Pavement short track fans like to talk about the good ole days, and while there were certainly things to love about previous generations, not enough energy is spent on the things we have right now.
The 2023 season was a celebration of many of things that are still great about this culture and discipline.
For example, never before in the history of short track racing has every notable event been consumable from the comforts of your own living room, thanks to streamers like FloRacing, Racing America and Pit Row TV.
What used to require a magazine subscription, just to learn who won a race time zones away, can be enjoyed in real time from anywhere around the globe. Like seriously, how cool is that? From that standpoint, these are the good ole days.
The current dynamic allows Bubba Pollard, Stephen Nasse, Bobby McCarty, Matt Hirschman, Jacob Gomes, Connor Hall and Landon Huffman to cultivate dynamic fanbases and interest in their careers from coast to coast.
It allows Huffman and Doug Barnes Jr. to have a fanbase worthy of their emerging social media platforms.
There is a lot to make better, but the discipline has never had the foundation under it to be more successful than it is now. From that standpoint, we should be grateful for the continued efforts of the streamers, promoters and racers working diligently to grow this thing we all love.
If 2023 was the understanding of that potential, 2024 can be a significant step towards realizing it. With that said, here are the most impactful stories from this past year.
50. Maritime Super Late Models
A new option for Super Late Model racers in eastern Canada emerged this year with the formation of the Super Late Model Series. Spearheaded by promoters at New Brunswick’s Speedway 660 and Petty International Raceway as well as Prince Edward Island’s Oyster Bed Speedway, the six-race series got off to a solid start in 2023 with full fields and plenty of promise. Dylan Gosbee won the inaugural crown over Robbie MacEwen and Cory Hall, with five different feature winners celebrating throughout the year. A new series sponsor in 2024 will help to build the foundations for the SLMS as it grows in the coming seasons.
49. The loss of Ken Squier
The broadcast titan, recognized for bringing flag-to-flag TV coverage to NASCAR racing, passed away in November at the age of 88 after battling health issues for the last few years. Squier, who touted racers as “common men doing uncommon deeds,” truly spoke of what he knew. He was an integral part of regional short track racing as a promoter and broadcaster, guiding and inspiring generations of future media members to follow in his footsteps. And while his national role took him across the globe, he never strayed far from his humble Vermont roots.
48. NWMT Car Counts Suffer
At 19 scheduled races, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s 2023 season was its most intense since 2005, a vote of confidence for a series whose fanbase often doubts NASCAR’s commitment. But the grind took its toll on the Tour’s blue-collar racers. Some were planned that way: Jake Johnson and Matt Hirschman typically run part-time, while Eric Goodale and Tommy Catalano took a step back. But others were victims of the schedule and other fates. Jon McKennedy’s team broke up early in the year. Justin Brown lost his ride, to be replaced by Anthony Nocella, who soon returned to his family team. Doug Coby’s team scaled back after Tommy Baldwin’s cancer diagnosis. Hirschman broke his arm mid-season, missing a few potential starts. J.B. Fortin was suspended briefly for his part of a pit area brouhaha. At season’s end, only seven drivers had started all 18 races.
47. Benjamin Tops GSPSS
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Travis Benjamin said after winning May’s Granite State Pro Stock Series Lidlifter. The Belfast, Maine veteran, a two-time PASS champion and three-time Oxford 250 winner, had shifted his focus in recent years, spending more time with his son and less behind the wheel. But the GSPSS’ shorter schedule and selection of tracks spoke to Benjamin. After winning the first two rounds of the schedule, Benjamin and car owner Peter Petit stayed the course. A third win late in the year cemented the title for Benjamin, who picked up his first championship since 2017 and his second for Petit.
46. Berry Advances to Cup
Josh Berry only raced a Late Model Stock four times in 2023 but this is more about his NASCAR schedule. In addition to his full-time Xfinity Series slate, he was the first call for Hendrick Motorsports and Legacy Motor Club when they needed a substitute driver. He performed so well that he landed a full-time Cup Series ride with Stewart-Haas Racing to replace Kevin Harvick in the No. 4. Berry is included on this list because he is proof that a career short tracker still has a pathway to the highest level.
