You can’t do everything… Right…?

It’s as much a coin toss as it is a measured batch of variables to select a track event for a race fan to visit. Time, distance and an interesting touring series may swing the scales.

Such was the case for Franklin County Speedway and the Grand National Super Series. The track is close and the series is one I’ve not checked out before. Similar in style to the CARS Tour, the GNSS hosts top tier late model stock cars with and drivers that bring skill and experience from the region covered by the racing schedule.

Twin 50 lap races for the Grand Nationals were set with dual Legends and Stock4 races. A Mini Stock was thrown in to split the twins.

This was also a chance to catch up with the ongoing changes and upgrades at Franklin County Speedway and get a look ahead for the upcoming SMART Modified visit on May 24. The schedule into the Summer and rest of the year is quite full for this little track that continues to bring good racing out back in those moonshine hills.

For the night of May 11, the racing was lively, a little wet or a minute and gave fans some “on the wall” excitement. The Grand Nationals and the Mini Stocks had red flag cautions with some wall contacts that brought the crowd to their feet. The Stock4 group had some hard chasing and final laps lead changes with big cheers over the engine noise. The Legends had double race wins from chasing the pole for the pass and twin top 3 results.

Despite the mid-event rain that paused the action the night at Franklin County brought the show that keeps this track on the map. Top three results are below.

Grand National Super Series (Father and son trade wins)
Race 1: Isaac Kitzmiller, Jason Kitzmiller, AJ Henrikson
Race 2: Jason Kitzmiller, AJ Henrikson, Isaac Kitzmiller

Race 1: Keyshaun Claytor, John Hinchee, Austin Gulliams
Race 2: Wes Givens, Jaden Austin, Gary Smith

Race 1: Chris Lilly, Daniel Silvestri, Ethan Trunell
Race 2: Chris Lilly, Daniel Silvestri, Ethan Trunell

Mini Stocks
Dennis Holdren, Scott Foley, Jeff Martin

GALLERY – Boone Tractor Mothers Day Special at Franklin County Speedway

There were 400 laps to make it work at Martinsville and the #24 driver, William Byron, took the lead with less than 90 remaining. A late caution pushed to overtime and a Chase Elliott charge but Byron came around to take the win and his second Martinsville Speedway Victory Clock.

The Hendrick drivers began a pit sequence with the #24 team making a call to come in first as the third quarter of the race was approaching. Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott came in a lap later and were there challenging at the finish but could not hold Byron in the Cook Out 400.

Denny Hamlin, fresh off the Richmond win, was leading before his pit 2 laps later than Byron. He may have had some juice for the Hendrick drivers but John Hunter Nemechek was caught up in a caution that pushed the race to overtime. The #11 came in for new tires but was stacked back in 10th on the restart to finish just out of the top 10.

The day gave Byron a series lead with 3 season wins. It was also a 1-2-3 finish for owner Rick Hendrick on a 40th anniversary of a first NASCAR win. (The first Hendrick win was also at Martinsville with Geoff Bodine in 1984) Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott were 2nd and 3rd. Bubba Wallace and 2023 series champion Ryan Blaney filled the top 5

Thanks to DoS Images for race photo coverage at Martinsville Speedway!

It is possible that NASCAR and Easter may be an egg in the basket too far. A handful of races were run on Easter in the “early days” of the series from 1953 to 1989. Then for over 30 years Easter marked a Spring break for the season. The dirt races at Bristol put Easter back in the mix and, this year (2024), the date caught up with Richmond Raceway.

Easter may have been a hard sell for NASCAR and Richmond. The start time was set as an evening race but it still pulls at holiday family time and the reality of Monday “back to work” for many whose jobs do not offer the Monday off.

The novelty of the dirt surface at Bristol may have put enough interest on the race to overcome chocolate bunnies and “traditional” family gatherings but Richmond did not have novelty or dirt. The rumblings are in the background of the possibility of losing a double race schedule. It is unfortunate that Richmond has been caught in a scheduling battle. It wasn’t long ago that Richmond was a focal point for early season racing and a “CHASE” finale with the Championship contenders put in place.

For the Toyota Owners 400, the race ran “mostly smoothly” after a mostly cloudy day had rain earlier that challenged the scheduled start. NASCAR pushed the green flag a few minutes and started the field on Goodyear rain tires. A competition caution pulled the field at lap 30 to swap back to standard racing tires. A couple of cautions outside of stage finishes allowed some shakeup but it was the final caution that pushed the race to overtime that brought the heat.

Martin Truex Jr was out in front when the final caution and restart shook it up for the finish. The restart had team mates Truex and Hamlin on the front row. Hamlin took an early nose out for rounding the first turn and kept the lead to the finish. Truex fell back to fourth. Joey Logano and Kyle Larson were second and third with Chase Elliott rounding the top five.

