Big changes for IMSA and the Rolex 24 are on the grid for 2023. However, unless you are a race fan or “car person” or otherwise involved in motorsport, you might never know. Regular television and their newcasts don’t seem to mention the Rolex or the scale of the race at Daytona as an opening of American racing for the new year. All eyes continue to follow the NFL and the season games leading to the Superbowl.

Now… We’re not saying that the Superbowl is not a big thing. It’s just that a mention or some
“B roll” of the pit area under a voice-over acknowledging that there is an event in Daytona would be appreciated. The number of points of interest create a few good angles to pursue for even a basic preview. After all… Twenty-four hour endurance races don’t happen every day…

For example, the return of the GTP class as the upper end prototype moving into 2023 which replaces the “Daytona Prototype” is a pretty big deal. The “Grand Touring Prototypes” feature Le Mans Daytona hybrids and Le Mans Hypercars allowing manufacturers to showcase and build upon hybrid technology while racing with improved performance. The GTP class was king of the road back in the 1980s into the 90s and the return with new tech should be something to watch into this new season.

GTP then (left) and GTP new for 2023 (right)

Another angle, perhaps, are the drivers and teams running with mixed backgrounds of open wheel and sports car racing. The location, Daytona, also presents the story line as a motorsport focus for the good part of a month. The “Roar”, the Rolex, The NASCAR Duels and the Daytona 500 put Daytona on the international map as a focal point of speed.

For car fans there are even more bits to look at. A large field and variety for this year means more action on the track and more emphasis on manufacturers mixed with driver skill and team performance. Mix that with the racing in the Michelin Pilot Challenge and the manufacturer mix is expanded even further.

Perhaps, a sideways glance with a dash of humor could entice some mention in prime time news. Porsche is having a time with the current race package and the Balance of Performance rules. The new 992-type 911 GT3 R entries are not running with the rest of the pack very well. They are easily 2 to 3 seconds off the pace. After the “Roar” practices and shakedowns, the IMSA ruling on BoP did not offer bump for Porsche. Their confidence, however, in the machine and the teams seems to be holding as they look for performance during the Rolex.

Football seems to be king this time of year. All we are saying is… “Hey… Over here..! There are some things happening that might have some interest to your viewers… “

Coverage is on NBC, USA and Peacock for the Rolex 24.
Andy Blackmore Design also has the 2023 Rolex 24 Spotter’s Guide available. This is a race fan “must have” for keeping track of who is who in what out on the track!

There is a lot of racing coming up. Here in Virginia, the Rolex 24 has a lot of connections. The GTD Pro / GTD classes will be racing at Virginia International Raceway later on. Some of these drivers (Hélio Castroneves confirmed) could show up at Motor Mile Speedway for the SRX event later this year. As a lead in to NASCAR, Virginia is to host quite a bit of action.

Put the football down and go racing!

Virginia racing in 2022 raised the bar a bit. There was quite a bit of attention on some profile events. NASCAR, for example, ran up some winning numbers.

Denny Hamlin had his first 2022 win at Richmond in April. Kevin Harvick rolled his second win there in August. Both of these drivers had 2 wins which put both in the playoffs.

William Byron also had 2 wins and a playoff bid with Martinsville hosting one of those in April. The playoff elimination race at Martinsville was also one for the books. Up to the final laps, the race was really conservative. Drivers and teams played the race with caution rather than charge and risk equipment or place. The late laps developed into more of a race but it was Ross Chastain that made the move to be remembered. Running on the outside with his foot on the floor, he drove the wall of turn 3 and 4, literally, to hold speed and pass Hamlin to make run at the “final 4”.

Late Model racing also came down to the wire for the championship. The NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series came down to some controversy and tight racing at Motor Mile and Dominion Raceway. Virginia was the focus from the western to the eastern part of the state. Defending Champ Peyton Sellers and Layne Riggs were separated by just a few points. The Motor Mile races ran hot with Sellers in a borrowed car for the wins. Those races were later held out and the Dominion races pushed the points with Riggs on top by 4. Riggs was now the youngest champion. The previous one to hold that distinction was Sellers.

Another big score for Virginia was the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) running at South Boston. Drivers from across the spectrum settled in for national TV network racing showcasing the track and the southside Virginia region. NASCAR and IndyCar stars such as Tony Stewart and Ryan Hunter-Reay were just a couple of highlight drivers running on the historic South Boston asphalt.

