Mike Looney has been the Cinderella story of this years NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Championship battle and after making it as high as third and slipping back to fourth, this week he vaulted into the points lead on the heels of two wins at Motor Mile Speedway over the weekend.
Looney has had his best career season. He’s won nine times already including eight at his home track of Motor Mile Speedway and a lone victory at Langley Speedway in his first-ever start on the tricky flat track. Looney has spent most of the season in and around the top ten in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National points hitting as high as third a few weeks ago and slipping back to fourth where he stayed until this week.
It’s fitting for the journeyman driver that after two of the biggest wins of his career where he started ninth and drove away from five-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion Philip Morris in both races that he’d vault to the top of the National standings.
Looney has tried not to look at the points but he’s been getting so close that he’s had no choice but to focus on it some.
“We really tried not to look at it or worry about it,” Looney told RACE22. “It’s getting hard not to look at it. I was actually going to take this week off and rest and take my dogs hunting this week. My wife give me a good cussing and a good coming to Jesus meeting and she really made sense. If you’re this close you’ve gotta try.”
Looney is feeling the pressure but still wants to just go race and have fun.
“Sad thing is you can’t just go and run good,” Looney continued. “You’ve gotta go and win. That’s a lot of pressure but Billy Martin (car owner) doesn’t put it on me. We’ll go race and we’ll go have fun and if the Lord’s willing it’ll all work out.”
Looney is two points ahead of Peyton Sellers, who has been a mainstay at the top of the points this season. Looney has 526 points to Sellers 524. Sellers is just two points ahead of Morris (522), who has been closing in on Sellers all season.
Looney knows his run this season could end at any time but he’s trying to savor the moments in this special season.
“The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s butt all the time,” Looney said. “So we just trying to enjoy this as much as we can. The weeks go by so fast. We work all week at my real job and then we work all night in the shop. Then it’s Thursday, it’s Friday, it’s time to go. It’s really hard to savor this.”
When asked about what it means to be leading the points Looney said he hopes he’s inspired some of the blue-collar racers.
“It really hadn’t sunk in,” Looney explained. “It’s unbelievable really. I hope we’ve inspired some of the blue-collar racers like ourself. It’s inspired me. We set a goal to win the Motor Mile track championship and win one race at a track we’ve never won at before this year. We did that at Langley already and we’re leading the points at Motor Mile. We never set a goal for the National title because it’s not realistic for us.”
Looney says it’s an honor to lead the points but knows it might just be for this week.
“It’s an honor. It’s an extreme long shot for us to win this thing. Peyton, Philip, (Keith) Rocco and those guys have done it before and they know what it’s going to take. We don’t. We’re already wore out. They have the depth so if this is only for one week then so be it. I’m proud to be the ambassador for one week. I love it.”
The three Late Model Stock Car heavyweights find themselves at the top of the points but they still have other competition that could steal away the National title. Jacob Goede who races at Elko, Lacrosse and Madison Int. Speedway was third but has slipped to fourth but he’s now just 12 points out of the lead and has gained nearly 40 points in the last two weeks himself.
The three Late Model Stock Car contenders will take completely different paths this weekend in search of valuable points. Looney is headed to Kingsport Speedway where he’ll likely have a full field of cars but he’s never won at the concrete track. Looney has help from several drivers and teams that race at Kingsport, who will be there to ensure car count and have been helping him get his car dialed in for a chance to win.
Looney says he knows going to Kingsport isn’t going to be easy.
“I’m going to take two days off to go up there,” Looney said. “I’ll probably get fired before this deal is over but I don’t care. I never have got Kingsport figured out. We’ve won some poles and had some good runs but never have been able to win. All the big dogs who have gone there like Lee (Pulliam) have struggled, it’s just a tough place.”
Looney is hoping that having Kirby Gobble help him tomorrow in testing will help him find a way to get a win.
“It’s not a cherry picking track that’s for sure. It’s concrete and rough and it’s not anything like the smooth tracks we race on in Virginia. All the big guys who’ve gone there have left with their tails tucked between their legs. Kirby is going to help us this weekend and it’s an honor to have a guy with that many championships and wins there help us.”
“Having a man who works on race cars for a living coming and helping me for free is pretty cool. The relationships we’ve made over the years is what’s making this possible for us to go to different places and run like we have. We ain’t got the budget to compete but we’re giving it all we have.”
Morris will likely head back to Dominion Raceway this weekend where he’s had a lot of success and a full car count is all but certain. Dominion has held the best car counts in Virginia on average and hasn’t had a field smaller than 17 all season. 16 cars this season is considered a full field. A win at Dominion, however, isn’t given. He’s dominated a couple of times this season but in four starts he only has two victories.
Sellers will likely stick to his home track where he’s focused on winning the track championship at South Boston Speedway. A full car count at South Boston could be challenging however as the last few races the field hasn’t been full and a lot of cars in the field have looked similar with several backup cars in the field. Backup cars filling the field is nothing new and it’s happening all over but Sellers will have to dig deep to recruit cars to South Boston to ensure a full field. Once he has a full field, he still has to beat the top drivers there like four-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion Lee Pulliam and Austin Thaxton, both of which have wins this season.
Looney says that while he doesn’t think the top three will race against each other this weekend, that as this thing comes down to the final weeks the top three will have to go head to head to see who wins it.
“The top three are eventually going to have to go head to head for this thing I think,” Looney stated. “The Virginia tracks have done a really good job of making this hard by racing all the same weekends against one another this season. It’s made it harder but as the weeks go by and we get closer to the end of this deal we’re all going to end up at the same tracks going head to head for points.”
“We’re going to have to go against one another and it’s going to lead to hurt feelings. That’s what I hate about this deal. I’m too old for confrontation. Points racing is hard and it’s hard on friendships in racing but it’s going to happen. We’re exhausted but we’re going to keep going where ever we have to go to get points.”
The three could end up going head to head next Saturday and Sunday in two sets of twin races at Southern National Motorsports Park. The track is hosting two straight days of racing featuring four races for NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National points. The races are under Limited Late Model rules featuring a different carburetor than most of the tracks run on Late Model Stock Cars. Morris and Sellers both ran the last race there on a Sunday with neither picking up wins. Morris finished a high of third with Sellers struggling more.
Southern National’s four races could prove a pivotal weekend of racing for the three points leaders with Looney having never raced there before.
“I’ve tested there once but I’ve never raced there,” Looney continued. “I don’t even know what the numbers on the carburetors on the rules they run by mean. I’m going to have to call some friends and see if we’re close and see what we can do. I might have to quit my job to go there but a man can find a job anywhere.”
RACE22 plans to have representatives at each of three tracks that Looney, Sellers and Morris will race this weekend.
Cover photo by Jaden Austin.
Current NWAAS National Standings Top Ten:
1 – Mike Looney 526
2 – Peyton Sellers 524
3 – Philip Morris 522
4 – Jacob Goede 514
5 – Keith Rocco 480
6 – Todd Owen 474
7 – Zachary Webster 438
8 – Ronnie Williams 426
9 – Zach Telford 416
10 – Shelby Stroebel 402