As RACE22 has been doing their “Best Of” stories for the past few weeks, I decided to get off my butt and do a little something myself. Of course mine will be a tad “different”. Yes I know, I’m breaking out of the norm.

Best Smack Talk

Derek Stoltz celebrates after a win at Bowman Gray Stadium.
Derek Stoltz celebrates after a win at Bowman Gray Stadium.

This award could be given to 3/4’s of the entire racing community. Some are better than others though. Rodney Cook will be the all-time smack talker but one guy is hot on his heels. That guy is Derek Stoltz. Derek has proven in the past he isn’t scared of the camera but in 2014 he took it to a new level. We saw all sides of him taunting the competition, but his greatest interview was done at 1am the night he and Mack Little got into an absolute crashfest at Bowman Gray Stadium … and it will never be seen by anyone. the next morning I had a text, “Hey man, can you delete that interview you did with me last night?”… Yeah, no way in hell anyone was ever going to see that anyway, no matter how great it was.

Best Rookie Breakout

While each year we have a great class of rookies in their respected divisions, one stood out to me more than the rest. While some may have had better stats, I look at the “little things” and in 2014 Payton Ryan had it going on for his first time in a full size car. I see Legend car drivers come and go each year, most jumping in way over their head but Ryan came out of the box strong and was a contender week in and week out. When you can say you won three races in your first season in Late Models with one of them in a door to door battle with Lee Pulliam at Motor Mile, you’re doing big things. And the kid doesn’t back down on the track, a quality I really like.

Rookie driver Payton Ryan.
Rookie driver Payton Ryan.

Best Limited Late Model Action

Dexter Canipe, Jr. edges Travis Byrd in a Hickory Motor Speedway photofinish.
Dexter Canipe, Jr. edges Travis Byrd in a Hickory Motor Speedway photofinish.

Tons of tracks have great racing in the Limiteds, Motor Mile, SoBo and Ace come to mind rather quick. But the cream of the crop seemed to flock to the Hickory Motor Speedway, with different drivers coming in to spice it up each week. With fields well over 20 at different points this season, on any given night there were 10 cars that could legitimately win. While sometimes a crashfest because cars were usually three wide nearly the entire race, more than not the action was competitive more than rough. That was never more evident in the Limited portion of the Bobby Isaac Memorial race where Dexter Canipe, Jr. beat Travis Byrd in nearly a photo finish.

Best “Better Not Mess With Me” Attitude

All Late Model drivers have attitude, and then there are some that aren’t afraid to hide it at all. David Garbo would be that driver for 2014, and since he lives with his team owner Jamie Yelton, we would not expect anything less. The Fathead Racing driver scored two wins in 2014 but that really doesn’t reflect how well he ran as he was a threat to win in every race he was in. And in a few of those races, some crossed his path, and then it got exciting. The beef with Myatt Snider was a season long thing but the feathers were really ruffled at Hickory with his old nemesis C.J. Hulsey in the Bobby Isaac Memorial for the Late Models.


David Garbo, Jr. and CJ Hulsey, former teammates and rivals, race side-by-side at Hickory.
David Garbo, Jr. and CJ Hulsey race side-by-side at Hickory.

While the two used to be team mates, the relationship turned sour last season and Hulsey left the team. At Hickory they would race side by side, and it got rougher, then rougher, then heavy contact was made down the frontstretch with Hulsey’s car totally destroyed. While Garbo was parked and the teams and police were in a melee, Garbo never flinched and just carried on like normal.

The attitude on the track may be aggressive to some, but the “second sucks” mindset is something I’d like to see more racers have these days. Garbo has a lot of good in him with his own foundation fighting dyslexia and helping out other racers at various levels … but he has taken the place of Paddy Roddenbeck on why the RACE22 crew will eventually be kicked out of the media center at Martinsville. Thank you for being yourself around us David.

Best “I’m going to make a TON off victory lane photos tonight” award

The KOMA Modified Series was a breath of fresh air for modified racing this past season. The Modifieds had become bogged down with only the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Bowman Gray Stadium, the only two places you could see them at all. The KOMA tour brought back flashes of the old SMART Modified Series with full fields, a nice purse and new tracks to run at.  The inaugural even at Hickory saw over 20 lead changes and a packed house, but also some controversy as live pit stops made scoring the race a nightmare.

Modified cars lined up at Hickory Motor Speedway for the start of the inaugural KOMA Unwind Modified Madness Series race.
Modified cars lined up at Hickory Motor Speedway ahead of the start of the race.

The next stop would be Coastal Plains and then it really got weird. At the end of the race it looked as if Burt Myers was a big winner as his picture was taken in victory lane. Only they didn’t let him keep it as the scoring was reviewed again and Spencer Davis was in victory lane getting his picture taken for the win. Hours later after further review and the teams themselves being invited into the tower, David Calabrese was declared the winner … the third of the night. The tour since then has overcame the growing pains and looks to be one the strongest tours in the country in 2015, but on this night last season, there may have never been so much confusion for a race winner in history.

Best Rivalry

AJ Sanders and Michael Tucker exchange words at Ace Speedway.
AJ Sanders and Michael Tucker exchange words at Ace Speedway.

And this one will go down for the ages as one of the best of all-time. You don’t have to drive in the top series to be competitive, while the Late Models and Super Late Models are the top of the heap, the 4-cylinder Mini-Stock cars are in most cases, the best racing of the evening on race night.


And anywhere you saw Michael Tucker and A.J. Sanders racing in the same race this past year, something was going to happen. Every single time though two things happened, great racing like you have never seen, and controversy with someone’s feelings hurt. These guys have been going at it for many years now, but the greatest thing is that they don’t go out and wreck each other, (well, not always) they want to beat each other on the track and it’s not unusual to see them swap the lead ten times in the last ten laps of every race they run.