This was Hamlin’s second win of the season and his fifth Cup win at his “home track” in Virginia. Martin Truex Jr had some issue at the conclusion with his team mate and tactics on the restart but NASCAR did not issue any penalty for what could have been an early hit on the throttle.

Race photos supplied by DoS Images

Was it the weather? Did 24 hours alter the course of the race at all? The finish was a surprise for fans as much as for the winner in the SMART Modified feature for URW Community Federal Credit Union Race Day at South Boston Speedway.

The day was supposed to be Saturday. A wet forecast several days earlier that gave every impression it would be a soaker into the afternoon forced the hand of the speedway and the series to push it to Sunday.

Of course the rain was over by 11:00AM… But that did not change the decision that was, in all respects, correct for the circumstance. Race day was Sunday with blue skies and slightly chilled temperatures for all but about 38 minutes around 3:51PM or so when the sun pushed the thermometer into almost, but not quite, warmer.

The crowd, however, came in and filled in for a very hot show. Late Models were set as the opener with a season shakedown race of 100 laps. The official track opener comes up April 13 with Danville Toyota Weekly Series Opening Night. The Hornets ran their laps with the sound that gave them the name. Those little engines are running at the limit with no muffler and sound like something small and flying angry. The SMART Modified teams and drivers just sat back and watched the others run their lines while looking for an angle that might work.

The Late Models: Local track champion Peyton Sellers was on tap with other drivers familiar to SoBo and were joined by “visiting” challengers such as Mike Looney and Kyle Dudley. Dudley, Looney and a few others were taking on South Boston as their usual track (Motor Mile / Pulaski County) was shut down for 2024.

The Late Model opener was won by Craig Moore who had taken the lead from Trevor Ward a little over half way into the race. Ward took a spin from the position going into turn 3 and finished ninth. Moore has won at SoBo before in a CARS Tour event and took a borrowed car (from Jay Fogleman) to Victory Lane this time around. Mike Looney came across second, Blake Stallings finished third, veteran racer Stacy Puryear finished fourth, and Kyle Dudley filled the top five finishers.

The winner of 20 lap run of the Virginia State Police HEAT Hornets managed to navigate 5 cautions and keep the lead. Cameron Goble lead the field from the start to the checkered flag with Jason DeCarlo coming across in the second slot. Chris Barrett, Steven Layne and Jordaine Penick completed the top five.

NASCAR veteran Ryan Newman joined SMART and Whelen veterans such as Brandon Ward, Burt Myers, Doug Coby and Matt Hirschman and more to challenge and come away as the “King Of The Modifieds”. The winner of this race, likely to be annual event, came away with $20,000. The runner-up pulled a respectable $10,000 prize.

17 year old Luke Baldwin drove his Sadler-Stanley Racing Pace-O-Matic #7VA into Victory Lane and the “King” spot. He took the re-start lead with 26 to go and held the spot to the end. Matt Hirschman had a front running car but was caught in track incidents that cost him position and speed. The late race caution halted the race as Hirschman misjudged a corner and put several cars in jeopardy. He still managed to hang on for the second spot. Doug finished third, Jonathan Cash ran fourth and Anthony Bello took the fifth position.

Crash incidents took out Ryan Newman, Woody Pitkat and Jake Crum in the race with 6 running cautions and 2 red flag stops.

The SMART Modified race at South Boston is one of two modified events in a week in Virginia. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour comes up the next Friday at Richmond Raceway.

PHOTOS – URW Community Federal Credit Union Race Day at South Boston Speedway

It is part of the awakening of the racing season. Tracks are opening their paddocks to practices and going over the final details to open and host races and fans. It’s a fairly rapid move northward from the traditional Daytona / IMSA / NASCAR waving of the green flag. Car clubs like NASA take advantage of the early season here in Virginia and get on track in March at Virginia International Raceway.

The National Auto Sport Association took over for St. Patrick’s weekend at VIR. They joined ChampCar and SCCA for a bit of “March Madness”. Porsche Club “Zone 2” and Vintage Drivers are also taking runs at VIR for March. SCCA ran a prelude to their spectator event in April (SCCA Super Tour, April 5-7). For NASA, the March event was a taste for the upcoming Haltech Hyperfest which is a premiere car party on multiple fronts.

Hyperfest combines a car show, drifting, multi-class racing, nightlife and more in a multi-day and practically non-stop automotive spectacle. For the March NASA gathering, several groups of racing and driver classes took the full course to task and speed. Dedicated garage racers, track cars and street drivers practiced, raced and worked the skills of racing and pack driving.

The facility at Virginia International Raceway has history and top of class events for racing fans. It is also busy on just about every weekend with clubs, driving classes and more. Car and Driver runs a full car comparison here. Multiple series of organized racing hold closed course events. From the Kart track to the police and agency tactical training, VIR has created a multi-level and world class facility for motorsport and vehicle driver training.

