Kerry Bodenhamer has seen Late Model Stock racing change drastically over the past several decades.
As a former driver and president of the UARA STARS Late Model Series, Bodenhamer never envisioned that there would be an event that honored stock car racing heritage at both the national and local level, and he also didn’t expect to be honored at such an event.
The CARS Tour selected Bodenhamer as one of the six living legends to be honored as part of the pre-race festivities before the Throwback 276 on Saturday at Hickory Motor Speedway. It’s an event that Bodenhamer believes is one of the best things going about the discipline today.
“I think Jack [McNelly’s] done a great job with the series,” Bodenhamer said. “This is a tough business to be in right now and we were blessed to have a lot of great people UARA. Jack has been doing some really good things and [the Throwback 276] is proof of that.”
Aside from technological advances, Bodenhamer sees many similarities between the CARS Tour and the UARA, particularly when it comes to scheduling and driver development.
When Bodenhamer formed the UARA back in 2001, he wanted to model a division like the NASCAR Xfinity Series of the 1980s and 1990s by giving drivers a diverse set of venues to compete at, which ranged from short tracks like Newport Speedway to major facilities like Rockingham Speedway.
One of the main aspects Bodenhamer enjoyed the most about UARA was watching young drivers like Bubba Wallace, Matt DiBenedetto and Corey LaJoie acquire the maturity necessary to win races and advance their careers all the way to the NASCAR Cup Series.
Bodenhamer added that there is no shortage of talent in the CARS Tour’s Late Model Stock division, with drivers like Josh Berry, Corey Heim and Layne Riggs all having made a name for themselves since the series’ inception in 2015.
What frustrates Bodenhamer about the current era of Late Model Stock racing is that money is now a far bigger dictator in deciding which drivers have the opportunity to race on Sundays.
“Money is good for the sport and racers are the worst thing in the world for the sport,” Bodenhamer said. “If it’s lunch money or race money, you’re going to spend it on the car. Every driver out here is fighting for one of those spots in the Cup Series. However, you used to get there on talent but now you have to have a big check to go with your talent.”
Bodenhamer believes that the need for teams to spend more money and keep up with the latest advancements in technology are pricing many people out of the sport and simultaneously hindering the development of young prospects.
The arrival of the Next Gen car in the Cup Series for 2022 is something that Bodenhamer hopes sets a precedent for Late Model Stock programs in regards to finances but said that more wholesale changes might be needed before that becomes a reality.
While Bodenhamer does not know what exactly can be done to mitigate the funding issues, he said that there are still many positive developments ongoing in Late Model Stock racing like the Throwback 276, which ended up attracting 29 cars.
With challenges like the tire shortage and the COVID-19 pandemic also facing the industry, Bodenhamer said that responsibility falls onto tracks and organizations like the CARS Tour to take care of drivers and fans in order to mirror the atmosphere he experienced while racing himself in the 1970s.
“We’ve got a lot of good, quality teams here in Late Model Stock racing today,” Bodenhamer said. “There are also a lot of loyal fans that are still coming out to these races, which is a great sign.”
Bodenhamer anticipates many more changes coming to Late Model Stocks during the 2020s but plans to keep supporting all of the tracks in the region along with the drivers that one day hope to race at NASCAR’s top level.