A major concern for the state of racing

I want to start the column with some news that is somewhat troubling regarding the health of our sport.

First of all, it doesn’t take an expert to see crowds are down at almost all the races this year in all three of the traveling series of NASCAR racing. Many of the races seemed to even suffer from reduced TV viewership.

Some of the experts are saying that many people are watching through other media outlets which are not counted like NASCAR live through the computer or through the use of cellular devices, etc. I feel we need to look at still another indicator of the health of the sport. Shortly after the awards banquet for the Camping World Truck Series, championship team owner Hatori Racing announced it was releasing Brett Moffitt as driver to pick up another driver which could bring sponsorship to the team. Apparently Moffitt was unable to find backing even though he put on a tremendous performance behind the wheel, winning multiple races and capturing the series points championship. Several of the veteran Cup series drivers are stepping aside due to lack of sponsorship dollars. Many of the lower tier Cup teams are struggling to keep the doors open and at year’s end, the defending Cup championship team of Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing, closed its doors sighting failure to obtain sponsorship as the reason. Locally our dirt track along with many more seem to be healthy but there have been at least two regional Ohio tracks close their doors. By and large it seems that dirt track racing is very healthy with sellout crowds and large car counts. The World of Outlaws group was probably the healthiest; however, the second largest sanctioning body Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series is also losing the championship team owner as he has released his champion driver Jonathan Davenport and is choosing to not travel with the series in 2019. Team owner Kevin Rumley will stay closer to home and will pick up driver Mike Marlar who also announced he would not be chasing points next season and had lost his ride from 2018 when his team owner Ronnie Delk closed up shop. Maybe it’s just me, but when championship team owners are closing doors and super competitive drivers who have proven themselves can’t find sponsors, I begin to worry just a little. It could be just a sign of the times, and I know that these things run in cycles and this must be just a down side of things, but it still causes concern.

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Locally, last Saturday night the final official event of the 2018 Elkins Raceway racing season took place. The Championship Awards Banquet took place in Beverly. There was a good crowd on hand for a very tasty roast beef meal with all the fixins and a nice night of fellowship and recognition of great performances. The two Mini-mod groups were recognized first. Group A, which featured the younger drivers, was won by Noah Whited. Group B, which is the older more experienced drivers, saw George Casto III take home the big trophy and very nice embroidered hoodie which were provided for all the champions.

The EDGE Hot Mods saw young lady driver Chandi Currence take the title. The WV Pools Street Stocks had veteran Anthony Arbogast take the championship. The Performance Chevrolet AMRA open wheeled Modifieds saw Veteran David Defibaugh take home another championship.

I was able to surprise David with a 1/25th scale Model of his dad’s first race car, a ’57 Chevy with the familiar blue and white paint and number 77, which was driven in the 1967 season. I think for the first time in a long time, David was speechless! At least that’s what his wife said. His look and smile was priceless. The Budweiser FasTrack Crate Late Model champion was Kyle Lukon. Kyle was away at a racing trade show in Indianapolis for his company, so his mom accepted his trophy on his behalf. The final champion of the night was Billy Holbert, who captured the Jenkins Ford Super Late Model title. The track officials stated that as it stands right now, there will be no major changes for the 2019 season. Mark your calendars for the first weekend in May for the first points race, and test and tune should be the week before.

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This coming Saturday night, the national AMRA awards banquet will be held in Ripley. Elkins racers will be very much a part of this event. Twenty five drivers will take home some nice checks from the season-point fund. Four of the top five made regular visits, if not weekly, to Elkins Raceway. Daniel Hill will be named champion. Kyle Bond finished second, David Defibaugh was third and youngster Mitch Thomas finished fourth.

Elkins regulars Jamie McCloud finished ninth and Kenny Rowback finished 10th. Places 16th through 22nd were Elkins regulars — Matthew Chenoweth, Phil Jefferies, yours truly Rev. Keith Miller, Larry Yanero, Kurt Rodgers, L.P. Roy and Dustin Isner. Randy Bohan slipped in at 24th. Sam Henderson just missed the cut in 28th.

Overall, 162 drivers raced in the AMRA events in 2018. We made a great showing, which demonstrates the level of competition at our local track.

We’ve made it to the end of another column and remember at the end of the straightaway, there’s Another Left Turn.

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