Hyperfest is a party on four (or more or less) wheels. The event calendar for spectators at VIR offers a wide variety and wider views. For NASA, Hyperfest is a jewel on the calendar. For fans, it’s a ticket to ride!

Join NASA at VIR for Hyperfest. There is something for every motorsport fan.

NASA March Madness at VIR Photos – March 16-17, 2024

Racing comes in a lot of varieties and cost levels. The shoestring teams that struggle along with a dream and a whim are on the same platform as the deep pockets and the long history. It is that mix of history, ambition and hope that blend like asphalt and concrete at the iconic Martinsville Speedway.

Kaulig Racing started with a conversation, an invitation and a checking account. Deep pockets with a desire to race mixed with some experience and some spare parts to put cars on the track and begin to mix it up.

Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell shared a discussion of memory and anecdotes with Kaulig’s President Chris Rice with driver Josh Williams in the center offering a fresh look from behind the wheel. Students in the motorsports program at Patrick & Henry Community College were on hand for a Q&A on the core of the work that makes it all happen week in and week out.

Campbell spoke on working at the track, for the track and with his family from his grandfather H. Clay Earles, founder of the Martinsville Speedway. Clay has been there behind the bleachers, in the trenches and on the front lines. He’s raced, he’s won and he has put all of this experience together to keep Martinsville as a highlight for racing fans on the NASCAR schedule. He continues to be inspired and grateful for the fans that fill the stands on race day.

Chris Rice of Kaulig Racing spoke on the importance of detail and the work of those details. Work smart and stay focused. He had a love of the sport from early on but he was clear on his distractions of the sport that delayed his progress. Stories of racing included a post race tear down, improper cylinder heads and being completely unaware of what the issue was, or why it was an issue in the first place. That particular post race inspection was at Martinsville and it was Clay Campbell backing up the inspection with the rule book.

Driver Josh Williams expressed his appreciation for having the opportunity to drive with Kaulig Racing and a bit about his racing history from Florida on up through the ranks. Him and Rice traded some quips about discipline and training and, for the students there, offered up further advice on being focused. There was a definite hint that luck follows dedication.

Kaulig Racing is a young team taking bits and pieces from retired shops, backup cars and advice or help when offered. They have seen some success and they have had it dashed so their expectations are tempered by the reality of the moment. They remain optimistic each and every day to chase the wins and the success as they roll further into the season.

Racing at Richmond Raceway and Martinsville Speedway is on their radar as those dates come closer. Check them out on race day and you might just have another favorite to pull for.

Daytona opens the national racing season for the new year. IMSA and the ROLEX 24 and the Daytona 500 for NASCAR are big, traditional markers as calendars start to open for racing on tracks across the Country. National series and local short tracks are getting the off season turned on for the new season.

Locally, where I am in Virginia, the MDA Car Show opens the season for so many “car” options around SW Virginia (all over Virginia, but I’m in Roanoke). There are more shows coming up and some even have coffee available! Racing, of course, is on the doorstep. NASCAR is just weeks away at Richmond Raceway and Martinsville Speedway. South Boston has the SMART Mods as an opener. Franklin County Speedway has a season opener coming up. Virginia International Raceway has their season on tap. Natural Bridge Speedway also has practices coming up and racing on for April.

My plans are a bit different for early season events than has been the norm for previous years and schedules. I am checking NASA club racing at VIR and the SMART run at SoBo for March. However, NASCAR at Richmond and Martinsville are in a “conflict zone”. It’s covered. A very knowledgeable photographer has my back for keeping Missed Gear in the game.

The wife and I have a major trip on and it was set before the NASCAR schedule was finalized. In short, we’re going to Wales in the UK. Now, as it is that I’m missing two of the signature events I enjoy, I’ve convinced the best half to do something a bit more “carry” once we get there. We are doing a “Grand Tour”, such as it is…

From Heathrow in London, we will proceed in a standard issue rental car to Stonehenge. We will “Oooh and Aaaah” at old rocks and then proceed to the Royal Oak (Swallowcliffe) for the overnight stay and, hopefully, some dinner and a gin & tonic. The next day is travel north to Diddly Squat Farm. I’m not even sure the shop will be open but, if so, we’ll stop and get some provisions. We may stay over in town or drive on but the next stop is west at a car shop known as The Smallest Cog.

Yes… Somehow I’ve convinced the woman who planned the trip to take the first few days to visit the business locations of James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond who, of course, are the famed “Top Gear” and “Grand Tour” trio. Will I meet any of them…? Odds are likely not as there really hasn’t been any advance contact. It would be a fascinating bonus to meet them and compare some notes and stories but, as they say, I’m not holding my breath.

But who knows…?

Here in Virginia, racing is going green. Car shows are gathering. The season is turning and events are there. Support the shows. Support the tracks. It is appreciated. Go driving, Virginia!