Virginia International Raceway has been a national showcase for the state with nothing but growth and support from IMSA (ROLEX 24 level of racing here in VA), Grand-Am, F3/F4 and more. VIR has been consistent with fans and drivers.

Dirt tracks certainly had a good showing with Virginia racing. There is good support from the east at Virginia Motor Speedway to to the west at Wythe Raceway. Winchester in the north to Natural Bridge in south central ran weekly with a good show variety.

Drag racing even had a national return as Virginia Motorsports Park added NHRA Nationals to their busy 2022 schedule.

The result is a strong racing foundation in Virginia grass roots and fan support. For 2023, we’re hoping these events keep the energy high. NASCAR, of course, has 4 appearances (6, if you count Bristol on the Tennessee side) split at Richmond and Martinsville. NHRA may be skipping VMP in 2023 but there will be plenty of other big series running the lights. The SRX series is also back in Virginia with a spot on the Motor Mile schedule! IMSA, SRO and Hyperfest are just some of the returning events for VIR.

Strap in, Virginia… Racing is coming in hot!

Martinsville Speedway has earned a reputation as a “Half Mile of Mayhem”. For NASCAR elimination weekend of October 27-30, 2022 it was maybe just a bit of “trick or treat” for racing mayhem on the track that has so much history.

Let’s be fair. Racing in NASCAR has evolved. The build of the cars, the technology, the safety, the money… It is all a floating combination held together by loose tension and respect that resonates around the garage from track to track. For October of 2022, the setting was there for a “perfect storm” of pushing, rubbing, tapping and all of the tension that puts “mayhem” in Martinsville.

It wasn’t there. Well… It was… A bit. The tension lingered in the background as fans and teams seemed to be expecting something to happen. Halloween weekend as it may have been but the feeling of walking through a “haunted house” expecting a zombie at any moment was a bit how it felt to be at Martinsville.

Everyone expects short track racing to be a slasher film with wrecks and crashes but this weekend at Martinsville, all three races turned out to be more like a suspense thriller. The laps added up. The pressure increased. There may have been a spin or a flat that brought the yellow that released some of the tension. The green dropped and it pushed back up again.

It was this way for all three races. The modified race stacked up and drove over in turn 3 as the white flag waved to checkers. Wheel touches launched one over the other setting the finish win for Corey LaJoie (also racing in the NASCAR Cup series). The turn 3 crash also was also not enough to keep the season championship from points leader Jon McKennedy. The celebration also included the car owner points leader, Tommy Baldwin Racing.

PHOTO GALLERY – NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED – VIRGINIA IS FOR RACING LOVERS 200

The Xfinity series racked up just a bit more. Minor cautions mixed with stages kept a lid on it up until the last 50 laps or so. Stage 1 and 2 traded wins with Brandon Jones and Ty Gibbs. A bunch up in turn 4 at lap 220 caught many and bent up some cars. Another contact at lap 234 put Allmendinger back with damage. A 3 wide attempt set the field for overtime.

The final laps were repeated attempts at green, white, checkers. It was a boiling point on the track as Ty Gibbs walled team mate Brandon Jones setting up a win. Gibbs crossed the line as race fans let him have it with rounding of jeers. During presentations, Ty Gibbs did a “WTF did we just see” kind of thing as he doused the famous Martinsville grandfather clock trophy with Monster energy drink.
The Xfinity series “Championship 4” were set with Noah Gragson, Ty Gibbs, Josh Berry and Justin Allgaier.

PHOTO GALLERY – NASCAR XFINITY SERIES – DEAD ON TOOLS 250

The jeers continued for Ty Gibbs during introductions for Sunday and the NASCAR Cup Xfinity 500. It was something as it pushed the audio displaeasure for Bubba Wallace (after a suspension for wrecking and fighting Kyle Larson) to the back burner. That is how compressed the weekend finale had gotten by race time.

The Cup race ran mostly incident free. There were a few cautions outside of stage finishes but no real “mayhem”. There was certainly less aggression than the day before. However, the sold out crowd was on edge waiting for something to happen. Their patience paid off…

With a championship position on the line, there was a lot of pressure to race and stay in the race. There were some bumps and position changes but clean racing seemed to be the show. It was that same pressure of the championship that made a last lap move come out of desperation.

