MOTOR MILE SPEEDWEEKS 2014

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Compton, Looney, Hulsey headline pre-season testing – JW Martin

 

It’s that time of the year again. Race season is here, and fresh storylines are in bloom.

 

Motor Mile Speedway has been jolted back to life by a plethora of competitors testing in anticipation of Saturday’s season opening Shively Electric Twin 75s presented by NASH FM 107.1. Over the course of a two-week period, news has continued to amass on myriad teams and drivers as the infield landscape continues to take shape. From hearsay to hard facts, it’s been one of the most fluid off-seasons in recent memory.

 

Take, for example, the rumor that Justin Johnson will make his long-awaited return to Late Model racing at Motor Mile Speedway this season. Or the speculation that a Kelly Kingery-Bob Unczur reunion at the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown could translate into a full season at MMS in 2014.

 

Factual reports are equally intriguing. For instance, 2013 WHELEN All-American Series National Champion and Motor Mile Speedway Late Model track champion Lee Pulliam confirmed Thursday he will be unable to defend his track title in 2014 due to his conflicting K&N Series schedule. However, Pulliam’s K&N Series counterpart, Michael McGuire, has stated his intentions of running the full schedule in 2014.

 

….and considering the Late Model track championship, 2013 WHELEN All-American Series national runner-up Deac McCaskill and 2005 WHELEN All-American Series national titlist Peyton Sellers have affirmed ambitions of competing for the championship in 2014.

 

Entering Saturday’s contest, news is as numerous as the amount of race teams continuing to arrive daily at the Radford oval. But as Motor Mile Speedweeks draws to a close, three storylines eclipse the rest.

 

Compton embroiled in battle at New River Valley Speedway, circa 1994.

Compton embroiled in battle at New River Valley Speedway, circa 1994.

 

Stacy Compton can’t remember the last time he competed at Motor Mile Speedway. Fifteen or sixteen years, Compton estimates. Maybe even twenty?

 

Those were the glory days of New River Valley Speedway; the high water mark of NASCAR’s weekly racing circuit. Compton is one of the few racers to have risen above the bedlam to achieve success in NASCAR’s coveted top-tier divisions. He’s among the elite few to have enjoyed an accomplished career…and return.

 

Compton’s resume boasts 89 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts (1996-2012), eleven NASCAR Nationwide Series top five finishes (2002-2006), and a pair of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victories (1998).

 

Compton was back on track at Motor Mile Speedway Thursday, sporting the throwback ABC 13 logos of yesteryear. Compton has formed a partnership with Late Model racer Chad Ball, who competed full time in the Bull & Bones Late Model division last season. Ball has been assisting on Compton’s fledgling Pro Cup operation. Likewise, Compton is supporting Ball’s Late Model program—beginning this year.

 

While Compton conceded he will miss Saturday’s opener, it could be the last race the veteran driver will miss in 2014. Compton suggests his team could attempt up to four or five races this season.

 

The revelation is almost certain to ignite excitement from the ‘heyday’ contingent still pining for glimpses of the good ‘ole days. Quite simply, it will be cool to see.

 

Judging by Compton’s smile, he’s fairly excited about the prospect, too.

 

“I want to have some fun again,” beamed Compton. “The Truck Series is fun, and we certainly enjoy doing the Pro Cup deal. But man, it’s just good to come back.”

 

Looney behind the wheel of Aaron Deplazes' no. 02 at MMS.

Looney behind the wheel of Aaron Deplazes’ no. 02 at MMS.

 

This off-season, while Compton was getting back into Late Model racing, Mike Looney was getting out.

 

Looney’s exodus wasn’t voluntary—it was necessary. With no luck and no financial resources, the overachieving underdog from Catawba, Va., was forced to put the majority of his racing equipment up for sale.

 

Despite a 2013 season in which he logged four top ten finishes in just six starts, Looney’s 2014 Motor Mile Speedway outlook was bleak…until Aaron Deplazes came calling.

 

“I knew he wanted to race anyway, and he didn’t have the money,” said Deplazes, a former Late Model racer at MMS. “Together, I think we make a lot stronger team than either one of us would’ve been on our own. I feel like he has a legitimate chance to win.”

 

A partnership was forged blending Deplazes’ knowledge and resources with Looney’s driving talent. The potent combination could prove formidable as the season develops.

 

“With this opportunity, I’m going to be able to worry about the driving, and they’ll take care of the rest,” Looney explained. “I feel like we can be a top-three car. That’s a pretty tall order at this race track.”

 

At the outset, fans of the black no. 47 may be taken aback by the sight of Looney in the cockpit of a vibrant red race car branded with a foreign car number. But this season, they may also witness the sight of Looney back in victory lane.

 

“I feel like we can sneak in there and win one, I really do,” affirms Looney.

 

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Hulsey will be carrying the banner for LMR Motorsports in 2014.

 

Looney won’t be the only competitor in unfamiliar colors when the green flag falls Saturday. There are plenty of old faces in new places, and new faces in old places. Enter: C.J. Hulsey.

 

Late last year, Hulsey was tabbed as the driver of the no. 77 LMR Motorsports entry, formerly the no. 39 piloted by three-time Motor Mile Speedway track champion Chad Harris.

 

The 19 year-old has been racing competitively for ten years, charting a normal career progression – Go-Karts to Legends to Late Models – with atypical results. Among his accomplishments, Hulsey notes that prior to his transition to Legends, he claimed seven national championships in one season in the go-kart ranks. During his stint in Legends, Hulsey made 65 attempts in a single season, netting nearly 50 percent of the wins.

 

But perhaps more compelling than Hulsey’s resume is the fact that the El Paso, TX, native will be traveling an estimated 1,600 miles to race at the New River Valley short track this season.

 

Traveling from great distances to race at Motor Mile Speedway is not unprecedented — 2010 track champion Brandon Dean flew in regularly from New York to compete in all six events in 2013. What makes Hulsey unique is that he’s been canvassing the country for years.

 

“Since I was eleven years-old we’ve been traveling all over the country to race. I’ve raced in probably 35 states or more,” Hulsey stated.

 

Last season Hulsey entered the realm of Late Model racing, competing out of Jamie Yelton’s Fat Head Racing stable. Though his maiden season produced no trips to victory lane, the experience has afforded his most recent opportunity with LMR Motorsports. He enters 2014 embarking on an ambitious schedule with dates at Motor Mile Speedway, Hickory Motor Speedway, and Myrtle Beach Speedway, along with other select tracks.

 

“Our goal is to do the best we can. I don’t think we’ll race enough here [to run] for a championship. But we’re looking for wins,” Hulsey said. “We have a full year.”

 

Poised for a breakout season, Hulsey enters 2014 as one of the more intriguing drivers to watch.

 

Spanning all divisions, there is no shortage of storylines as a new season looms at Motor Mile Speedway. But the biggest headlines remain unwritten until the first checkered flag of 2014 unfurls Saturday night.