COPPER HILL, VA :: It’s been a while since we’ve done Power Rankings for the Late Model Stock Cars, but as the 2014 racing season approaches ‘The Dog Days of Summer’, we take a look at the 22 best drivers in the region and where they stack up.
22. Mike Darne
Last season was certainly not Mike Darne’s best season and the frustration was evident. Darne wants to be competitive. In 2014, Darne has been competitive. Darne has top-five finishes in half of the races he has started this year and top-10 finishes in 75% of his starts. There’s no doubt he wants to break a winless streak that dates back nearly two years. Don’t be surprised if he does just that at some point this season.
21. Payton Ryan
Rookie driver Payton Ryan has been impressive this season. He’s already threatened to score his first career victory and has done so at more than one track. Ryan’s been competing at several tracks, including Hickory, South Boston and Southern National. Ryan’s got a bright future and will likely find himself in victory lane real soon.
20. Myatt Snider
Myatt Snider has six top-five finishes and 12 top-10 finishes in 16 starts on the season. Last year, Snider scored his first and lone victory to date at Caraway Speedway. Snider’s season started out with some rough luck but he’s progressively improved on his season and is threatening to score his second career victory.
19. BJ Mackey
Last year, BJ Mackey picked up the win in Caraway Speedway’s biggest Late Model race of the season. Mackey’s hoping he’ll be able to repeat his performance in the Rusty Harpe Memorial this year. Although his starts have been limited again this season, Mackey has picked up one victory this season with that win coming in Caraway’s most recent Late Model event.
18. Kyle Dudley
Kyle Dudley has certainly made headlines this season between his bitter rivalry with Brian Sutphin at Franklin County Speedway and the recent developments at the 3/8-mile track. Lost in the controversy is Dudley’s two victories on the season. Now, Dudley will hope to continue his winning ways at Ace Speedway as well as some other track he might travel to.
17. Justin Sorrow
Justin Sorrow has picked up two wins on the season at Anderson Motor Speedway in South Carolina and has finished in the top-10 in every single race he has started this season. Sorrow’s consistency will continue to pay off throughout the year and he’ll likely click off more wins before the season ends.
16. Robert Tyler
We haven’t talked much about Robert Tyler this year but we should be. In nine starts on the season, Tyler has two victories, both at Caraway, and eight top-10 finishes. Tyler’s been traveling out to other racetracks this year. Tyler will likely make a couple more trips to victory lane this season.
15. Doug Liberman
Last year, we referred to Doug Liberman as “The Forgotten Champion”. Liberman picked up the track championship at Old Dominion Speedway in 2012 but it was overshadowed instantly by the closure of the speedway. Since then, Liberman’s made starts at a variety of tracks, including Langley and Shenandoah. This season, Liberman has three victories at Shenandoah Speedway in Virginia – a track that’s actually bringing in solid car counts. Liberman has a few more wins coming this season as well.
14. Mike Looney
Looney’s season started out with the worst luck imaginable. In three consecutive races, mechanical failures prevented Mike Looney from winning races that he deserved to win at Franklin County Speedway. The first race that Looney finished, he ended up winning. He backed that win up with another win a couple weeks later at Franklin County Speedway. Looney’s also scored a podium finish at Motor Mile Speedway this season. With bad luck behind him, Looney will continue to be competitive.
13. Matt Bowling
Matt Bowling has two wins on the season, but one of those two wins will be remembered for some time to come when he scored the win in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown over Matt Waltz and a host of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series superstars. Bowling also has a win at Caraway Speedway. Over the years, Bowling has proven he can win at any track he races at and he’ll certainly pick up more wins this season.
12. Deac McCaskill
This certainly hasn’t been Deac McCaskill’s strongest season but he hangs on inside the top-12 in our Power Rankings by virtue of his five wins at East Carolina Motor Speedway. McCaskill has 11 top-five finishes in 16 starts on the 2014 season across four tracks.
11. Tommy Lemons, Jr.
Tommy Lemons, Jr. started this season with a win at Southern National and has since inherited another victory and picked up a win at Motor Mile Speedway. The defending Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 winner has had his fair share of problems throughout the course of the season but it appears this team has their program together and they’ll continue to score victories as the season winds down.
10. Josh Berry
A lot of people will know who Josh Berry is soon. The JR Motorsports Development Driver is moving up the ranks and will be making his debut in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on August 2nd at Iowa Speedway. If you’re wondering why Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has tapped Berry to race in Nationwide, look no farther than his performances this year alone. Berry has four wins at the historic Hickory Motor Speedway in 2014 and has eight top-five finishes and 10 top-10 finishes on the season.