Christopher Bell made it by Chase Briscoe for the lead coming out of turn 4 and across with 4 laps to go. Denny Hamlin also got by Briscoe placing the #11 a spot or two above the championship bubble. It was the last lap and it looked all but locked as Bell crossed with the win. Hamlin was in a good spot to advance. That is when Ross Chastain, also in the hunt but behind Hamlin, made a bold move that caught everyone off guard.

Denny Hamlin made the entrance to turn 3 as Chastain was accerlerating out of turn 2. Hamlin was 2 seconds and change in front of Chastain. However, has Hamlin was diving on the brakes to enter turn 3, Chastain was on the gas and shifting into the higher range. As Hamlin was accelerating out of turn four towards the checkers, Chastain was still on the gas and on the wall moving forward like a rocket using the right side of the #1 as a groove to hold on. Chastain came to the line, pushing Brad Keselowski with him, passing Hamlin by a nose to take the position and the championship spot in the advance.

It was brilliant, dangerous, wild, crazy and, by all accounts, should not have worked. Tires could have blown, the catch wall could have given, the car could have bounced and spun, other cars could have been caught up, etc… etc… etc…

But it did work. This time. For that, Ross Chastain joins Christopher Bell, Joey Logano and Chase Elliott for a shot at the 2022 Championship in Phoenix.

PHOTO GALLERY – NASCAR CUP – XFINITY 500

The SMART Modified Tour (Presente by Pace-O-Matic) came down to 99 laps at Motor Mile Speedway. This race was supposed to be leading up to the championship as originally scheduled on October 1st. Weather issues forced a call to postpone so the “Radford 99” became the SMART season finale.

Paul Radford – The Ferrum Flash

The namesake of the race, Paul Radford (winner, driver, modified “legend”) was on hand with one of his cars. He earned the nickname “Ferrum Flash” with a string of wins and races around the region.

Coming into the weekend, the top three in SMART Tour points were Caleb Heady, Bobby Labonte and Brandon Ward. However, it would take a stack of situations to take the championship from Heady. Oddly enough, that almost came into play.

Qualifying put Brandon Ward on the pole. Brian Loftin and Burt Myers qualified into the top three. The drama for Heady was put off a bit as Burt Myers appealed off a one race suspension. That could come back to bite him in the 2023 season as he was allowed in at Motor Mile. That just added to competition for Heady.

It went further off the mark as Heady’s car lost the drive shaft early on and put him in the infield for the remainder of the race. Points were still being counted as race positions changed and the race went forward. Brandon Ward took advantage of team strategy and drove to a repeat series win at Motor Mile. Bobby Labonte drove to fourth but the points still fell in Heady’s favor for the championship. Ward and Labonte finished the season in the second and third slots.

The owner points fell much the same with Caleb Heady’s car owner, Tommy Baldwin Jr, taking the overall. Randy Renfrow (Ward) and Terry Hall (Labonte) shared the same slots as the drivers.

Racing on the modified circuit is not over with the SMART Tour finale. This week, the Whelen Modifieds are in the national spotlight from Martinsville Speedway. The Virginia is for Racing Lovers 200 is set for Thursday evening (Oct 27) as part of the “Final 4” NASCAR Cup elimination weekend at Martinsville.

Radford 99 / SMART Modified Tour Championship – Motor Mile Speedway (Oct 22, 2022)
Photos: Mike Paris / DoS Images

Racing at Virginia International Raceway filled the weekend of October 6-9 with variety and speed. It was a full schedule of vintage style, classic racing and modern speed. The SportsCar Vintage Racing Association encompasses auto club camaraderie and friendly competition at tracks around the country. Practice sessions, class driving, car show and the racing offer something for every auto enthusiast. This was the Mission Foods VIR SpeedTour for 2022!

For our purposes, the winners on the races were not the primary. That information can be found easily enough at the SVRA website. Our focus for the weekend was to celebrate the culture and history of the automobile. Looking over the track during one particular race, for example, the combined group racing features vintage Corvettes and Mustangs, a couple of Datson 280s, a Capri, BMWs of 3 decades, Alpha and more.

Other groups ran MG, Fiat, Alpine and Sprite style sports cars. Classic road racers from different prototype eras were on track. Open wheel F4 and FR/America were going wheel to wheel with a look and style of Formula 1 and INDY Car. The weekend also featured full series racing with International GT featuring Porsche GT3 and Cayman classes and Trans Am / Grand Am styles of super fast muscle cars. There were also mixed big bore racing featuring retired, but still race worthy, NASCAR Cup cars.

