Off the WALL is Back on for 2009 … Welcome Langley Austin & Corey Latham!

Corey Latham(CL): I almost forgot what this is.

Langley Austin(LA): Dude, you ain’t been enjoying that many adult beverages this winter have you?

CL: Let’s don’t go there, the winter has pretty much sucked. Work in the real world is slow, and there ain’t no racin to keep me occupied. I’m ready to throw a racing 09′ kickoff party.

LA: Let’s do it … I guess we’ll get to see a little NASCAR racing over the next couple of weeks, but it’s just not the same as some Late Model racing, huh?

CL: It’s better than nothing I guess. I’m looking forward to the ARCA race at Daytona. But the real season kickoff for me will be the UARA test at Rockingham March 2nd. Andy Hillenburg and his right hand man Charles Hudson continue to make me smile every few weeks. And they announced this week they will be hosting the ASA Late-Models on the July 4th weekend. Heck yeah.

LA: Rockingham is becoming the little jewel of North Carolina for short track racers … it gives us Late Model people a great place to go and do some racing with the UARA and now the ASA event, plus of course a couple of ARCA races and who knows how this deal is going to go down with the USAR Pro Cup Series coming back this year with new owners.

CL: No doubt. I was skeptical about how the Hooters cars would handle the big track, but they did just fine, one of the best races of the year. That has really got me excited about the UARA coming there, it should be the same result, very exciting. And with ARCA being in town the same weekend, it will give exposure to the series that it hasn’t gotten before. And gosh knows it deserves it, it’s one of the best series in the southeast. How many cars do you think will show? Who will be the ones to beat there? I’m going with Caudill and Clay Rogers, Clay is very excited about going back after his Hooters win last year. And he’s darn good.

LA: I’m sure the UARA race will be awesome … I think it will be a good show, I don’t expect any of the doom and gloom others are talking about to come into play, but I’m sure there will be some big wrecks and some great drama. It may well turn out to be the best Late Model Stock Car race of All-Time, but last year at Ace with the UARA holds that spot in my eyes. Anyways, it would be hard to go against Clay Rogers, but of course there’s rumors that Philip Morris, Frank Deiny and other great Late Model Stock Car guys will be there and honestly I look for the guy who wins to be in a Dodge. Look at how dominant Philip was last year in his Dodge and look out how Matt DiBenedetto creamed them at Concord(minus the disqualification, which I think had nothing to do with the win) and a noted car builder told me last night that the Dodge may very well be the car to watch, just too much Horsepower for that big of a track not to have an advantage.

CL: But will Phillip come play somewhere else besides Motor Mile? Remember last year when Boswell went up there on a off UARA week, he spanked them bad, and Mr. Morris didn’t show up at the UARA race at his home track the next week. I think the test will shed a lot of light on the way things are going to be, I’m interested in the tire wear, and how the young guns will adapt to the big track. Whatever happens, I’m sure it will be a great race and the start of a annual event I hope. By the way, is the UARA schedule complete or what? Are we waiting for Daytona to give the go-ahead?

LA: Of course this is my opinion on the UARA schedule, but I think the Pro Cup return kind threw them out of position for a race at Bristol and we may not see the series get to go there after all the hype and every one’s hopes got up, but I don’t have any inside information, I haven’t talked to anyone from the series since practically the banquet, so this is obviously just my opinion. I think when we see the schedule come out we might see some interesting announcements, but I’ll hold my comments until after it actually does. As far as Philip Morris goes, we’ll see if he shows up, but I think Matt DiBenedetto will be back in that Dodge for that race and I’m positive that the regular series drivers in Dodge’s like Brandon McReynolds and Kyle Grissom will be extremely tough!

CL: The Rockingham race is definitely a highlight, but what other things are you looking forward to in 2009? UARA looks to be better than ever, and the local tracks seem to be poised and ready to go despite the terrible economy. ACE Speedway is an interesting story, after all the ill feelings after last year, it’ll be interesting to see who actually keeps their word and doesn’t come back even with the new management in place. All the tracks look strong except Franklin County, who dropped the Late-Models from the schedule, and Southern National…… have no idea what circus is going on there. I’m still wound up about everybody getting screwed at the Thanksgiving Classic. Del Richards put the final nail in the coffin of a great track, somebody should be prosecuted for the things that took place that weekend.

LA: Del Richards was a joke from day one, anytime you have a guy who promises the world you better be prepared to receive a whole lot less. Normally a guy like that would have had more success pulling that in dirt racing as it happens all the time, but he pulled a fast one the asphalt brethren. As far as the Thanksgiving Classic goes no one can complain that got messed up on that deal, because they should have known better from all the things that took place leading up to that event. Most everyone knew what was going to happen, the writing was on the wall … only a fool falls for stuff like that, but I honestly believe that many of the drivers who went down there never expected to get paid for real, but I don’t think anyone expected the whole deal with the blank checks to happen and I think that whole deal deserves some attorney’s attention, but I’m doubtful anyone in this business has the time to go after him like he deserves.

