DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — History is impossible to avoid at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway. The list of the track champions painted on the wall serve as a constant reminder for Marty Ward on where he stands at one of NASCAR’s oldest tracks.
The five-time champion is one shy of the record set by Donnie Bishop. It’s a mark that the 45-year-old Marietta, S.C., driver is driven to match before he hangs it up.
“I think it put more fire under me to do it,” Ward said. “I just can’t give up now. I’d like to be known as one of the winningest drivers there.”
Ward’s off to a great start. He swept the twin 75-lap features at the half-mile asphalt oval this past Saturday night to take a 22-point lead over Toby Porter. It’s not just regional bragging rights at stake, though. Ward is sixth in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national points standings with 464 points, while Porter is right behind him in seventh with 431.
Keith Rocco, of Wallingford, Conn., won twice more in his asphalt Modified in Connecticut this past weekend to run his win total to 13. With 19 top fives and 22 top 10s in 22 starts, Rocco continues to maintain his hold on first place with 757 points.
Rocco’s wins at Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday and Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday allowed him to drop two sixth-place finishes from earlier in the season, and improve his total by 30 points.
A driver’s best 18 results are counted toward their state and national points totals, and the champions are decided on overall points total.
Craig Preble, of Yutan, Neb., won at Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Neb., on Saturday for his 12th win of the season. He has 17 top fives in 17 starts and is second overall with 656 points.
Bill Leighton Jr. (538 points) and Matt Buller (537), who race against Preble at the two Nebraska tracks (I-80 Speedway in Omaha and Junction Motor Speedway), are third and fourth, respectively, in the national standings.
Justin Johnson finished fifth and first in the twin 75-lap features at his home track of South Boston (Va.) Speedway and is fifth with 528 points in 14 starts.
Both Johnson and Ward have eight wins apiece.
Under the points structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner received two points for every car in the event up to 20. Second place received two fewer points, and so-on through the field. Race winners received an additional five bonus points. For example, if there are 20 cars, the winner received 45 points, second gets 38 and third 36. If there are 15 cars, the winner received 35 points, second gets 28 and third 26.
Ward finished third in the national standings two years ago and ninth last season. He has also been the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series South Carolina state champion in each of the past two years. The Greenville-Pickens’ season, though, ends after the cutoff for races to count toward state and national championships. And it was a late season swoon that cost Ward the track title he coveted last year.
He had 13 wins through July 25, but didn’t finish better than third in the final eight races.
“It seemed like the whole thing fell apart in the last month. I hated it for the guy I was driving for. I thought we had the car to beat,” said Ward, who struck out on his own this year. “When we started, we were going to run half the season. It took us a little while to get going, and now we’re over halfway.”
After opening the season with a third, fourth and fifth, Ward has not finished worse than third in the last 12 races. He also swept a twin Late Model feature on April 17.
“We’ve been chasing this thing the past couple weeks,” Ward said. “We built this thing new over the winter.
“The weather gets really hot here and this place gets slick. I don’t know that I found the happy medium, but I don’t know if I can change it more to make it any better. I like for it to be a little bit loose. I think everybody else has been a whole lot loose.”
For Ward, that’s been enough to keep him on track toward his ultimate goal.
Track, state and provincial champions and the top three finishers in the national standings earn invitations to the 2010 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet. The winner of the national championship will also earn a secure spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
National Top 500 NASCAR Points Leaders
Pos Driver Track Starts Wins T-5 T-10 Points
1 Keith Rocco Waterford Speedbowl 22 13 19 22 757
2 Craig Preble I-80 Speedway 17 12 17 17 656
3 Bill Leighton, Jr I-80 Speedway 18 0 15 17 538
4 Matt Buller I-80 Speedway 17 3 14 17 537
5 Justin T Johnson South Boston Speedway 14 8 12 14 528
6 Marty Ward Greenville-Pickens Speedway 15 8 15 15 464
7 Toby Porter Greenville-Pickens Speedway 15 5 13 14 431
8 Duane Howard Grandview Speedway 11 2 10 11 406
9 C E Falk, Iii Langley Speedway 13 4 8 11 402
10 Philip Morris Motor Mile Speedway 12 4 9 10 398
11 Ted Christopher Thompson Intl Speedway 13 3 8 10 387
12 Woody Howard Langley Speedway 12 1 9 10 367
13 Adam Royle Raceway Park 17 6 14 16 356
14 Travis Swaim Caraway Speedway 13 4 11 13 350
15 Woody Pitkat Stafford Motor Speedway 13 1 5 11 349
16 Jeremy Burns Greenville-Pickens Speedway 16 0 11 15 348
17 Tommy Lemons, Jr Motor Mile Speedway 13 1 4 9 343
18 Lee Jeffreys Bowman Gray Stadium 10 2 7 9 338
19 Burt Myers Bowman Gray Stadium 10 3 6 9 337
20 Micah Veleba Junction Motor Speedway 17 0 3 10 328
21 Justin A Johnson Toyota Speedway At Irwindale 11 5 10 11 313
22 Stacy Puryear South Boston Speedway 11 1 8 10 313
23 Ron Yuhas, Jr Waterford Speedbowl 9 0 8 9 312
24 Ralph Carnes Greenville-Pickens Speedway 15 0 6 14 312
25 Dusty Davis Toyota Speedway At Irwindale 12 3 9 11 307