45. Série ACT Returns to Life
In late 2017, the American-Canadian Tour split with its Quebec-based sanctioning partner. While the ACT Late Model remained popular in “la Belle Province,” the Série ACT touring program was no more. A new agreement was forged this offseason, though, reintroducing the Série ACT LMS as a home-grown touring series rotating between two venerable bullrings, Autodrome Chaudière and Autodrome Montmagny. Former NASCAR Truck Series race winner Raphael Lessard, driving for the Larue Motorsports team that once prepared cars for fellow NASCAR racer Alex Labbé, captured the inaugural Série ACT LMS title over Mathieu Kingsbury and Will Larue.
44. Hirschman Rebounds from Broken Arm
A crash in August’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Thompson 150 at Thompson Speedway left Matt Hirschman with a broken arm and a recovery timetable. It also gave hope to Modified racers that some of the season’s big year-ending events might be up for grabs. But leave it to Hirschman to dash those hopes after only a month on the sidelines. In eleven major events after his return, “Big Money Matt” won seven of them, taking victories with the NWMT, the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series, the Race of Champions circuit, and the SMART Modified Tour. He won Stafford’s Fall Final, Caraway Speedway’s North-South Shootout, the Islip 300 at Riverhead Raceway, and Wall Stadium’s Turkey Derby. In those eleven races, his worst result was fourth.
43. Max Cookson Breaks Out
Championships in the Northeast are usually the territory of hardened veterans. Max Cookson, though, showed he was a quick study. The Palmyra, Maine youngster won the Pro All Stars Series’ PASS Mod title in 2021, then won his first Super Late Model start in 2022 and clinched the Oxford Plains Speedway track championship, winning his first PASS SLM race later in the season. This year, Cookson won once more on the road with PASS, finishing no worse than ninth all year to claim the PASS North title and the accompanying PASS National Championship, all while picking up honors at Oxford for the second year in a row. Cookson’s skills behind the wheel earned him a place in the Kulwicki Driver Development Program for 2023. He won that, too.
42. NWMT Champions Dissolve
New England open-wheel ace Jon McKennedy went all-in on racing in 2022, leaving his job to race full-time with car owners Tim and Cheryl Lepine on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Building on prior success in Tour-type Modified and Supermodified competition, the team claimed the NWMT championship in their first full season. But despite a strong start to their title defense with three podium finishes in their first six races, tensions within the young team boiled over. McKennedy and Lepine parted ways before the seventh race of the season, and Lepine sold off the team’s assets, ending their brief reign over Modified racing.
41. CARS PLM Tri County Drama
First, there was how the race was seemingly won with Gavan Boschele dumping Ashton Higgins in the final corner to win the October race at Tri-County. CARS Tour stripped Boschele of the win and awarded it to Caden Kvapil. Higgins ran across the track to confront Boschele and the Rackley WAR team. How the race got to that point was just as dramatic. Katie Hettinger was spun by Kvapil earlier in the race and intentionally dumped him on the next green flag run. Hettinger was suspended while the others were fined and placed on probation.
40. Gomes Dominates Southwest Tour
Five wins and top-5s in five of the eight races resulted in a championship for Jacob Gomes under the Derek Thorn Racing umbrella. A truly remarkable season. Gomes was also extremely competitive in his trips out east as well.
39. Butcher Wins 50th Oxford 250
When the Hantsport, N.S. racer won last year’s Oxford 250, he was the first Canadian to do so since 1995. This year, on the iconic event’s golden anniversary, Butcher carved his way through the field after an early penalty, becoming the first Canadian to go back-to-back in New England’s signature Super Late Model showdown. Joey Doiron, who Butcher nudged aside en route to the win, finished second after starting shotgun on the 41-car field.
38. Southside Nears Revival
In an era where so many tracks close, and especially those under siege from their local governments, it’s been refreshing to see how the southern Virginia short track and its local community has rallied together over the past year to work towards reviving and renovating the iconic short track for the 2024 season. There is still work to be done but it looks more likely than not that racing is going to return.