CL: They knew it, I talked with numerous teams on pit road prior to the race about it. They said without much concern “Let’s hope not” and went on their way. They came to race and were just hoping to get paid as a bonus, well, not all thought that way but you could tell it was in the air. And taking away the win after the race was something I had never seen before, I felt sorry for the officials, they knew it was wrong but they were the ones explaining themselves on pit road, the guy who made the call had hit the road. And now the place is for sale, and like we talked about the other day, whoever buys it is getting a bad name before they start. They had better be showing purses up front if they want any cars.

LA: With Southern National, they need someone with a solid reputation to buy it, like a Denny Hamlin or Dale Jr. or someone like that, but I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it is sad that as nice a facility as it is, it will likely sit idle this season … it’s a great track it just needs someone behind it with some track management knowledge or so much money that they need a tax write off.

LA: As far as Franklin County goes, there is still Late Models there, but just not by Late Model Stock Car rules … they will be running the same chassis with crate engines, a stock carburetor and smaller tires … I don’t see what the big deal is, but everyone has there own outlook. I don’t care about all that mess, that’s better left to messageboard junkie’s who know absolutely nothing about running a race track and those that actually think that the previous leaser of the track did a good job … if you call losing money a good job then WOW, there are a lot of business out there who are going in the wrong direction … who knew that success was measured by how much money you can lose?! Unfortunately success for a race fan is the show itself and for the promoter it’s whether or not he or she can buy steak or hamburger this week and there’s a fine line between these two.

CL: As far as Franklin County goes, it does seem like a good idea. The cost of Late-Models is ridiculous, and these are a good alternative. the downside is that they will only be able to race those cars at one track, but then again, how does someone bring something new to racing to make it better or cheaper if you don’t try it. somebody has to do it first to get anything rolling, it’s a double-edged sword, damned if ya do, damned if ya don’t. I just hope they get to keep their ASA modified race there, love seeing those modifieds run sub 12 second laps around there.

LA: The Modified race is on at Franklin County as far as I know and the Late Model Stock Cars are expensive … the rule changes at Franklin County are similar to those at Old Dominion last season and yes it will get rid of guys like Jimmy Mullins, Rick Sigmon and the “old school” big names of the track from the 1990’s, but those guys don’t draw many fans anyways anymore … the rack needs young blood, like every other track and maybe a less expensive way to go Late Model racing is what they need. Don’t get me wrong Jimmy Mullins is one of the greatest drivers of all-time at Franklin County and he’s one of the guys I loved to watch when I was there, but today fans need more than a name to show up … the myths that the crowds were so much larger there last year than in the past, make me laugh, but I guess my vision is a little better than people who want to believe that. IF Whitey will do his job right, he could make that place a lot like it was when he was running it in the 1980’s early 90’s …. it will turn around, I just hope he makes the right decisions because no one can afford for it to get as bad as it did in 2006 again.

CL: Let’s hope all tracks prosper in 09′. One doing the job for sure is Dillon Motor Speedway with Ron Barfield at the helm. They just got done putting in a new pit road down the backstretch and I’m excited about the PASS South race being my first fendered race of 09′. His year is going to be hectic as we broaden our coverage to get in as much Late-Model and Super-Late racing in as possible. But you know me, I’ll still be at some mod races, with the first being the Frostbite Winter Nationals at Orange County, I’m excited about that one.

LA: Anyway’s on to another topic …. the USAR Pro Cup Series(formerly the Hooters Pro-Cup) recently announced they were coming back … Corey what do you think the resurrection of the series so late will do for it and for Late Model racing especially the PASS Series and the UARA?

CL: Well, many Pro Cup drivers had already committed to running with PASS, and they even bent the rules to allow the Hooters cars to run with them and some had gotten Late Model Stocks too, and then they announce they are going to run the USAR series again in 09′. To me it’s too little too late. They waited too long to let anybody know they were even going to be around this year, and even now, we still haven’t seen a schedule or even sure this is going to happen at all. You may think differently than me, but I think that 90% of the people who were movin on still will do so. The USAR series was some of the best races I’ve ever seen, I hated to see them go, but I honestly think they are still gone, no matter if somebody tries to make a go of them or not.

