DAYTONA BEACH, Florida -- As competition for the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series championship gets underway, two tracks are new on the scene and hoping to make an immediate impact.
Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Speedway, a half-mile track which also hosts the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series May 27, and Southern National Raceway Park, a 4/10-mile track in Kenly, N.C., have joined the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series for 2006. Drivers at both facilities are now eligible for NASCAR’s Divisional and national championships and a portion of the nearly $1.7 million post-season point fund provided by NASCAR, Dodge and other participating sponsors.
Mansfield and Southern National are two of 60 tracks in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series lineup, which encompasses 27 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces (Alberta and Quebec). Tracks are divided into four Divisions – Division I, II, III or IV. Each NDWS Division contains 15 or 16 tracks and includes both dirt and asphalt tracks. The Divisions are equal and all drivers are eligible for the same awards – including nearly $25,000 for each of the four Division champions.
“We’re happy to be working with NASCAR at this level, and also on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series,” said Mansfield Motorsports Speedway General Manager Chris Mize. “We think promotion and marketing-wise, it’s the best thing for both parties. We think that in our weekly race program – the possibility of producing a divisional champion, if not a national champion, is very possible.”
Mansfield and Southern National are both placed in Division I, along with Ace Speedway (Altamahaw, N.C.), Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (Scarborough, Maine), Bowman Gray Stadium (Winston-Salem, N.C.), Caraway Speedway (Asheboro, N.C.), Evergreen Speedway (Monroe, Wash.), Greenville-Pickens Speedway (Greenville, S.C.), Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, Kan.), Langley Speedway (Hampton, Va.), Lanier National Speedway (Braselton, Ga.), Linn County Speedway (Pleasanton, Kan.), Motor Mile Speedway (Radford, Va.), Rockford Speedway (Rockford, Ill.), Rocky Mountain Raceways (West Valley City, Utah), and South Boston Speedway (South Boston, Va.).
Southern National Speedway was previously a member of the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series, home to star drivers such as Denny Hamlin, of Chesterfield, Va., and 2002 regional champion Jamey Caudill, of Four Oaks, N.C. The track is under new management, led by new promoter Kirk Leone. According to Leone, Caudill is expected to return to full-time competition at Southern National and be joined by many of the top Late Model drivers in the area.
“We’ve got some real, real good drivers coming to race with us this year,” said Leone. “I think a big part of it is the new ownership here, and bringing NASCAR back to the track.
“We have a number of drivers who I think are going to fare really well in the NASCAR points. Hopefully, we can bring a Divisional, maybe a national champion, out of here.”
Leone reports that more than 30 Late Model teams have already registered to race at Southern National and NASCAR’s new Dodge Weekly Series points system will benefit Southern National competitors.
“I like the new point system,” said Leone. “The best part about it is, the drivers can go to other tracks on their off nights and it counts towards the Division championship. I think that is the best thing [NASCAR] did, was to open that opportunity up. It’s going to let the drivers who are trying to run for this championship, who may be racing with us, to go run at a track such as South Boston – and vice versa. They can come to our track and do the same thing. I think it’s going to be great for the race track, the racers and the fans, especially when it comes to the end [of the season].”
The procedure to determine the champion is simple. Drivers at each track collect NASCAR points for each race. The feature race winner receives 50 points, the second-place driver 48 points and so on. To reward the drivers who race at the most competitive tracks, drivers can also earn bonus points based on the number of cars in the starting field. For races with 15-20 cars in the starting field, 10 bonus points are awarded. For races with 21 or more cars in the field, each driver gets 20 bonus points.
For Mansfield’s Late Model drivers, the bonus point system may be a huge bonus indeed. Mize and his staff expect full fields of cars each week, resulting in strong competition and chances for their drivers to make a good showing in NASCAR’s points system.
“Our drivers are very happy about this,” said Mize. “We’ll have 30-40 Late Models per week, 30-40 E-Modifieds and around 25 Pure Stocks. We feel that we have the best program for Late Models.”
To allow drivers some flexibility, each driver’s best 16 points finishes will be used to determine their final total in the standings. The driver with the highest total, based on their best 16 points finishes, wins the Division championship and is eligible for the national title – which includes a $50,000 bonus. The season concludes Oct. 1.
The Division champion with the highest points total overall, based on their best 16 points finishes, wins the national championship. Last season, Division I champion Peyton Sellers, of Danville, Va., won the national championship while competing at South Boston Speedway.