Craig Murto: Virginia celebrates national title

Virginia once again celebrates the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship.

Matt Bowling, from Ridgeway, Virginia, not only won his third South Boston Speedway track title, but his first national championship. Also crowned the Virginia State champion, Bowling had success at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford and Dominion Raceway in Thornburg as well as his dominating season at South Boston.

It wasn’t easy for the 22-year-old driver of the No. 83 Hopkins Lumber Chevrolet, as South Boston had some of the best car counts in the state, as well as some of the toughest competitors with drivers such as Peyton Sellers and Austin Thaxton racing on a weekly basis.

To earn the championship, Bowling drove to 14 wins, 35 top fives and 42 top 10s in 49 races at South Boston, Motor Mile, and Dominion, as well as South Carolina’s Anderson Motor Speedway, Kingsport (Tenn.), and North Carolina’s East Carolina Motor Speedway, Southern National Motorsports, and Caraway Speedway.

“The pressure was on us,” said Bowling in a NASCAR release.

He led the points the entire season, but watched his lead shrink to one point in the closing weeks.

“It seemed like every time we won one, (Keith) Rocco did too, and then (Ty) Majeski did,” Bowling stated.

Connecticut’s Keith Rocco drove his NASCAR Modified to second in the national points, followed by Wisconsin’s Ty Majeski, who is ranked as one of the best pavement Super Late Model Racers in the country.

Dominion Raceway’s inaugural track champion Nick Smith finished fourth in the nation, followed by three-time national champion Lee Pulliam.

We’ve told you about Timmy “Mini” Tyrell, who made history last season by becoming the youngest driver to win a Late Model feature at the age of 11.

Mini should be 12 by now, and it appears he is still making history as the Late Model track champion at Shenandoah Speedway. I can think of no other track champion in a track’s top division who is so young.

It seems that 12 has become the accepted young age for Late Model racers. Gray Gaulding was 12 when he first stepped into a Super Late Model, as was Harrison Burton, former Cup Series competitor Jeff Burton’s son. Chase Elliot also started early in life, as the modern model combines early training with the large bank account that’s required.

And just as those young drivers had the advantage of good coaching, Mini Tyrell is under the tutelage of former Late Model track champion and NASCAR Truck Series competitor Brandon Butler. One can only imagine how good Tyrell will be when he’s 14 and old enough to compete in the Late Model division at a NASCAR-sanctioned facility.

We’re not finished with racing at all local NASCAR tracks. Saturday night Dominion Raceway has a $3,000-to-win non-winners race, the McCreary Tire 75. It should be a wild affair, and somebody will emerge as a first-time winner.

Oct. 16 is the date set for Martinsville Speedway’s ValleyStar Credit 300, the annual Late Model Stock Car race that awards the winner $25,000 as well as the traditional grandfather clock. If you haven’t been to Martinsville and would like to enjoy the facility without the large crowds of a Cup race, this is the event to attend.

If pavement Late Models are not your thing or you simply want to stick closer to home for your end-of-season racing fix, the annual Winchester 200 is Friday and Saturday night. Track starter Dave Menefee drops the green flag on the $400-to-start, $5,000-to-win 50-lap Super Late Model feature on Saturday night. Years ago the late legendary Jack Boggs showed up out of the blue and grabbed the win; you never know who might decide to try to cash Winchester Speedway’s big check.

Hagerstown Speedway has a big two-day show on Oct. 14 and 15. Due to rain affecting local schedules, Maryland’s Potomac Speedway also has a special event planned for the same weekend, including its “small car nationals.” Be sure to visit www.potomacspeedway.com for an updated schedule.

Fans of road racing get a chance to see the Eastern Motor Racing Association in action at Summit Point, West Virginia, Oct. 29-30. This is the sanction’s final event of the season, and includes a four-hour “twilight enduro,” which should prove entertaining. For information, visit www.emraracing.org.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.