Champions Charge Ahead Again in 2009
Some past champions soar while others have their work cut out for them.
(Bowman Gray Stadium, Winston-Salem, NC) At the beginning of every season, fans naturally look to the previous year’s champions to perform strongly yet again. The champions may feel the burden of meeting their own high expectations, but the new season also brings another opportunity to shine in the spotlight.
In the Farm Bureau Insurance Modified Series, 2008 Champion Tim Brown picked up right where he left off. Although he qualified fifth for the Tucson 200, he fought his way to the front and claimed the checkered for the season-opening 200-lapper. “That’s the best race car I’ve ever sat my butt in at Bowman Gray. It was awesome.,” said Brown. “We started the season off really good and now we just got to keep this momentum going.”
Other championship contenders didn’t fare so well. 2007 Champion Burt Myers ended his race early due to mechanical problems, finishing 18th. Junior Miller, the 2006 Champion, encountered trouble with his car during the opening parade laps and didn’t even take the green flag.
But before Brown can get too confident or before Myers and Miller give up on their season, the 1995 season of Robert Jeffreys may prove to be worth remembering. Jeffreys was the champion in 1994, but started his 1995 season off in horrible condition. For the first three races of 1995, Jeffreys finished 20th, 17th, and 13th – putting him at 18th in the points. Jeffreys never gave up, charging his way back into the race for champion and eventually taking the Modified crown for that season.
Ronnie Clifton in the Webb Heating & A/C Co. Sportsman Series is another driver that is determined not to give up. Clifton has the unprecedented honor of being the champion of the Sportsman Division for each of the last seven years.
Clifton’s year had a rocky start though. He switched from the V8 “crate” motor that he raced with last year, instead opting for the 6-cylinder style of engine that he competed with for many seasons before the V8. In order to balance the motor types, which run together in the Sportsman Division, cars running the 6-cylinder engines will receive a 200 lb. weight break – hence the reason that Clifton went back to the 6-cylinder engine.
Unfortunately, the notoriously fickle 6-cylinder motors reminded Clifton why so many competitors have made the switch to the V8’s – motor problems took him out of the race early. Clifton ended up finishing 23rd.
“We’ve come back before,” said Clifton about his determination to keep racing as hard as he can. “We aren’t going to quit. We never have, and we’re not going to start now.”
Last year’s champion in the 104.1 WTQR Street Stock Series also had his share of mechanical problems on Saturday. Ryan Nelson and his crew had worked tirelessly doing last minute tuning and damage control to his #31 Street Stock car. But in practice before the Saturday race, more problems sprung up.
In a stroke of good luck, Nelson drew the pole as his starting position. In a stroke of bad luck, he wasn’t able to start on the pole since he was racing with a broken ratchet spring. Nelson elected to start in the rear, but was able to climb his way up to an impressive 9th place finish.
In the Time Warner Cable Stadium Stock Series, 2008 Champion Johnny Burke finished 21st. However, 2006 Champion A.J. Sanders and 2007 Champion Michael Wells each started their year off strongly by winning on Saturday.
The points races continue this Saturday night at Bowman Gray Stadium with Camping World One Dollar Ladies’ Night, where all female fans get to see the racing action for only a buck. There will be racing for all four divisions plus a 109 U-Pull-It Demolition Derby. Ticket gates open at 6:00 for practice, qualifying begins at 7:20, and the first race begins at 8:00 PM. Ticket prices, directions, and more information can be found online at www.bowmangrayracing.com or by calling (336) 723-1819.