2022 is starting much like 2021. This pandemic thing is still with us and causing all sorts of issues. How those issues play out as the racing season begins to look at green flags is yet to be seen.

However, some of the changes coming to racing within the sport are quite extensive. As January opens, the eyes turn to Daytona and IMSA / WeatherTech. The ROLEX 24 will see some changes in the classes such as GTD Pro instead of GT Le Mans. GT Daytona retains the designation from before. To review the classes and schedule for the upcoming season, check IMSA / WeatherTech online.

Daytona remains in focus, of course, as IMSA rolls out and NASCAR rolls in for the season opener Daytona 500. It is here that 2022 racing will showcase change on a scale unprecedented in NASCAR. The engineering and styling in the move to the 2022 Next Gen car far surpasses the changes that brought in the “Car of Tomorrow” over the familiar late model style. The 2008 CoT brought forth a new focus on driver safety with chassis, seating and cage enhancements. The Gen-6 Cup car that is being retired as of last season brought body shapes closer to manufacturer versions and put other progressions in place such as digital dash panels and more views on safety.

The Next Gen car making its debut in the Cup series is a leap in every way. The styling is meant to further represent manufacturer street versions. The body is now a composite of carbon fiber and plastic instead of sheet metal. Team fabrication shops will be focusing on Xfinity or Camping World series chassis as Cup cars will have a uniform central chassis that is the same for all. The front and rear suspension and drive train are also fairly uniform and bolt on to the common subframe. Independent suspension and rack and pinion steering change up the handling while a 5 speed sequential transmission replaces the 4 speed pattern. Larger brakes mean a step up to larger wheels. 18 inch aluminum wheels with a center axle lug replace the 5 lug steel wheels. This may be the most obvious change to fans as these wheels will look much different than before. The refueling system and wheel changes may resemble the pit stops of the sports cars which just ran a few weeks before at the ROLEX 24. Goodyear Eagles are still the tires on the track but with a wider stance and lower profile than before.

“Next Gen” NASCAR Cup Car new for 2022 – See more at NASCAR.com

Fans should be excited for the new season and the changes. However, hangers on to the past still haunt the sport. Some just can’t get over the wall with the changes that have come along since the death of Dale Earnhardt. They can’t seem to grasp that time and technology have influenced safety and cost beyond the “good old days” and there is no going back. However, NASCAR can and should do a better job of bringing the personalities of the drivers and teams closer to the fans. Many tracks have embraced the concept with expanded access to garages and infield viewing. The fans follow drivers. The drama is not based on the cars but the interaction of the drivers is what pumps the attention of the fans. The tracks that do well have embraced the national aspect of the sport while inviting the local flavor of the fans in the area.

The local short tracks, the ovals from the hard pack dirt to the paved historic starters of the sport, are also gearing up for some performance changes. The fans may not notice but the teams and the drivers have been busy over the “off season” to make sure their cars are up to the match standards set in place for 2022. There are some body allowance rules and some chassis enhancements that will need attention before the first late model green flag drops for 2022. Hopefully, there has been some “catch up” time for the tires to get stocked for the demand. The late season of 2021 had races cancelled and tracks scrambling for tires just to make events on the basic level.

The costs of NASCAR sanctioned late model style racing has been a hurdle for many and low “car counts” at many tracks has been an issue. Fans want a show and 5 cars on track doesn’t really bring it. New rules are trying to address these cost issues but racing is often a money pit that is hard to fill. Tracks are looking at new events and new types of racing to bring in participants and fans. Drivers, tracks, sponsors and fans are facing some challenges but tracks are committed to push on.

INDYCar is putting off major changes to next year. An expanded hybrid engine system is expected. Formula 1 is putting a number of changes in place for 2022. Much like NASCAR, F1 is putting emphasis on competition and expanded safety. Aerodynamic downforce through wing and body shape design should enhance close racing with better stability. Larger wheels and low profile tires should also enhance handling and reduce heat in race conditions. The front wing and nose have a new design and the rear wing has rounded, rolled tips. F1 changes are targeted, like NASCAR, to engage racing from the driver to the fans.