9. Greg Edwards
Greg Edwards has been one of the two drivers to dominate the season to date at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia. Edwards has finished inside the top-10 in all 10 races this season. Combined with four wins, he’s making a strong bid for his fourth career Late Model championship at Langley. Edwards currently leads the track championship standings but his points lead is narrow. Consistency alone won’t win the championship, winning races will. And Greg Edwards certainly plans to win a lot more before the season is over.
8. Matt Waltz
Greg Edwards’ main competition at Langley has been Matt Waltz. Waltz put the entire racing world on notice last year when he led several laps in the closing stages of the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300. Since then, Waltz’s career has been watched with much interest. This season, Waltz has five wins at Langley Speedway and sits second in points. His most impressive performance, however, came in another big race, the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown. Waltz dominated the race but surrendered the lead in the closing laps en route to an impressive second place finish. He has his competition on notice and he’s got more wins on the way as well.
7. Randy Porter
Randy Porter has emerged as Anthony Anders’ main competition in South Carolina. Porter has six wins on the season. One of those wins came in the season opening race for the SouthEast Super Truck Series at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. His other five wins have come at Greenville and Anderson in the Late Model ranks. Randy Porter continues to prove he’s still one of the most capable wheelmen in the industry, whether it’s in the Late Model Trucks or the Late Model Stock Cars.
6. Kres Vandyke
Kres Vandyke may be a veteran to Late Model competition but it’s never too late to have a breakout season. Vandyke leads the championship standings at Kingsport Speedway as well as the overall combined standings between both Kingsport and Lonesome Pine Raceway. That’s for good reason. Along with his five wins on the season, Vandyke has been consistent every race … so consistent his main championship rival, Chad Finchum, feels he might be unbeatable in the race for the Kingsport Speedway championship.
5. Dillon Bassett
Dillon Basset certainly wanted to make a statement this season after the way he felt he was wronged at Martinsville last fall and the younger Bassett has certainly done just that. The reigning UARA-STARS has picked up five wins on the season at three different tracks and sits inside the top-10 in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Standings. Bassett’s wins have come at Caraway, East Carolina and Hickory. On top of that, Bassett has 14 top-five finishes and top-10 finishes in every race he has run this season to date. But there’s one thing Bassett wants more than anything this year … to “#*%!ing win Martinsville”.
4. Peyton Sellers
For the past few years, Peyton Sellers hadn’t quite been himself. That’s certainly changed this year as the 2005 NASCAR Whelen All American Series Champion has returned to winning form. Sellers has won six times this season at three different tracks. Those wins include victories at Caraway, Motor Mile and South Boston where he has reclaimed his throne and sits atop the standings. Sellers is one of the all-time greats in Late Model racing and he’s proving that he’s still as good as he’s ever been this year. Keep an eye on Sellers as he’ll likely pick up more wins and move up the Power Rankings as the summer months continue along.
3. Chad Finchum
Last year, Chad Finchum had a breakout season as he scored his first career NASCAR Whelen All American Series Late Model victory and backed that up by winning the track championship at Kingsport Speedway in Tennessee. Finchum also set the fast lap at Martinsville last year, making a lot of people look at the competition at Kingsport, which had once been characterized as “lawnmower” racing. This year, Finchum has piked up where he left off. He sits atop the standings at Lonesome Pine where he has won six races – on top of three wins at Kingsport. Finchum’s not likely done winning races yet, in spite of the latest rules change. Watch for him to continue adding to his impressive win total as the season continues.
2. Anthony Anders
Sitting in second on our Power Rankings is the NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Championship points leader, Anthony Anders. Anders has 17 wins on the season and an unbelievable 23 top-five finishes in 26 starts on the season. Anders has scored victories at Anderson, Greenville and at Myrtle Beach Speedway – most of those races featured full-fields. The National Championship isn’t locked up yet though. Keith Rocco is red hot while Anthony Anders has cooled down a little bit. The summer months will be critical for Anders if he is going to realize his dream and win the National Championship.
So, why isn’t Anders on top of the RACE22.com Power Rankings? And who is? Well, it’s none other than…
1. Lee Pulliam
Who else were you expecting? Lee Pulliam has been as impressive as other. Racing for Travis Kiker, Pulliam has clicked off 11 wins and 15 top-five finishes at three different tracks this season while sitting third, while running in Late Models part-time, in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Championship Standings. Pulliam has also run in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East but luck has not gone his way in his now part-time stint in that series. Pulliam hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down either. When it comes to power, Pulliam’s still the man and, even though Anders sits atop the standings, Pulliam is still the man everybody is chasing.
How will the summer months play out and will they shake up the RACE22.com Power Rankings. Stay tuned this summer.