37. Kade Brown’s season
Kade Brown won 13 races at Hickory en route to the championship. He is a really poised prospect who drives hard and has a high ceiling. At the same time, it just seemed like every victory and accomplishment was under scrutiny this season. He drives for Matt Piercy, the son of track operator Kevin Piercy, and there were allegations of poor inspection process for the championship winning car. At the same time, Brown was just as impressive away from Hickory with a top-10 at Martinsville and South Carolina 400 victory. They’re likely going CARS Tour racing next year, a chance to silence the critics in a big way.
36. Wilkesboro Week
The NASCAR All Star Race weekend at North Wilkesboro was a major moment for the highest level but do not discount the week leading up to it and what this meant for short track racing too. CARS Tour Pro, CARS Tour Late Model Stock and ASA STARS all competed in the days leading up to the Truck and Cup races and they felt like a mainstream extension of the national tours. The winners got NASCAR press conferences and the races featured big crowds that felt like NASCAR events. It legitimized the industry.
35. Everyone suspends Sam Rameau
Sam Rameau was involved in a brawl in the Open Modified portion of the Thompson World Series. It was quite the messy affair. He was suspended by ACT, PASS, the Tri-Track Series and then NASCAR, too.
34. Ron Silk’s Second NWMT Title
Ron Silk captured a second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship 13 years after his first in his second season driving for newly formed Haydt Yannone Racing. The triumph was hard fought too, having just a 13 point lead over three-time champion Justin Bonsignore enterting the final at Martinsville. They traded the points lead back and forth and it was a joy to watch all summer.
33. Tommy Baldwin’s Battle
After clinching the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour owner’s title in 2022 with three different drivers, all of whom went to victory lane, car owner Tommy Baldwin tapped Doug Coby for the full schedule in 2023. Ten races into the season, Coby had one win at Monadnock Speedway and was knocking on the door in the title race. But shortly before the next race, Baldwin announced that his team would go on hiatus after Thompson Speedway, allowing him to focus on a fight with cancer. Coby and Baldwin returned a few weeks later at Monadnock to clinch the Whelen Granite State Short Track Cup bonus, but the team only ran one more race as Baldwin’s treatment took priority.
32. Seavey takes Silver Crown title
It’s not totally a pavement story because Seavey is still looking for his first Champ Car win on pavement but he took the fight to the great Kody Swanson all season to claim his first USAC Silver Crown championship in a season in which he also won the Chili Bowl and won the USAC Midget National championship on Dirt.
31. Tyler Roahrig Claims 500 Tour Title
Speaking of besting the great Kody Swanson, Tyler Roahrig did the same thing in taking the championship battle hunt in the 500 Tour. He won three times and never finised outside of the top-10 in nine races with a worst finish of sixth.
30. Jake Trainor Shocks at Little 500
The 26 year old made his name known in a big way by winning the Little 500 in his debut appearance. It was just his second start ever in a pavement Sprint and first at Anderson. It’s impossible to really understate how impressive it was against the likes of Kody Swanson, Bobby Santos, Caleb Armstrong and Tyler Roahrig.
29. Bobby Mac Wins SoBo 200, Kvapil DQd
Carson Kvapil appeared to have won the July 3 South Boston 200 but the track never released the official results. They tend to be very structured about that. And there was a reason why as they disqualified Carson Kvapil for a non-compliant left rear shock, one that was le’gal in CARS Tour. Additionally, Landon Huffman was tossed from third for the same reason. Bobby McCarty was ultimately awarded the win.
28. Riggs Wins with KHI, DQd
Jared Fryar was awared a CARS Tour win at Caraway but only five days after the fact when the series leadership agreed that it needed to strip Layne Riggs and KHI the win for a non-compliant sway bar end. It mad headlines for a week because word spread after that Wednesday night that there was an issue in tech but the decision wasn’t made until the next Monday when the owners deliberated the outcome — something that fell under scrutiny of the community.