Other series will likely have some changes. NHRA, for example, is expanding some options for engine performance in some of the classes. Rallycross is looking at some format changes to increase competition. Motorcycle racing from superbike to motocross may also make a change or two for the upcoming season but who can tell…? Those 2 wheel racers are a bit off to begin with…

Expectations are high for many. Short tracks, dirt tracks and other small and local racer venues are looking at their own challenges moving into the year. Drivers and teams are digging for sponsors to carry to the tracks but racing will need attendance to thrive. For 2022, racing fans should take a little time and visit the tracks that run every weekend instead of just holding out for the “Big Guns” in the national series to visit a handful of tracks.

Let’s go local. Let’s go racing.

Nobody saw it coming – Not even Landon Pembelton as the crew made the early tire decision to gain position later. Pembleton, a rookie with his first laps at Martinsville Speedway, thought he may have a top 10 but came away with the win in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.

They set the tire change earlier than most which allowed a restart up front at the lap 150 mark following a scheduled full track pit. Race veterans were already having some issues that were keeping their cars from performing at the usual pace. When Pembleton took the lead he mostly took off with it. Other late race cautions gave others a chance at it but they couldn’t pull the #0 of Pembelton off the lead for long. Mike Looney, the 2016 winner, gave it a challenge on the final restart but Pembelton pulled him back for the lead and the win. The 16 year old driver took the checkers with his first run at the historic short track.

For the most part, the race was on for the younger drivers more than seasoned veterans. Daniel Silvestri, a young driver with a CARS Tour win earned the pole from qualifying the night before. Bobby McCarty, a two time CARS Tour champion, was also on the front row. The rest of the drivers had to run the heat races for position on Saturday before the main event.

Veterans like Peyton Sellers and Mike Looney started barely within the top 10. Other long time drivers such as Timothy Peters and Stacy Puryear started mid pack. Philip Morris had terrible luck in his heat race with a tire and crash incident that put him out of the main completely.

For the most part, even with this being the late model return to Martinsville since 2019 and the Covid cancel of 2020, the race was relatively mild for cautions. There were spins and some other contact driving but it seemed to be much less than previous late model contests here.

Sellers was anxious to go for his first ValleyStar 300 win as he was just named the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series National Champion. He has won the “Triple Crown” but hasn’t notched the Martinsville Clock. For the 2021 Triple Crown (combined best finishes at South Boston, Langley and Martinsville), it was front row starter Bobby McCarty taking the honor.

The top 10 finishers for the race at Martinsville: 1-Landon Pembelton 2-Mike Looney 3-Layne Riggs 4-Sammy Smith 5-Jared Fryar 6-Bobby McCarty 7-Jacob Borst 8-Justin Johnson 9-Daniel Silvestri 10-Kaden Honeycutt

Next up for Martinsville Speedway is the NASCAR Cup weekend of October 30-31. Camping World, Xfinity and CUP will all be running before the season finale the following week in Phoenix.

Full Photo Gallery Below – 2021 ValleyStar Credit Union 300

The Late Model racing season is coming to a head this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 will draw drivers and teams from around the region to compete in what is billed as the largest late model race to run. The “Virginia Triple Crown” will take the points from the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 at South Boston and the Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway and push that into the results at Martinsville.

The race returns after the Covid hiatus of 2020 as tracks on the regular season were down across the region. Returning 2019 winner Josh Berry is expected to race carrying a bit of a streak into the weekend. He also won the NASCAR Xfinity race at Martinsville earlier this year.

Peyton Sellers, recently named National Late Model Champion in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series, will also be chasing his first win in the “300”. He has run it many times and has been a repeat “Triple Crown” winner but has not been able to take the checkers on the final lap.

