Bowman Gray Stadium. (Corey Latham/ photo)

As the final test session has come and gone and we’ve gotten to see a great variety of cars and drivers getting their cars tuned and ready for the Season Opener. We’re just 3 days away from the start of the new race season at the historic quarter mile, as you can expect the drivers are anxious and more than ready to get back on the track and go racing for the 69th NASCAR sanctioned season at the infamous “Madhouse”.

The Brad’s Golf Cart Modified Division drivers will be racing with heavy hearts as we lost 2 legends of the track and modified racing as Robert Jeffreys passed away in mid-February after a long and courageous 16-year battle with cancer and Virginia racing legend Billy Hensley past away due to complications from Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Defending track champion Burt Myers will be looking to go back-to-back for the second time in his career, as he first did it in 2010-2011, he’ll also be looking to tie Ralph Brinkley with 8 modified titles. Myers said in an interview, “Man 7 titles are pretty cool, but to tie Ralph, a fixture of the Stadium since the 60’s, that’ll be amazing.” Jason Myers, younger brother of Burt, will be putting a lot of focus on Bowman Gray this season and looking to continue his winning ways and try to parlay that into his first modified championship. Ten-Time track champion Tim Brown will be looking to get back to his winning ways and try and capture his record extending eleventh track championship. Brown stated that he’s looking forward to chasing and passing Jimmy Johnson’s all-time wins record of 98, as Brown sits at 80 career wins right now, he said “I’ll keep running over here until whenever my health goes bad or something else happens”, he further elaborated. “I guess winning an average of 2 or 3 races per year for the next 10 years will put me on top.” Brandon Ward is returning to the track for his sophomore season. Since the 2017 season started Ward has been on a warpath by dominating the SMRS Modified Tour, capturing 3 wins in 5 starts with 5 Top 5’s.

Track veterans Lee Jeffreys, John Smith, Randy Butner, Michael & Ronnie Clifton will be returning full season with newer and better equipment and looking to get back to victory lane very soon.The rookie class is always small, but this season looks to be pretty strong as Bobby Measmer Jr. will make his return to the Madhouse for the full season and chase the overall Rookie of the Year title and championship with his Hughes Motorsports Team. James Civali will race the Susan Hill owned Hillbilly Racing Team as Hill’s son David will be his crew chief. Lauren Edgerton, a IMCA Modified standout from Chesterfield, VA, purchased former NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver Thomas Stinson with hopes to run and do well.

The Texas Steak & Tap House Sportsman Division has a new sponsor as will look to have a great season. Tommy Neal was finally able to claim his first championship in nearly 25 years of trying. Neal will be back full time to defend the title, but he’ll have a host of former champions looking to dethrone him. 2012 division champion Derek Stoltz will return after taking a year off, he’s looks forward to being up front and battling for wins with the same car from 2015. Former division champions Taylor Branch, Robbie Brewer and Zack Clifton all have new cars and beautiful wraps and they’ll be looking to be in the front contending for wins in hopes of winning their second career title. The youngest winner in Bowman Gray Stadium history John Holleman IV will run most of the season, as he’ll miss four weeks’ total (May 6th, June 3rd, July 8th & July 15th) as the K&N Series will be too far away from home to make it back. He’ll race this Saturday at Bristol and he’s hoping to race over the Smokies and get to Bowman Gray before the 40-lapper starts.

Longtime race car driver at multiple tracks Jeff Garrison has made some changes in the offseason and hopes to run up front and contend for wins like he used to. Garrison will miss the May 28th weekend as he’s going to the Indy 500 with his family. Wayne Hill made some much-needed offseason changes, he’ll be looking to run up front and garner some wins. Billy Gregg will officially retire his dad’s famous #28 and he’ll bring back his signature #98 and will be looking to put his number and name back in the history books. Father-Son duo of David & Michael Adams will once again be in the pits this season, as Michael will run full time and David will run part time this season, Michael will also retire his father’s famous number and move back into his popular #19. It’s looking as if there will be 2 rookies running the full season, with Jeffery Wood driving Steve Idol’s brand new Sportsman car and Shane Tuttle will be also be in a newly converted Sportsman.