27. Bubba Walks Out on SRL
Bubba Pollard loaded up and left halfway through the SRL National Twin 75s at I-44 Lebanon Speedway. Pollard was protesting that winner Jeremy Doss was not given a two lap penalty for bringing out a caution. Pollard was also adamant that Doss take the right side sticker that would also be used in the second race. Brooks says their decision was in compliance with the race procedures expressed in the drivers meeting. Pollard chose to not participate as he disagreed with that determination. Doss went on to win the second race too.
26. Treyten Lapcevich’s Canada Title
At 19-years-old, the third generation racer proved his prospect bonafides by winning seven times in 14 races across a really good field of full-timers and on multiple track types (pavement, dirt, road) in a really hard to handle race car. Treyten Lapcevich proved he’s the real deal.
25. Butterbean Breaks Out
Short of winning the CARS Tour championship, and he came close, this is exactly the kind of season Brenden Queen wanted to have in joining Lee Pulliam Performance. It wasn’t just the on-track success but also all the ways that he showed himself as a affable personality and a sponsor’s dream. He’s an unorthodox character but stood out in all the ways he needed to as he hopes to advance to NASCAR.
24. Augie Grill Returns to VL
The two-time Snowball Derby winner showed he had more left in the tank by winning the Pro Late Model portion of Speefest in January at Watermelon Capital Speedway. Grill spends more time building cars these days than driving them but has made a point of wanting to still prove something behind the wheel too and validated those feelings against a stout field in South Georgia. He would go on to win at North Wilkesboro with the CARS Tour as well.
23. Dale Jr. Becomes a Regular
It wasn’t like a full season or anything but between three starts at Florence and North Wilkesboro, Dale Jr. really elevated the profile of Late Model Stock racing in every event he entered. He contended for podiums and brought a lot of awareness to those in the discipline in a really impactful way. And for him, it just has to be fun returning to his roots and enjoying his second tenure in the discipline.
22. Robusto Concussed at Hickory
Following a crash that knocked over a jersey barrier at the end of pit road on April 23 in the CARS Pro Late Model Tour race at Hickory Motor Speedway, Isabella Robusto was diagnosed with a concussion and missed the remainder of the season. The barrier also bowled over a photographer and required a lengthy track repair. Robusto will return to the seat in 2024 and has joined Lee Pulliam Performance for a full CARS Late Model Stock bid.
21. South Boston denies rezoning request
In full support of its signature sporting venue, the town of South Boston, Virginia denied a rezoning request that would allow mixed use residential and commercial to begin encroaching on the speedway. City officials recognized residents would start complaining about the noise.
20. CARSon’s Tour
Carson Kvapil closed out on a second straight CARS Tour championship and it was never really in doubt. Brenden Queen running out of fuel in the Old North State Nationals ultimately made the difference. Kvapil finished the season with five victories, 13 top-fives, and 15 top-10 finishes in 16 races
19. Rockford closes
Historic Rockford Speedway enjoyed one last season before it closed for good. A victim of rezoning, it was eventually squeezed to death by mixed use commercial and residential encroaching on its valuable land.
18. Greenville listed for sale
While it’s ultimate fate remains an open ended question, historic Greenville Pickens Speedway was listed for sale. Efforts to have one more season fell through and the local community and potential buyers are debating what to do with the property.
17. Majeski’s ASA title
Ty Majeski fell short of the NASCAR Truck Series championship race but even the fact that he was in the mix, all the while running the full 10 race ASA schedule, a championship he won is a feat to be celebrated.
16. CARS Dominion finish
This was peak CARS Tour. Brenden Queen roughed up Carson Kvapil on the final restart and allowed Bobby McCarty to close the gap. McCarty took them both threw wide to go to the lead. He held off Queen in a photo finish to snap a 18 month winless streak.
15. Huffman, Nelson and 30k
One of the coolest stories of the season was popular weekly racer Landon Huffman getting a chance to race CARS Tour with a rebuilding Nelson Motorsports after it parted ways with Cale Gale three races into the season. With Huffman, they quickly turned the program around and won $30,000 in the Old North State Nationals.
14. Byron Disqualified at Pensacola
It appeared as if William Byron claimed his first win with Anthony Campi Racing but the victory was overturned in technical inspection due to the panning beneath the car not meeting tolerance.