Timothy Peters is another name which is no stranger in winner’s circles. His connection to Martinsville and Southside Virginia racing has put him in the spotlight with NASCAR national series races and is another local favorite that could repeat a win at the VSCU 300.

Bobby McCarty and Ty Gibbs will also be drivers to watch. McCarty has the Thunder Road win and Ty Gibbs is expected to show with experience in ARCA and Xfinity.

Motor Mile Speedway just ran their Champions weekend and drivers Kres VanDyke and Ryan Wilson should be on hand to showcase their skills under the big lights. Other tracks from all around the region should also be represented by fan favorites taking their shot at Martinsille.

Previously, there have been full days of practice at Martinsville a week or so before race weekend. This year the format has been compacted into Friday and Saturday. Friday , the 24th, there will be a 4 hour open practice session before qualifying at 8:00pm Friday night. The top two qualifiers will make the 200 lap main event on Saturday night. The rest will race it out in four 25 lap heat races to make the main. The heat races begin at 3:00pm Saturday with gates open at 12:30pm and track walks / autograph session on track until 2:30pm.

The NASCAR Playoffs are set for Martinsville with Camping World, Xfinity and NASCAR Cup all racing October 30-31st. However, all eyes are on the Late Models under the lights coming up this weekend (September 24-25) for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300.

Track Champion Night at South Boston Speedway brought the season together with the winners on and off the track. The race fans themselves were honored as retiring General Manager Cathy Rice gave them the credit for the success of the track as she thanked them for making her job easier. Rice had announced early on that she would be leaving as GM at the end of the 2021 season. The pre-race events of Danville Toyota Championship Night was the perfect opportunity to honor Cathy Rice with presentations and well deserved awards. However, Cathy made it clear as she thanked everyone for the honors that it was the fans that made South Boston Speedway special.

And, not to worry, she will still be around the track as the new folks take SoBo racing forward. Chase and Carly Brashears will be taking the track into 2022 and beyond. With Mattco Inc., known for Pocono Raceway, in the financial seat and the racing history and experience the Brashears bring to the facility, South Boston is well set for the future as Cathy carries on in a friendly consultant capacity.

For racing, the crowd from the grandstands to the backstretch had a full night of action. The regular hosted series crowned their season champions for 2021 with an opening show featuring the vintage Southern Ground Pounders. The opener was cut short for time after cautions and some blown engines. At the front at the call was Danny Bond and local favorite Stacy Puryear. Bond took the Modified and Puryear took the Sportsman.

Stacy Puryear (#63), Christopher Werner (#19), Danny Bond (#007) Southern Ground Pounders at South Boston

Josh Dawson won the 15 lap Budweiser Hornets race which also put him in place to take the Division Title for South Boston. Dawson had 8 wins on 10 starts at South Boston with this win coming from the back of the field.

Josh Dawson – South Boston Budweiser Hornets 2021 Champion

Daniel Moss came away from Saturday night as the Limited Sportsman Division Champion. The points were tight coming in and Moss had to drive hard to keep a margin for the championship as his car faded and he finished in 7th place. His points competitors, Jason Myers and Drew Dawson, finished third and fourth but Moss kept the season Champion lead by 2 points over Myers. Eric Winslow, the race winner, took the lead 1/3 of the way in and held that lead to the checkers. This was Winslow’s third victory of the season at South Boston Speedway.

Eric Winslow (left) Limited Sportsman race winner | Daniel Moss (LS 2021 SoBo Champion) with Cathy Rice and Chase Brashears

Nathan Crews took the lead from teammate Daniel Shelton with three laps to go in the Budweiser Pure Stock race. Shelton’s car faded as Crews passed by to win the evening and the 2021 South Boston Speedway Budweiser Pure Stock Division championship. The family owned team has this and the previous Championship with Crews and a third with Shelton who took the title in 2018.

