 2014, tallying three fourth-place outings en route to a fifth-place finish in the track standings. In addition to his home track success, Holdren notched a breakthrough Late Model victory at Ace Speedway.
This season, he’s focused on finding victory lane at Motor Mile Speedway.
“I thought a couple of years back that I would’ve definitely had one [win] by now. But it just hasn’t been in the cards. We’ve been really close, and we’ve led laps. We just haven’t been able to seal the deal,” says Holdren, who plans to run the full Ace Speedway schedule in conjunction with the MMS slate in 2015. “I think we’re close. I feel like we’re competitive.”
Winless in over nine seasons of Late Model competition, Holdren appears poised to end the drought in 2015.
Points Finish: 6th
Points Behind: 170
Top 5’s: 2
Top 10’s: 8
When the newly minted Caraway Speedway Late Model track champion ventured into Virginia in 2014 to compete at Motor Mile Speedway, the results left Randleman, NC native Ryan Wilson in a sober state of mind.
“Moving to different tracks with stiffer competition on a regular basis was a big change for us. We had some high moments, but also some low ones,” Wilson explains.
In his full-time debut in 2014, the newcomer posted a sixth-place finish in the track standings on the strength of eight top-ten performances. Entering his sophomore season, Wilson is aiming to capitalize on the seesaw experiences of a season ago to evolve into a more consistent contender in 2015.
“We want to be more consistent… out front competing for wins and top fives. We need to be able to compete on a regular basis to run with the guys that are up there. You have to be on your game at Motor Mile more than any other track. It’s the stiffest competition in the nation.”
Wilson will pilot the no. 12 again in 2015, and is hopeful of running the full complement of races.
Points Finish: 7th
Points Behind: 192
Top 5’s: 6
Top 10’s: 6
He claimed the South Boston Speedway track championship in 2012. He’s earned victories in prestigious contests such as the Hampton Heat 200 and the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown.
Now, Matt Bowling is making preparations to add a Motor Mile Speedway track championship to his burgeoning racing resume.
“I’ve always wanted to go after it, but it’s never worked out,” Bowling says. “We’re definitely going to try to go for the Motor Mile championship this year.”
2015 will mark Bowling’s first full-time season at Motor Mile Speedway. Dating back to 2010, the Ridgeway, Va., driver has amassed 12 top-five finishes -including a pair of victories- in 29 starts at the .416-mile oval.
Over a brief five-year Late Model career, Bowling has swiftly ascended the Late Model ranks to establish himself among the region’s powerhouses. A five-win season in 2014 garnered Bowling a twelfth-place finish in the NASCAR WHELEN All-American Series national standings and third-place honors in the Virginia state standings— both statistical bests.
A prolific ringer in seasons past, Bowling’s presence as a regular in 2015 thrusts the no. 83 team into championship consideration. Along with Pulliam and (potentially) Sellers, Bowling’s full-time status expands what is becoming one of the most accomplished pre-season rosters in recent memory.
“Lee and Peyton are both tough up there. To beat those guys in the points you have to outrun them. Our biggest goal is to win races. If you’re running for a championship, you have to keep your nose clean and stay out of trouble as well. But right off the bat, we have to go out and win some races,” notes Bowling.
Points Finish: 8th
Points Behind: 216
Top 5’s: 1
Top 10’s: 7
By the end of the 2013 season, Craig Stallard had turned to Lemons Motorsports. At the conclusion of the 2014 season, Lemons Motorsports had turned Stallard into a contender.
Stallard enjoyed a banner year in 2014, scoring seven top-ten finishes in 12 races and placing a career-best eighth in the Motor Mile Speedway Late Model track standings. The results vindicated the partnership forged between Stallard and Lemons Motorsports, who had expanded their stable at the beginning of the year to accommodate the veteran’s no. 42 entry.
The inclusion of Stallard was transformational for the Jenkins, KY, native. Stallard collected more top-ten finishes in 2014 at Motor Mile Speedway than in the past five years combined.
Anticipating continued improvement, Stallard will return to Motor Mile Speedway in 2015 with Lemons Motorsports piloting the familiar no. 42, according to teammate Tommy Lemons, Jr.
Points Finish: 9th
Points Behind: 234
Top 5’s: 1
Top 10’s: 5
Quinn Houff has lofty expectations for his junior year at Motor Mile Speedway. Entering his third consecutive season of competition, the 2012 Late Model Rookie of the Year is aiming for the track championship in 2015.
Houff reaped five top-tens in ten starts in 2014— a marked improvement over his two prior seasons of competition. The experience bodes well for the Wyers Cave, Va., racer as he embarks on his first full season at MMS.
“This will be my third consecutive year in late models, and it’s been a learning curve for me,” says Houff. “This will be the first year we’re actually going to go after the championship. The main goal this year is to try and win the points….it would be a great thing to add to my resume.”
Points Finish: 10th
Points Behind: 254
Top 5’s: 0
Top 10’s: 2
For journeyman racer Andrew Thomas, passion overshadows performance. With minimal monetary support and a skeleton crew, the Monroe, NC, veteran is among the best with less at Motor Mile Speedway.
In over six seasons of competition, Thomas has never raced for points at MMS. The hallmark of team no. 96 is consistency: In ten starts in 2014, Thomas failed to finish in the top 15 on just two occasions. While his 2015 Motor Mile Speedway schedule remains uncertain, Thomas believes gains made last season will elevate his performance at MMS this year.
“We hit on some stuff in the front end that made the car run a whole lot better last season,” Thomas explains. “With a new engine and the progress we have made on the handling, I feel like we can have a more consistent fifth-to-tenth place car.”
Written opinions are solely those of the writer
Photo Credits: Joe Mills