13. Martinsville finish
Underdog Trevor Ward won a grandfather clock after bouncing off defending winner Payton Sellers but also needed to hold off Landon Huffman in the Nelson Motorsports 22 to get the job done. It was a definition epic Martinsville finish.
12. Lap 212, All American 400
A restart stack-up on Lap 212 left Cole Butcher leaking fluid all the way around the track. Even though Butcher slowly limped away, no one called a caution, and the leaders barreled into Turn 1 and many of them crashed — Ty Majeski, Bubba Pollard, Stephen Nasse, Jeremy Doss and other. The top-eight all broke traction and were left furious with ASA STARS officials.
11. Gragson triggers Derby melee
— Racing America (@RacingAmerica) December 3, 2023
On a restart inside the final 20 laps, Noah Gragson simply screwed up, missed a shift and triggered a dozen car crash on the frontstretch during the Snowball Derby. The crash was behind the leaders but took out several teams capable of having a top-5 in Jake Finch, Erik Jones, William Byron and defending winner Derek Thorn.
10. Roderick vs the World (Series)
Casey Roderick won the World Series Super Late Model championship during Florida Speedweeks but drew the ire of the Wilson Motorsports drivers and Bubba Pollard respectively. It set the tone for the spring to come.
9. Connor Hall’s NASCAR title
Connor Hall was set to chase a CARS Tour championship until he opened the year flat out dominating at home at Langley. He won 19 races overall and 15 at Langley.
8. The fact ASA is back
It wasn’t all smooth sailing in the first year of the ASA STARS series but it never was going to be. A lot of credit has to be given to Track Enterprises for putting all the pieces together to even try to build a true national touring championship. For that, they get a lot of patience in perfecting the formula for 2024.
7. Bubba, Roderick and the double
It was ultimately a moot point because Cordele was rained out but it was great theater watching Bubba Pollard with James Finch and Casey Roderick with Anthony Campi trying to one-up each other to each participate in two races on one night also at Mobile. From doing the double to renting faster planes, both parties egged each other in after the incident at Pensacola in the ASA opener.
6. Winchester 400 finish
The explosive way the Winchester 400 ended with Gio Ruggiero fencing Stephen Nasse was secondary to the theatrics that followed. Jeff Nasse was launched into the air when he ran on track and was hit by a Ruggiero burnout. Stephen tried to fight Gio and someone slashed the Wilson Motorsports haulers tires. There were penalties issued and both parties moved on.
5. Huffmans, Crums and Hickory
It was brewing for years and finally boiled over when Annabeth Barnes-Crum intentionally crashed Landon Huffman for a prior on track ordeal at the same time as her husband, Jake, initiated an conflict with Rob Huffman on the spotter stand. The whole thing resulted in Jake Crum’s NASCAR suspension and mutual and eventually dropped litigation by all parties involved.
4. CARS Tour owners revealed
While the news was known for moths that Jack McNelly had sold CARS Tour to Dale Jr and a consortium, that group wasnt formally made public until January. The addition of Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Justin Marks to Earnhardt gave a series that was already in a healthy place a huge boost and gave it a degree of mainstream attention.
3. Bubba, Roderick and the ASA debut
The debut ASA STARS National Tour race was a messy, crash filled affair ultimately decided by Casey Roderick spinning leader Bubba Pollard and not getting penalized for it. Roderick won and Pollard took matters into his own hands by fighting Roderick in the technical inspection shed.
2. Thanksgiving Classic finish
The final 25 laps of the annual Late Model Stock finale at Southern National was a snapshot of everything great about the discipline. Brenden Queen, Josh Berry and Kaden Honeycutt in an absolute slugfest where no one crashed.
1. The Derby finish
— Racing America (@RacingAmerica) December 3, 2023
It was the latest chapter in a storied book of racing history between Bubba Pollard, Stephen Nasse and the race they both keep finding dramatic ways to lose. They crashed, in polarizing fashion, and Ty Majeski capitalized to win his second Tom Dawson Trophy.