Ace Speedway was the place for most of their action this season as they got into each other’s cars and faces more than once. With the long Winter break you sometimes think things die down … and we go to Dillon Motor Speedway right after New Year’s with Tucker winning, Sanders finishing second … and Sanders protesting Tucker and Tucker refusing, giving the win to Sanders. Welcome to 2015.

Best Little Team That Could

Roger Lee Newton passes Trevor Noles late in the PASS race at Orange County Speedway.
Roger Lee Newton passes Trevor Noles late in the PASS race at Orange County Speedway.

In the PASS South Super Late Model Series you have the best of the best. Legendary drivers like Jay Folgelman, Brandon Ward and Preston Peltier with the best new kids on the block in Daniel Hemric, Harrison Burton and Trevor Noles. On April 5th though at Orange County Speedway, a rag-tag group of “Outlaws” put on one of the best shows of the year to take home the victory in the Orange Blossom Special 150. Roger Lee Newton used to be a staple on the UARA tour and was known as one of the wildest people on the track until recent years with kids and family slowing his racing career down quite a bit. While only running six of the fourteen PASS events this past season they were competitive, and that night in Orange County the small team known as the Outlaws came out on top after one of the best battles for the win of the season over Trevor Noles.

Best “Did That Really Happen” Moment

For years now at Bowman Gray, Tim Brown has been the man to beat. While Burt Myers has been nip and tuck with him, Brown’s nine championships have made him the benchmark everyone shoots for. And one reason he has been able to accomplish all that, other than driving skill and a great prepared race car, is the fact that he has never bought into the drama and got himself a “rival” so to say. All that changed on July 19th, 2014.

Tempers flare between Burt Myers and Tim Brown at Bowman Gray Stadium. (Photo Credit: Eric Hylton)

As Brown was leading, Myers gave him great pressure with the normal “bumping” that comes with the tight confines of the stadium. But it eventually got out of hand and Brown went around, as the crowd went wild. We were all waiting for the normal, for Brown to go around and take his spot at the back of the field. But on this night, it turned out to be Brown’s breaking point and he took it upon himself to take his highly polished chrome machine and turn it into a battering ram. The two drivers began a smoky game of cat and mouse beating each other’s car as the crowd came unglued. Both drivers would be fined 100 points by NASCAR two days later which knocked both drivers out of the title chase.

Best Build up to Nothing Moment

Anthony Anders and Peyton Sellers crash in the closing laps of the MDCU 300 at Martinsville Speedway.
Anthony Anders and Peyton Sellers crash in the closing laps of the MDCU 300 at Martinsville Speedway.

We all know the cluster that the National Championship was this season. Anthony Anders won it, but not without more controversy than has ever been talked about. While the South Carolina driver won a ton of races, the fact that he didn’t race any of the top talent at various tracks throughout the region like others had people looking forward to Martinsville, where he could finally put the critics to rest as the best of the best was there. In the test he wasn’t spectacular, and many thought “sandbagging” was coming into play. Then came race weekend, and, well, nothing happened. The buildup of “Anders vs. Pulliam” never happened as Anders was lapped early and Pulliam went on to win the race. The so called rivalry turned out to be one more with words than actions on the track when it was all said and done.

Best Tribute Race

Justin Snow in victory lane after winning the Inaugural Rodney Cook Memorial race at Ace Speedway.
Justin Snow in victory lane after winning the Inaugural Rodney Cook Memorial race at Ace Speedway.

On December 13th, 2013, the racing world lost one of its great drivers … and me and a lot of others lost a great friend. Rodney Cook was always known as a hard-nosed raced, one who didn’t have tons of money but made up for tricked out latest and greatest parts with what he did behind the wheel. Ace Speedway was his home track and on May 16h of last year, the first ever “Rodney Cook Memorial” was held at the track he called home. And what an event it was. From the pageantry, the t-shirts bearing Rodney’s face and car, his custom tribute hood on his own car driven by Jason York,  the Chinese lanterns drifting into the air, to the special plaque given by Brad Allen to his mother in a tearful moment, it was a day no one there would ever forget. The race was a great one as well with Justin Snow picking up the win and the custom trophy … in his throwback Wayne Carter “Pit Stop Auto Sales” uniform … all for Rodney.

Best Break From The Norm

Bowman Gray has the most fans and highest car counts in the country. With the sheer numbers of Modifieds there each week, the featured division, one would think a different champion each year would be expected. But even with over 22 cars each and every week, the last time someone not named Brown, Myers or Miller won a championship was … 1996, eighteen years ago.

It looked a lot like another Myers/Brown romp until late in the season when they decided to fight with cars resulting in 100 point fines for each driver. This would open the door for one of the oldest teams around, the ole’ red and yellow #53 owned by Puddin Swisher, and piloted by Danny Bohn.

Eventual Bowman Gray Stadium champion Danny Bohn celebrates a hard-fought victory.
Eventual Bowman Gray Stadium champion Danny Bohn celebrates a hard-fought victory.

Bohn is a Northern transplant, usually that doesn’t bide well with the extreme Southern fans in the stadium confines. But since his rookie season where he became victorious in only his second start, Bohn has become a crowd favorite, reason number one being that he doesn’t back down even from the top dogs. While the Swisher machine didn’t have the funds going into it like other cars, Danny would make up for it behind the wheel by going out in the last race and doing what he needed to do, take home the win and the championship, one that was very welcomed by the 14,000 fans in attendance.

This has been a special report from