Nathan Crews (Budweiser Pure Stock 2021 Champion) with Cathy Rice and Chase Brashears

Peyton Sellers snagged a fourth straight win and his ninth victory of the season at South Boston. Sellers is chasing a second career NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national championship with 21 wins this season. Four race wins in a row also ties together four straight Division Titles as the South Boston NAAPWS 2021 Champion. This also marks six titles leaving him one short of the record seven by David Blankenship.

Peyton Sellers – 2021 NAAPWS Late Model Champion

Sellers avoided a front stretch wreck on the first lap and chased down the lead. Sellers and Jacob Borst raced the lead a few times but it was Sellers who took the checkers after fighting through traffic again with 28 laps to go.
Borst hung on for second, with Chris Denny finishing third. Landon Pembelton finished fourth, helping his National rookie standing and John Goin rounded out the top five. Goin was racing in as a regular at Dominion Raceway where Sellers has also been making the rounds and collecting some wins.

Racing at South Boston Speedway is not over for 2021, even as track champions come away with their titles from Danville Toyota Championship Night. Later this month, SoBo hosts the Country Roads Truck Show with trucks, 4X4s, hot rods, rat rods and more. In October, the CARS Tour makes its way through America’s Hometown Track!

For South Boston, it is embracing the history of the racetrack. Cathy Rice has pulled the facility into this century and stamped its mark on short track racing with a reputation that is held nationwide. The real winners and champions are all of the fans, the drivers, the teams and the employees and volunteers that have taken this track to the level it is.

Cathy Rice, retiring GM of South Boston Speedway – Thanking fans and workers for all the success

Danville Toyota Championship Night Photo Gallery – September 4, 2021 at South Boston Speedway

The season points schedule ended where it began… At Daytona. Tensions ran high as some drivers were looking to validate their points with a win, some had to have a win to make a playoff run and others wanted the win in their corner to add weight to grabbing a seat in the coming season.

Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick would have liked that win as icing on their playoff points clinch. Late race wrecks put an end to Matt DiBenedetto’s chase for a win as his #21 and the #9 of Chase Elliott tangled with blocking and ran up into the wall which set off a bit of a tumble while Ryan Blaney grabbed the front and ran with it to the end. Blaney put a 3rd win in his regular season column and Tyler Reddick made it to the playoffs on points.

However… Consider one year ago. Throw 2020 NASCAR in a bucket and make predictions on what 2021 would bring. If someone had put the following on a list it would have read as parody…

  • Kyle Larson will come back in 2021 after the 2020 suspension for a virtual racing vocal mishap and be the 2021 regular season champion.
  • Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick will have zero wins in regular season racing.
  • Michael McDowell will make the championship playoffs by winning the Daytona 500.
  • Basketball star Michael Jordan will join with Denny Hamlin and field a race team.

All of it is true and happening and is a part of what makes racing so interesting.

For 2021, the playoff series begins. Ten races now remain to determine the NASCAR Cup Champion. The Xfinity series is still chasing points and the post season championship races will begin at Las Vegas. The Camping World Trucks are one race in to their post season with Sheldon Creed grabbing the first playoff win at Gateway ( Madison, Illinois ).

The road course at Indy brought the game of pinball to racing. The curbing installed for the infield turns took a beating from IndyCar to the NASCAR Xfinity race and, finally, tilted out during Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race. Turn 5 threw cars off their line, into the air and even ripped the splitter and lower body panels off. Many cars were sacrificed… Few could predict the result.

The final restart put Denny Hamlin in place to get his first season win. Chase Briscoe, racing Hamlin for the lead, went wide and into the grass. As a result, he cut the turn coming back on course briefly in front of Hamlin. As Briscoe tucked in and chased on the tail of the #11, the #14 went in tight and clipped Hamlin’s bumper which put the Toyota off the track. This put Hamlin off the run for the win which was a sour note as Briscoe had been penalized with a pass through penalty for the cut course. Briscoe, unaware, kept racing the #11 which resulted in the off and spin for Hamlin.

