DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — J Herbst knows what it will take to defend his championship at LaCrosse (Wisc.) Fairgrounds Speedway: Not thinking about it.
“I’m not even worried about it yet,” said Herbst. “Last year it got stressful. This year, we’re going to make sure we have fun every week. As long as myself and the team do the job that we know we’re capable of doing, week in and week out, points will take care of themselves.”
Herbst is again locked in a tough championship race in the Kwik Trip Late Model Division at the .545-mile semi-banked asphalt oval. He has two wins, eight top fives and 13 top 10s in 13 starts to lead the track points by eight over Shawn Pfaff, 10 over Todd Korish and 13 over Steve Carlson.
Carlson, the 2007 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion, won this past Saturday night to take over the Wisconsin state championship lead by three over Herbst and 24 over Pfaff.
“We’re doing pretty good,” said Carlson, who has five wins. “We have had our bad nights, too. It was just a piece of junk (last week) and the guys worked on it all week and made it better, and we won again.”
A driver’s best 18 results – through Sunday, Sept. 19 – are counted toward their state and national points totals, and the champions are decided on overall points total.
In addition to honoring track champions, NASCAR will crown 25 U.S. state and Canadian provincial champions, continuing a tradition that dates back to the sport’s early years. While Herbst won the track title last year, Kevin Nuttleman took home state honors.
Nebraska’s Craig Preble continued to whittle down Keith Rocco’s national lead. Preble won the crate dirt Late Model feature Saturday at Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Neb., and finished third at I-80 Speedway in Omaha, Neb., Sunday, to chop another 10 points off Rocco’s lead.
Preble has 17 wins and 26 top fives in 26 starts, has 757 points.
Rocco, of Wallingford, Conn., has 16 wins, 25 top fives and 32 top 10s in 34 starts for 788 points.
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.
Rocco did not improve his points total from last week, finishing third (Thompson International Speedway) and sixth (Waterford Speedbowl). The third Connecticut track where he runs his asphalt Modified, Stafford Motor Speedway, was rained out again.
Justin Johnson, of Durham, N.C., was first and third in twin asphalt Late Model division features at South Boston (Va.) Speedway and increased his third-place points total to 701. He has 11 wins, 16 top fives and 19 top 10s in 20 races at South Boston and Motor Mile in Radford, Va.
CE Falk III finished second and seventh in the asphalt Late Model division features at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va. It allowed him to drop two poor finishes from earlier in the year and vault from sixth to fourth in points at 634.
Matt Buller, of Junction Motor and I-80, is fifth with 633, and 2001 national champion Ted Christopher is sixth at 628.
Because they’ve only raced 13 times, Carlson is 24th, Herbst is 26th, and Pfaff 31st. Their per-race-average, however, indicates they’d be in contention for a top-10 spot once they get to the 18-race mark.
It’s a moot point for the 52-year-old Carlson, who will miss two races later this season to race in a regional Late Model touring series. A disqualification earlier in the season for a shocks violation took him out of the track points lead originally.
That hasn’t slowed the competition.
The 31-year-old Herbst – whose first name is just the letter J, named after a good friend of his father’s – knows that it isn’t going to be easy defending his title.
“We’ve seemed to have found a hot weather package that works really well,” said Herbst, who works as a job site superintendent for HTH Construction, a company founded by his father. “The car just races like a son of a gun. We’re leaps and bounds past where we were last year. It’s been a good season, but the points battle is just unbelievable.
“It makes it fun and exciting for the fans.”
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 34 16 25 32 788
2 Craig Preble I-80 Speedway 26 17 26 26 757
3 Justin T Johnson South Boston Speedway 20 11 16 19 701
4 C E Falk, III Langley Speedway 21 6 13 19 634
5 Matt Buller I-80 Speedway 26 5 19 23 633
6 Ted Christopher Thompson Intl Speedway 22 6 14 17 628
7 Bill Leighton, Jr I-80 Speedway 27 0 21 25 618
8 Marty Ward Greenville-Pickens Speedway 20 12 20 20 580
9 Woody Howard Langley Speedway 19 1 13 17 571
10 Duane Howard Grandview Speedway 15 3 14 15 565
11 Greg Edwards Langley Speedway 16 6 14 15 552
12 Woody Pitkat Stafford Motor Speedway 20 2 11 18 550
13 Toby Porter Greenville-Pickens Speedway 20 5 18 19 523
14 Tommy Lemons, Jr Motor Mile Speedway 20 1 8 14 507
15 Burt Myers Bowman Gray Stadium 15 5 9 14 505
16 Jacob Brown I-80 Speedway 20 1 7 14 485
17 Philip Morris South Boston Speedway 16 4 10 13 484
18 Wes Falk Langley Speedway 19 1 4 16 473
19 Danny Edwards, Jr Langley Speedway 16 1 13 14 465
20 Travis Swaim Caraway Speedway 18 4 14 18 462
21 Craig Von Dohren Grandview Speedway 14 7 10 11 455
22 Lee Jeffreys Bowman Gray Stadium 15 2 9 13 452
23 Ron Yuhas, Jr Waterford Speedbowl 13 0 12 13 452
24 Steve Carlson Lacrosse Fairgrounds Speedway 13 5 8 12 447
25 Wayne Ramsey Motor Mile Speedway 12 4 10 11 444