Short-track racing returns to the spotlight this weekend as New Smyrna Speedway kicks off its 54th World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
The nine-night event which features the track’s NASCAR Weekly Racing Series divisions has been a staple of the February race scene since Tom Pistone took home the Late Model crown in 1968. This year, the focus will be on the Super Late Model, Pro Late Model and tour-type Modified divisions among others on the historic half-mile.
The week will also include the season-opening Skip’s Western Outfitters 175 for the ARCA Menards Series East on Monday, Feb. 12.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Last year, it was the familiar No. 11 TM Ranch team in Victory Lane. But it was a new face – albeit a veteran short-track ace – behind the wheel and lifting the Super Late Model championship trophy.
Bubba Pollard filled in for Florida legend David Rogers for the World Series and won three times en route to the week-long crown.
Pollard and Rogers return this year, in different circumstances.
The 64-year-old Rogers will be back in his Super Late Model, while Pollard will give the tour-type Modifieds a shot.
“We’re going to start out that way,” said Rogers about running the full slate of Super Late Model races. “I’m not as strong or as young as I used to be.
“I feel pretty good. Physically, when I get in a race car it’s probably as good as I feel. Adrenaline and everything seems to take over, and you’re concentrating on what you’re doing and not being sick.”
Rogers has won the World Series four times (1987, 1999, 2001 and 2009) and was the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series national champion in 1994. He fought lymphoma last year and returned after 10 months off to race in the Snowball Derby at Florida’s Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola in December, after getting a clean bill of health. He race the Red Eye 50/50 at New Smyrna in January.
The Super Late Model division will will begin racing on Friday and race seven times in total. Their division crown will culminate on Saturday, Feb. 15 with the Orange Blossom 100.
Pro late models will also begin Friday and race seven times, finishing with the Zack Donatti Memorial 100 on Friday, Feb. 14.
Brad May is already on fire, winning the Super Late Model portion of the Red Eye 50/50. He’s the defending and three-time SLM champion at New Smyrna, and enters the World Series as one of the favorites to bring home his first championship after finishing second to Pollard in 2019.
May will have some competition in the form of a few teenagers, including Sammy Smith. Earlier this week, the 15-year-old and Kyle Busch Motorsports announced a 20-race schedule. Last season, Smith won three races en route to the Pro Late Model championship at the World Series. He’ll be joined in the field by a pair of 15-year-olds: Jett Noland and Daniel Dye. Noland finished second to May in the Super Late Model portion of the Red Eye 50/50 and won the Pro Late Model segment. Dye finished third behind May and Noland at the Red Eye 50/50, and is moving up after winning New Smyrna’s season-long Pro Late Model championship last year.
Ty Majeski, who will be running a full NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series slate in 2020, will return to the World Series after a one year absence, piloting a Super Late Model on Tuesday and Saturday. He’s the 2015 Florida Governor’s Cup winner at New Smyrna and 2016 Super Late Model World Series champion.
Pollard, meanwhile, is scheduled to run for NASCAR Cup Series driver and three-time tour-type Modified champion Ryan Preece on at least three nights.
The tour-type Modifieds begin their racing Monday and compete for five consecutive evenings. The John Blewett Memorial 76 (Wednesday, Feb. 12) and Richie Evans Memorial 100 (Friday. Feb. 14) are the premier events on the schedule.
Pollard said the current plan is to run Monday, Tuesday and Friday; if all goes well the first two nights, they may run Wednesday and Thursday.
Preece is also on the tour-type Modified entry list, which has ballooned to 36. It includes past World Series champions Jimmy Blewett (2008) and Matt Hirschman (2018). Chuck Hossfeld retired last year from asphalt Modified racing after adding the 2019 title to the one he won in 2012, opening the door for a new champion to be crowned next week.
Local Pro Trucks, Sportsmans, Florida Modifieds, Super Stocks, Mod Minis, and Bombers make up the other divisions that’ll compete in the Sunshine State, bringing the total cars entered to over 100.