The “Cars and Caffeine” car show put classic E-Type Jags next to C8R Corvettes and Minis next to Mustangs. The range in years and styles of classic cars was worth the visit.

Visits to Virginia International Raceway are always a pleasure. The SpeedTour is an expanded combination of what was the “Heacock Classic” with some additional track series. In this age of homogenized styling, this event is, for the car fan, a weekend to connect again with what makes the automobile such a unique part of our world.

The weekend isn’t necessarily about the most elaborate technology or the hybrid/electric moves in the showroom. It is about where the car came from and the sights and sounds that makes them attractive.

The next event at Virginia International Raceway is the annual fund raiser for the Victory Junction Camp for chronically ill children. That is on tap in November and gives everyone the chance to get their own car on the VIR track. It’s a fun visit, a fun car show and fun drive on a historic course for a great cause.

Keep an eye on Virginia International Raceway – The events coming for 2023 will, again, cover a wide range of motorsport. This is an automotive destination. The racing experience is open, large and much more available than oval track stadium settings.

PHOTO GALLERY – Mission Foods VIR SpedTour 2022 – Friday to Sunday

To quote Inigo Montoya on the bridge in “The Princess Bride” with Westley (Man in Black) and Fezzik…
“Let me explain……. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”
The racing at Martinsville Speedway always has angles. This year, the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 put stories on the board like yarn stretched between clues on an old detective’s wall…

Going into the weekend it was a point to point pull on national points which, apparently, fell to an official NASCAR audit of season races, licenses and car counts. At the end of the mathematical juggling, the defending NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Champion was not the new Champion for 2022. That fell to Layne Riggs who won out over Peyton Sellers by single digits. Sellers is a two time Champion and was the youngest to win it at age 21 in 2005. That “youngest” now goes to Riggs at age 20.

Peyton Sellers, however, may have used the disappointment on the championship as motivation for Martinsville as he ran up front giving challenge to Mike Looney for the first stages of racing. Looney won the first two stages but Sellers was right there and ready to challenge. The late race restarts saw Sellers take and hold the lead all the way to the checkers. The win also snagged the “Virginia Triple Crown” of late model points between South Boston, Langley and Martinsville. Combined, Sellers came away with a payday for the team and a Martinsville Grandfather Clock. The clock, Peyton says, is going to long time sponsor, Clarence’s Steak House.

There was also the little incident from the heat races that went socially viral. Andrew Grady made his way to Davey Callihan’s car while others were still coming in from the first heat. Grady went “Mike Tyson” on Callihan through the window net and had to be pulled and carried away. The unfortunate side effect of the on track shuffle may have been the race day hopes of a young racer who has been making some late model waves. Katie Hettinger was caught up and her bruised #71 did not advance to the main event. The bouncing of Grady and Callihan on track likely put a dent or two on Hettinger’s Chevy in the on track hustle.

There were a number of younger drivers making a show at this 300. Katie Hettinger is 15. Rajah Carruth, Mini Tyrrell and Jessica Cann are some other younger faces making waves and entries trying to shine at Martinsville. The defending winner of the event last year, Landon Pembleton, was running well but engine trouble put him further back. These young guns were racing with veterans like Peyton Sellers, Timothy Peters, Mike Looney, Stacy Puryear and others. The changing of the guard was in plain view at Martinsville.

Beyond the racing for this year, there was more news on the future of this event. Martinsville Speedway and ValleyStar Credit Union announced the sponsor partnership will continue forward. The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 will continue to be the third jewel of the “Virginia Late Model Triple Crown”.

For this year, the top five were Peyton Sellers, Carson Kvapil, Jacob Heafner, Mike Looney, Kaden Honeycutt.
Mike Looney took home the prize as winner of stages one and two.
Bobby McCarty won the qualifying pole award.
The “Triple Crown” results: Peyton Sellers, Jared Fryar, Mason Diaz

Photo Gallery – ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway

Late season racing is running up on tracks all over with local and national points on the rack. South Boston Speedway had already run their championship with Layne Riggs edging Peyton Sellers for the track title. Sellers had actually won the two SoBo races that night but Riggs finished close enough to hold the lead in points. The national lead had been cut, however, as Sellers was now 4 points off in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series championship. It’s a title Sellers is defending…

CMC Supply Championship Night at Motor Mile Speedway was put off by rain from 9/10. There was already a big Monster Truck / Destruction Tour set for the 17th so they ran Friday the 16th. This little bit of scheduling opened the door for some drama. Riggs and Sellers were already going to run the 17th at Dominion Raceway for the last shot at those national points. With racing on for the Friday night before at Motor Mile, it opened the door for another shot to accumulate some points. Let the drama begin…

It was still championship night for Motor Mile regulars even if there were visitors pulling a national points train with them. The train, it seems, turned out get slightly derailed.

