Ah yes, the warmer temperatures, the smell of racing fuel, sounds of impact guns assures me it’s time for race cars to officially kick off the 2019 Bowman Gray Stadium season. That means it’s time for me to make my championship and dark horse picks for the season ahead. Last year the only championship pick that I picked correctly was Burt Myers winning, but three of the four dark horse picks right.
So after a disastrous picking season last year, I figured I would return again to make my championship picks. Just as I stated last year I normally don’t share my picks to the public, but this reminds me of March Madness and it’s fun to pick a winner. Once again I’ll include dark horse picks for each division, after picking almost all of them last year, I figured it’s time to try and pick some more to see what they can do in 2019. Without further ado…here are my picks for 2019!
Burt Myers – Yes it sounds ridiculous to pick Burt once again, but I’m a gambling man and as they say out in Vegas, I’m betting on black! With Civali returning, Tim and Jason so close to Burt and Jonathan having his best career season yet, it’ll be hard for Burt to tie Tim for most titles. It’ll be hard as previously stated, but I believe Burt will stay consistent all year with more top 10 finishes than everyone and win it again and becoming the first man since Pee Wee Jones to win four consecutive championships when Pee Wee won five in a row.
Brandon Ward (Dark Horse Pick) – After getting word from Will Spaugh before announcing it to everyone else, about Brandon running the #19 “Black Mamba car” rather than the usual 104.1 Kevin Powell car, I started doing some digging. Brandon has won two races at Bowman Gray both coming in the season finale. Just a few short years ago he won the 200 lap season opener before controversy occurred. He also has won seven races on the SMRS Modified Tour which is only second most to Burt Myers eight wins, so the black mamba is a good car, it’s more than capable to win the 200 along with other races, so don’t be surprised to see him in victory lane more than once in 2019.
Kevin Neal – Yes I’m picking Kevin to repeat. And, no I’m not picking him to win it again because of his championship interview, I’m picking him because there’s one thing he had and showed last year in the last half of the season … aggression. Kevin showed so much aggression in the second race of the double features by charging closer to the front in the 20 lap sprints rather than settling for a 7th or 8th place finish. I predict no one will win 10 races, but I do predict someone winning five races.
Blake Shupe (Dark Horse Pick) – I’m going way off the map here, but Blake did outstanding in his year in Street Stock including four years in the top seven in points, that’s pretty good in a clustered division. Blake has more experience behind the wheel of a higher horsepower full body car than the other choice I had in mind. With a possible 29 races this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if Blake gets lucky on the Madhouse Scramble and nabs a win in his rookie season.
Billy Gregg – This choice was so hard to make as the top seven or eight cars are good quality cars and could win any given night. The former Street Stock Champion had a pretty good year last year and accounted for a quarter of the race wins, he only had a few problems all year long and unforeseen circumstances caused him to lose out on another title. I got the feeling if he can win a couple of races early on and duplicated what happened last year, but change around a couple of things, he’s destined to win his second championship.
Corey Rose (Dark Horse Pick) – The former three-division winner at Caraway Speedway made a few starts towards the end of the season last year and ran pretty good for the most part. He ran great in the four races he started, but the finishes told a different story as he only finished in the top 10 one time as he was caught up in crashes or had mechanical issues. His only good finish was a second-place run in the season finale where he finished second to Blake Shupe. If Corey can somehow manage to stay out of the carnage and keep his car in good shape, I expect him to be a threat for Rookie of the Year honors.
Grayson Keaton – The former rookie contender has established himself as a mainstay in the two seasons prior, he’s scored multiple top five’s and top 10’s in the always tough Stadium Stocks, so that’s great news. The bad news is A.J. Sanders lost the title by not finishing in the top five as much as the other drivers did, the racing in the division is so tough that it’s becoming a freight train that resembles pack racing at a plate track and if you happen to get out of the groove it could mean the difference between finishing third or ninth.
Shawn Hayes (Dark Horse Pick ) – The reigning and defending Rookie of the Year Shawn Hayes had a good season for a guy who drove both asphalt and dirt cars all the time, to come to Bowman Gray from Lenior every week. Shawn and his teammate Blake Walker always was right there towards the front or the front pack in every race. With Shawn running again with a new setup under him and knowledge of the track, he could once again be running up front with our top guys and challenge for wins.
Cover photo by Corey Latham.