The Q104.1 New Country Street Stock Division has been pretty crazy in recent years, but last year the division was relatively calm and racy. Two-Time and defending Champion Derrick Rice barely edged out Brian Wall to win the championship. Rice will look to become the first driver in division history to win three consecutive titles, but he’s going to have a variety of talented drivers looking to break his historical streak. Brian Wall has finished second place in the final standings for three consecutive years, he’s looking to shake the “bridesmaids” name as he’s found some speed with Dylan Ward this offseason in hopes of finally capture that long behold elusive first championship. Fan favorite, role model and top gun last year Taylor Robbins who has become a contender these past few years will look to move closer towards Susan Gattis Kimel for the most wins by a female and also stay out of the trouble that plagued her last season and maybe she’ll break some history herself by becoming the second woman to win a championship at the Madhouse. Previous title contenders Aaron Hylton, Gerald Robinson Jr., Blake Shupe, Jeremy Warren & Fletcher Whaley will all return and hopes to once again try to establish themselves as serious points contenders and race winners right from the beginning.

Track veterans Kevin Gilbert & Doug Wall have plans to run the entire season and hope to spoil the youth movement that’s going on in the division and show them “that us older gentlemen still have it and will win this year.” So far there’s only been 2 rookies that’s announced they’re running, Bryan Sykes & Amber Lynn, but there’s a possibility of ten rookies that could run this year, if that’s true, that’ll be a record for most rookies in the division’s history. With most of the championship contenders returning full time, the youth movement in full swing and a possible record number of rookies, the Street Stocks promises to be a wild and crazy division full of action packed 20 lap races.

The Law Offices of John Barrow Stadium Stock Division, have had their races of demolishing cars, but they’ve also had some of the hardest battles and perhaps the two closest finishes in the track’s 69 years of racing. Last year we witnessed A.J. Sanders breaking up Chuck Wall’s stranglehold on the division. The 2014 Division IV National Champion has stated he will return to the stadium for the full season to try and extend his all-time wins record and hope to successfully defend his title and tie Chuck Wall & Charlie Curry for the most championships in the division with three titles. Speaking of Chuck, he plans to run until the July 4th break and assess whether or not to run the rest of the season. Drivers who had great seasons last year like Billy Cameron Jr., Tim Evans, Derek Sheets, Andy Spears, Adam Thomas & Wesley Thompson have announced they’re returning for the full season and looking to continue the momentum from last season and try to pick up some wins and all are hoping to knock off Sanders and Wall. Former Rookie of the Year winner Chase Hunt will return to the division in the family owned #13 Jerry Hunt Auto Sales Mustang with a possible full season, but most likely most of the season. There will be a powerhouse team in former champion Jason Keaton teaming up with a always entertaining and fan favorite Chris Allison to form a team of 2 full time drivers with Allison and Keaton’s son Grayson Keaton.

So far there’s been 11 drivers whose announced their Rookie candidacy for 2017, 2016 Caraway Speedway Mini Stock champion Johnny Baker, Josh Broome, Daryl Bryant, Jimmy Crigger, Scarlett Dahmer, D.J. Dean, Kenny Flippin, Chris Heath, Grayson Keaton, Kyler Staley & Candice Tucker. As A.J. is looking to make more history, these younger drivers are setting they’re eyes on dethroning the King of the Mini Stocks and claim his crown in 2017.

So be sure to come out to the “Greatest Show Around Turf” and see all the wild, crazy and exciting action that is Bowman Gray Stadium. The Season Opener is April 22nd as Mighty Modifieds will compete for 200 laps following an always competitive 40 lap Sportsman race. The always intriguing Street Stock follow the mods, they’ll do battle for a grueling 20 laps and last but certainly not least the always whacky and lightning fast Stadium Stock division will have a pair of 15 lap races. Admission is $10, with kids 6-13 only $2 and 5 and under free, there’s plenty of FREE parking all around the track.