But first… Championship Night. The disruption in the late model chase may, or may not, have put ripples in the local contest. Mike Looney held the slight edge over Kyle Dudley coming into the evening but a spin in race #1 and a park on race 2 allowed Dudley to take 2nd and 3rd place points and the track championship.
Price’s Body Shop Late Model Race 1: Peyton Sellers, Kyle Dudley, Thomas Scott
Price’s Body Shop Late Model Race 2: Peyton Sellers, Cory Dunn, Kyle Dudley
Price’s Body Shop Late Model Track Champion 2022: Kyle Dudley

The other divisions that ran for division track champion are below. There were plenty of drivers in these divisions going for wins so the track action was quite good. The charge for the championship points, however, pushed the drivers up front.
Total Car Care Mod-4s 1st race: Kevin Canter, Jonathan Hall, Tony Sarver
Total Car Care Mod-4 2nd race: Kevin Canter, Tony Sarver, Joe White
Total Car Care Mod-4 Champion 2022: Kevin Canter
Blue Ridge Church U-Car 1st race: Kirby Shipman, Jamie Lafon, Blake Gordon
Blue Ridge Church U-Car 2nd race: Kirby Shipman, Jamie Lafon, Kyle Akers
Blue Ridge Church U-Car Champion 2022: Jamie Lafon
Blue Ridge Church Pure4 1st race: John Ketron, *William Hale, Larry Stapleton
Blue Ridge Church Pure4 2nd race: *William Hale, Larry Stapleton, James Hicks
Blue Ridge Church Pure4 Champion 2022: William Hale

Two other divisions raced but their championships come to a close the night of October 1st. That will be a big night for race fans as it is also SMART Modified night! The Sportsman and the Super Streets will have twin races each with the SMART Mods running a 99 lap charge in the middle. For CMC Supply night on the 16th, the top 3 finishers are below and the *asterisk marks the current points leader.
Collision Plus Sportsman: Kyle Barnes, Drew Bond, *Karl Budzevski
DCT Towing Super Streets: Brent Bell, *Hank Turman, Taylor Ransom
NOTE: Drew Bond may be points out of the championship hunt but his 2nd place was shadowed by his first place ring presentation. He proposed during post race presentations and, if the smiles were any indication, his girlfriend advanced her position to fiancé!)

Drew Bond races to 2nd place / Sportsman – Girlfriend advances to fiancé at Motor Mile Speedway

As for the “out of towners” Sellers and Riggs… The drama seemed to center on another visitor to Motor Mile. He’s a younger driver that has already made waves by winning the ValleyStar 300 at Martinsville Speedway last year. Landon Pembleton was there with his Pembleton Realty #0 Toyota, which just happened to be a car from the Sellers Racing stable. During the earlier practices, Sellers’ #26 Clarence’s Toyota was not delivering. Wrenching and adjustments made little progress. The #0, however, was performing quite well. The two teams and drivers got together, and with so much on the line for Sellers and driver’s points, the decision was made to trade off on the cars. Sellers qualified in, and raced in, the blue #0 Toyota. Pembleton piloted the orange and white #26.

(It should be noted that Landon Pembleton drove an ill performing #26 that is not his usual ride to a 4th and 5th place at an unfamiliar race track. He will be one to watch as a defending winner at the upcoming ValleyStar 300 at Martinsville.)

This driver seat switch did not sit well with some… Layne Riggs was so put off he parked before the green flag during the warming laps of the late model race 2. Mike Looney may have also parked his #87 before the green for similar reasons. Potentially, he still had a run on the track championship but it is also quite possible the #87 was still down on performance from the first race and a turn 3 – 4 spin. Whatever the reasons, it was enough to drop the required car count for national standings. The first race held, as far as we know. The national NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series points battle would carry over to Saturday at Dominion Raceway.

Peyton Sellers is set to return to Motor Mile Speedway for the big LMSC 200 with $10,000 on the table on October 8th. He’ll have a tough path to win as regulars and visitors will also be there to go for that big pot.

PHOTO GALLERY – Motor Mile Speedway – CMC Supply Championship Night – 9/16/2022