AJ Allmendinger, No. 16 Hyperice Chevrolet, in Victory Lane at the Verizon 200 Indy Road Course

As a result of the two up front cars out of it… Third place AJ Allmendinger was in the position to take and keep the lead for the win. Allmendinger is racing “full time” in the Xfinity series (currently 2nd in points) so his win in the Cup race does not put him in the Cup playoffs. However, due to finishing order at Indy and the points pay out, Denny Hamlin, even with the spin out, is still locked in the playoffs. Hamlin hasn’t won yet this season but his points were enough.

Two races remain in the “regular” season (Michigan and Daytona) which gets to the month of September and the playoffs, with Darlington, Richmond, Bristol and Vegas.

Michigan and Daytona will be the final shots to “win in” the playoffs. Hamlin is in with no wins but would still want to have that credential. Kevin Harvick has also been having an off season but is hanging on the line with points. He needs the win to secure his spot. All series drivers would benefit from a win as some are even looking for rides in 2022.

Kyle Larson is currently on top with 5 wins and continues to be the one to catch leading also top 5, top 10 and laps in front.

There is a lot on the line for “points only” drivers and those chasing a seat so the final regular season races are going to be hot ones.

NASCAR points math ranks right up there with income tax math and black jack card counting. With that, we could dig around and find out how Kyle Larson with 4 wins is 13 season points behind Denny Hamlin with no wins. Larson and Hamlin are tied in Top 5 and Top 10 finishes and Larson actually has 7 more stage wins than Hamlin. Larson has 1 DNF, however, he is leading the “Playoff” rankings while Hamlin sits in the 4th slot.

With the Tokyo Summer Olympics taking the spotlight on NBC, NASCAR is on a break until August 8 weekend and Watkins Glen. It’s a great time to take stock and set the stage for the final 4 races of the regular season in August. The playoffs begin at Darlington in September with Richmond the weekend after.

The most recent winner was Aric Almirola at New Hampshire. Kurt Busch has a win from Atlanta the week before. Chase Elliott won at Road America and earlier at Circuit of the Americas. Kyle Busch has 2 wins from Pocono and Kansas. Alex Bowman grabbed the first of the double-header weekend at Pocono with 2 other checkers from Pocono and Richmond. Kyle Larson had a string of points win around his All Star victory. Nashville, Sonoma and Charlotte were practically back to back with a 4th win at Vegas. Martin Truex Jr was hot early in the season with wins from Darlington. Martinsville and Phoenix. Brad Keselowski came out of Talladega on top. Joey Logano won the dirty Bristol Race. Ryan Blaney snagged Atlanta. William Byron pulled his first win at Homestead. Christopher Bell also hit his first Cup win at the Daytona Road Course. Michael McDowell started the season with his first Cup win at the Daytona 500 opener. McDowell also had a fairly hot early season but seems to be hanging on with performance currently.

Denny Hamlin is hanging on near the top with now wins. Notable, also, is the struggling season of Kevin Harvick. It is an oddity to see the hard charger #4 not notching a win with the season looming late in the schedule. The past few years have seen Harvick sitting comfortable with post season assurance. This season he is just above the cut with 4 races to make it.

So… Here we are with swimming, fencing, cycling and all the other Olympic events carried over from Covid cancel in 2020 to barely Covid live crowds in 2021 in Tokyo. All the NBC channels have the variety of sport across the spectrum and the daily schedule.

Watkins Glen is set to roll out August 8. NASCAR returns to Virginia with the 2nd race of the playoffs on September 11. Virginia race fans have Richmond with Bristol (just over the border) the week after. Later, The race before the season finale at Phoenix is October 31st at Martinsville.

In the Olympic off time, find a local track with some hot laps on track and take advantage of the NASCAR off weeks and get reacquainted with some home track racing.