Story by: Corey Latham ~ [email protected]

Winston-Salem, NC(April 29, 2011) — It’s that time year again folks, time to head to “The Famed Quarter Mile”. Bowman Gray Stadium is the oldest of them all, and still the wildest around as they open the gates this Saturday to celebrate their 63rd season of racing, that’s right folks, 63 years.

There is a reason that it has lasted this long though, as the stadium takes racing and makes it “entertainment” more than any track around while still keeping the racing “real”, no other track in the country has that balance. The drivers are tough and some of the fans are tougher, but everyone always has a great time.

The tiny flat 1/4 mile track has seen some of the best racers around, all the way back to the Grand National days of Petty, Pearson, Allison and Fireball Roberts. But the die-hard fans love their local heros and the best of those have been there too including Paul Radford, Satch Worley, Philip Smith, Gary Myers, Ralph Brinkley and the winningest driver in all divisions at Bowman Gray, Jimmy Johnson, the long retired driver of the famous orange #17 in the Sportsman division.

This season will see the current day stars return, with many of them already legends of the bullring in their own right. Burt Myers looks to back up his title from last season in the modified division after just getting cleared this week to race after a terrible crash at Ace Speedway two weeks ago. His closest competitor Tim Brown will be nipping on his heels as he goes for his record breaking ninth modified title. Brown is currently tied with another driver who also drove the beautiful blue Hayes Jewelers car like he does today, the great Ralph Brinkley.

Myers and Brown aren’t the only two that will be watched though, as Jr. Miller will be back sure to win races and cause controversy. Miller will be driving his own car this season but it will be prepared by Baker Motorsports, the same team that runs LW Miller on the Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Others looking to put a stop to Jr’s all-time win record will be Jason Myers, Michael Cliffton, Johnathan Brown, Randy Butner, Dean Ward and the always potent father son duo of Robert and Lee Jefferies. Brian Loftin, who finished second in the points last season to Myers is uncommited to what his racing plans are this season, it was to race full-time at the stadium but with the tragic death of his young wife back in March Loftin has put things on hold, as can be expected. Whatever plans Loftin has we continue to send prayers out to those involved.

In the Sportsman divison things will be tighter than ever as the field looks to be swelling once again with it looking like last year, where cars had to go home on numerous occasions from not making the field. The cars have evolved so much in the past five years that it become basically a Limited Late Model division, not the beat up older cars we were used to back in the 80’s and 90’s. 2010 champion Kyle Edwards will be leading the charge but the man with the handlebar mustache, open faced helmet and dirt track drivers net who finished second to him will be ready to get after him………..that being his father Barry. Ryan robertson finished third in points last season will not be making a run for the championship, but will be racing in up to five races at the stadium including the opening night. the rest of the season the car will have different drivers in it including a Late Model legend from years ago that should fit in rather well at the stadium.

“Tiger” Tommy Neal will back back in his beautiful #21 machine, as will fourth place finisher in the points last season Derek Stoltz. Kenny Bost will be in his Todd Hunt sponsored machine, along with Kevin Neal, LTO driver Taylor Branch and the insanely painted ride of Robbie Brewer, who very may well have the baddest paint job in all of racing. Mix in Bryant robertson who picked up his first win last season, Mitch Gales, Luke Fleming, Jeff Garrison and David Adams who looks to be making a return after a fire destroyed his car a few years ago, and this division has by far the biggest growth than any other. Over 27 cars were at practice last Thurday, and that was just a weekly practice so this is going to be big.

We move on the Street Stocks and the question is if anyone has anything for the beautiful throwback #27 Ford Falcon of Matt Cotner. He will get pleanty of competion from Billy Gregg who finished third in last season’s points, and if anyone has been around Bowman Gray in the last 30 years they know the Gregg family, they don’t leave an inch on the table. Other “characters” in the Street division will be Doug Wall and John McNeal, who have had thier share of on-track skirmishes though the years with it being one of the most heated rivalries around. The sleeper could be Reggie Doub though as he drives with patience and keeps his car relatively clean, something not seen much in the Street Stock races.

Last but not least could be the most competitive division anywhere in the country, the Stadium Stock division. These cars may be 4-cyclinders but they put on some of the best races on the season, and don’t let the motor size fool you, these things are anything but slow. At Bowman Gray this is the largest division, most track run these same cars each week and hope to get 14 of them, the stadium has over 50 nearly every week forcing them to split up into tow different 15 lap events.

The reighing champion Jason Keaton is still the one to beat as he makes a return in 2011 after pondering selling out in the off season. The Davie County contingent of Keaton, Dale Barneycastle and AJ Sanders look to be the top dogs with third place points finisher from 2010 Jimmy Absher looking to break up the county party. The “Living Legends” Johnny Burke and Charlie Curry look to improve on his bad luck from last year as rising stars Brandon Brendle, Andrew Sanders, and Kenny Dixon look to leave their mark. One of the fastest cars in practice has been Chris Lawing, look for him to be under people’s radar but be a challenger for the 2011 championship.

Of course we also have the K&N Series racing at Bowman Gray on June 4th, the first time a full-bodied touring division has took to the track since the early 90’s with the Goody’s Dash Series. The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified tour will hit the pavement in the classic “Strutmasters 199” on August 6th, as well as numerous demolition derby’s scattered throughout the year. The stadium has a little bit for everyone, old and young alike, plus for the price of $10 for adults, children 6-11 $1 and 6 and under free, you just can’t beat it for a night of entertainment.