Craig Murto: Pena wins at Dominion

Sergio Pena proved that he can still race a Late Model when he scored his first victory of the year in the 100-lap NASCAR Late Model Stock Car feature last Saturday at Dominion Raceway.

A full-time driving instructor at Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia, Pena, from Winchester, last won a race when he filled in for Jay Beasley and grabbed the NASCAR K&N Pro Series victory at Virginia International Raceway last year. But so far in 2016 Pena has been a regular at Dominion.

And he’s not the only one. The Late Model car count at Dominion Raceway hasn’t been any lower than about 24 cars. There were 28 at the track last week, and 32 in the pits on opening night.

Some already refer to the new facility in Thornburg as the best short track facility in the East, perhaps in the country. Be sure to check the racing schedule at www.dominionraceway.com and plan to take a trip to see the place for yourself.

On Memorial Day the track will have a Monday afternoon event, hosting the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East for 150 laps, as well as a 100-lap show for Late Models. Plan to be at the track before noon so as not to miss any of the action.

Shenandoah Speedway has suffered in the Late Model car counts this year, with fewer than five cars in at least one event. But the Virginia Sprint Series is still exciting, and the division hits the track on Saturday night.

If dirt is more your thing, Super Late Models will be on hand at Winchester Speedway on Saturday night and May 28. On May 21 the track features Limited Late Models.

But that May 21 date is also the night Hagerstown Speedway in Maryland hosts a $3,000-to-win Late Model race, the biggest event on its calendar in May.

A loss to the local racing schedule is the flat track motorcycle event at Hagerstown. After more than 50 years the powers that be decided not to bring the race back. But if you prefer your racing action on two wheels rather than four, Summit Point Motorsports Park hosts the Championship Cup Series on May 28.

Of course, May is best known for the Indy 500, the Monaco Grand Prix and the 600-mile NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, all held the Sunday before Memorial Day. But there’s also the May 21 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte, North Carolina, with a new format in hopes of generating fan interest.

Drivers will duel for a total of 113 laps to decide the winner of a $1 million prize. The new format includes two 50-lap segments with mandatory green-flag pit stops. Prior to the start of the final 13-lap segment, a random draw will decide whether the top nine, 10 or 11 cars enter pit road for a mandatory four-tire pit stop. The rest will stay out on older tires and lead the field to green. Cars with four new tires will line up behind those with older tires. It should make for some interesting racing in the final segment, as well as interesting strategy in the second segment. With the new tire compounds Goodyear brings to the track, chances are that cars on older tires will be sitting ducks.

Drivers who have won a race in the current or preceding year, past NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race winners, past NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions, Sprint Showdown segment and last-chance qualifier winners and the Sprint Fan Vote winner are eligible to compete in the all-star race. A minimum of 20 cars will compete.

The Sprint Showdown on May 20 consists of three segments. Segment one (20 laps): field set by practice speed, winner advances to NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and does not continue in Showdown. Segment two (20 laps): field set by pit-road order after mandatory minimum two-tire pit stop, winner advances to NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and does not continue in Showdown. Segment three (10 laps): field set by pit-road order after mandatory minimum two-tire pit stop, winner advances to NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

Will the new format bring in new fans? The racing has been good in 2016, but some fans (and some media members) want to do no more than complain. Every race isn’t going to be the best, but 2016 has been competitive, and the all-star race should be a lot of fun. Tickets are available at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.


Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.