LA: Everyone loved the Hooters Pro Cup Series, but I don’t think that’s the series we’ll see this year … I think it will be a broken series with very few drivers from the past and low car counts and evetually I think it will fall apart completely. I wish they could survive, but it may be better for the PASS, UARA, ASA and others for them to fall apart. I think they hurt the UARA and PASS a little for this year, but I think it will all come together in the end for both those growing series. Anyways, Corey lets wrap this up … give me some insight into what you think we’ll see on the UARA tour this season, who’s your early pick and who do you think will be the standout from one of the weekly tracks running Late Model Stock Cars this year?

CL: The two young guns from last year, Brandon McReynolds and Darrell Wallace Jr. will be battling for the championship. It’s so top heavy with talent this year in the UARA it’s really hard to pick any drivers. Caudill, McCall, Yontz, Boswell, the list goes on. I think this will be the most competitive year the UARA has ever seen by far. As far as the local tracks go, look for Frank Deiny to be back on top like he was a few years ago. He started his own team and got different people driving his cars, and the performance fell off, like when Caudill went to Jr. Motorsports. But now he has some momentum after the last few races of 08′, and looks to be a top dog again.

LA: I think McReynolds and Wallace will be very good, but I’m not sure those two can put together 16 near-perfect races like they’re going to need to in order to win the championship, but now Jamey Caudill without the pressure of having to keep the JR Motorsports team going and wow that change to a Harcor Race Car at the end of 2008 was huge with the big wins at Myrtle Beach and Southern National(OK, maybe he doesn’t have the trophy, but he won the race). I think Caudill is going to be the top guy and he’s already the UARA-STARS series wins leader and he may well extend that this year.

I’m going to look in another direction when it comes to the weekly Late Model Stock Car tracks even though I think Frank Deiny’s return could prove huge … I think at Hickory and Tri-County you’re going to see Jesse LeFevers, the ARPBodies Most Improved Driver from 2008 step up to take Andy Loden’s place and go head to head with Andy Mercer at Hickory and RA Brown at Tri-County. Also I’m looking for Mike Looney, a one time winner at Motor Mile in 2008 to be a standout at Motor Mile, but he’s going to have a rough road going head to head with all the competition up there. Also maybe look at Chad Harris to step up and get back to victory lane and Tommy Lemons, Jr. got much better once he got his engine program down at the end of the year. Getting together with Dannie Cox really helped Lemons and I look for him to win races in 2009.

CL:I also want to send a shout out to our friend Sherri Cliffton after being named the director of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Sherry has always impressed me with her work at Hickory Motor Speedway, and I dare say she was the hardest working race track manager I have ever seen. Best of luck to her in the new role. On a more somber note, condolences go out to one of our favorites, Rodney Cook and his whole family on the passing of his father Calvin. Calvin was the backbone of Rodney’s racing, always in the trailer at the track, and always good for a laugh, I’m proud to say he was my friend. You’ll be greatly missed, Godspeed from the entire Race22 crew. Just keep watchin, Rodney will still be up on that wheel like dad taught him.

LA: I agree Corey congrats to Sherri Clifton, she deserved a good job and I just couldn’t see her getting out of racing. Also Calvin Cook was a great man and certainly you are right he was the backbone of Rodney Cook’s operation, but just like Cook did when his car owner, Wayne Carter passed away in 2007, he’ll pick up the pieces and he’ll race in their honor and that could give his competitors a little fear when they see him in the rear view mirror. Also former Ace Speedway Super Street(Limited) champion, Bobby Griffin lost his father, Jimmy and we would like to send out our condolences to his family as well.

LA: OK, Corey it looks like we’ve covered a lot of Late Model stuff in just a few minutes here, but what I want to know is will we be able to get you out of hibernation to do this again next week or will we have to wait until the cars actually hit the track to get you back on here?

CL: OK, let’s tell the truth now. I seem to recall you writing recently leading into a story I did about how slack I was getting it to you, when it was YOU who sat on it for over a week. I’m always on top of my game, you need to catch up, no need to tell lies to our readers about who the slack one is. I’m rearing to go, bring it on. Need some racin reaallll bad though, it helps a lot.

LA: Yeah, I had to put that one on you, because longtime readers will believe it, they know you Corey … everyone knows when the season’s over you disappear and then all of sudden at the beginning of February here you are again, but you’re right I did sit on that story for a few weeks, but that’s because we’d been breaking so much news. Can you believe all the stuff we’ve uncovered this winter … you can’t news like that on a messageboard can you?

CL: No rumors here, straight facts from all the horses mouths. If ya want to know whats going on in the world of Late-Model racing, you really don’t have a choice. Might dig up something right here before I go to bed, I’m outta here. Until next time…

LA: See you Corey … maybe next time we’ll take this “Off the WALL” thing to the airwaves? I guess we’ll wait for that announcement.