Super Late Model racing ends its season every year with the Snowball Derby at Pensacola's Florida's Five Flags Speedway in December.  Only a few weeks later the birth of another new season takes place in the same state, but on the east coast. 

New Smyrna Speedway, which is just south of Daytona Beach, is consistently the host site for the first show of the new season.  The short off-season of asphalt short track racing comes to an end with the Red-Eye 100, which will celebrate its 29th running this Saturday at New Smyrna. 

2014 Asphalt Short Track Season Fires Up With Red-Eye 100
29th Annual Event Set for New Smyrna on January 4
By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Operations Manager - Twitter: @ElginTraylor
Super Late Model racing ends its season every year with the Snowball Derby at Pensacola's Florida's Five Flags Speedway in December.  Only a few weeks later the birth of another new season takes place in the same state, but on the east coast. 

New Smyrna Speedway, which is just south of Daytona Beach, is consistently the host site for the first show of the new season.  The short off-season of asphalt short track racing comes to an end with the Red-Eye 100, which will celebrate its 29th running this Saturday at New Smyrna. 

The Votes Are in and the Winners Are....
2013 51 Award Winners Presented by JEGS Have Been Announced 
By Speed51.com Staff
JEGS Touring Driver of the Year

Matt Hirschman got the love from the fans of Speed51.com who voted him as the top driver in all the nation after posting 20 wins last year.  Hirschman won the RoC title and took wins in the big special races like the SBM 125, the Race of Champions and the North-South Shootout.  The season was in jeopardy when Hirschman broke his wrist at Daytona and had to bow out of the point race at New Smyrna.  He could have won a World Series title had it not been for that.  Second in the voting for JEGS Touring Driver of the Year was Dylan Kwasniewski who captured the NASCAR K&N Pro Series title just one year after taking the K&N West title only a year ago.  Ryan Preece, the youngest Modified champion in the history of the Whelen Modified Tour was third.

JEGS Rookie of the Year

Kaz Grala made believers out a lot of fans in 2013 and with that he was voted the JEGS Rookie of the Year for 2013.  Grala joins the likes of Chase Elliott 2009, Ross Kenseth 2010, Erik Jones 2011 and Kyle Larson 2012 as former 51 Rookies of the Year.  Grala scored a big win at Hickory in the Banjo Mathews  and was second in the Myrtle Beach 400 at the end of the season.  TUNDRA Series driver Paige Decker was second in the voting with Dominique Van Wieringen in third.  Both drivers won races last season.

Best Touring Series

The Valenti Modified Series has come leaps and bounds from when it began in 2004.  The series produced 11 winners in 17 races last year with only four drivers winning more than one race. Nearly 80 drivers competed in the series.  Plus, it clearly has a growing fan base that has now voted the VMRS the Speed51.com Best Touring Series for a second-straight year.  The ARCA/CRA Super Series and JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour were second, with the brand new Southern Super Series coming home third after their first season. 

Best NASCAR Series

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was voted the best NASCAR Touring Series by the fans on Speed51.com.  The oldest touring series in NASCAR produced the youngest series champion yet with Ryan Preece in 2013.  Second in the running was the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East division and third was the Whelen Southern Modified Tour.

Most Improved

Ben Kennedy was voted as the Most Improved Driver by the fans in 2013 on the back of a pair of race wins in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series.  Kennedy took his first checkered flag at Five Flags Speedway (FL) in April and backed it up with a win at Bowman Gray Stadium (NC).  Rowan Pennink, who finally captured the Modified Racing Series title was second in the voting and Dillon Bassett stepped up his game with the UARA title at the age of 16 in third.

Best Rivalry

The best rivalry as voted by the fans was Lee Pulliam vs. the rest of the Late Model Stock Car world. Pulliam was almost unbeatable in 2013 with 31 Late Model wins.  Other drivers tried to take him down sometimes a few times a weekend, but Pulliam proved to be the best of the best.  Second in our fan voting was the NASCAR KN East Series rookies.  The series was packed with them.  Three first-year drivers won races before Jesse Little came away with the Rookie of the Year title.  The third-most voted feud was that of Johnny Sauter and Travis Sauter, who got into a family grudge match that cost them both the Oktoberfest title at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway (WI). 

Best Finish

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September had it all from 23 lead changes to a bump and run finish with Todd Szegedy going to victory lane after contact with Donny Lia.  Second was any of the Battle of the Beach races where the leader at the white flag did not cross the line first at the checkers.  The races produced some national attention with Mike Stefanik's words that reached the late night talks shows on network TV.  Third was either of the Myrtle Beach 400 races that had wild final laps where drivers ended up in the wall and DQ'ed for actions on the track. 

Worst Luck

Deac McCaskill got the nod from the voters for the worst luck.  Realistically, the veteran Late Model racer had an outstanding Late Model season, but it came on the same year that Lee Pulliam couldn't be stopped.  Brett Moffitt was second as he had a chance to take the NASCAR K&N Pro Series point lead at Dover, but was pulled up the track in the final laps by another car.  For Moffitt it was just another chapter in how he missed out on a championship.  Third went to tech man Ricky Brooks who hit on the track at the Governor's Cup 200.  Brooks' luck was bad that day, but good at the same time because he recovered to be at the Snowball Derby.

Surprise of the Year

Chase Elliott at the Snowball Derby will go down as the biggest surprise of the year and perhaps of the decade. The 18-year-old dominated the race to win what he figured would be his second Snowball Derby.  After the race tungsten weight was found in his car, which was against the rules for cost reasons. Elliott would be disqualified from the win in what will go down as a very expensive mistake.  The second-place surprise of 2013 also included Elliott,  who along with Erik Jones became the first two 17-year-olds to win in the NASCAR Camping World truck Series.  Both drivers were racing in the short track ranks just a year before and filled out their schedule in Late Models around their Truck starts.  Third was the Johnny Clark, who went winless in PASS for the first time since 2003. 

Most Inspirational Moment

For Rich Bickle the final ride at Madison International Speedway (WI) was so sweet as he went out in victory lane.  It will go down as the final win for the historic short tracker's career. Second also had some Wisconsin flavor as the tributes to the late, great Dick Trickle from all around the country were overwhelming.  Memorial races, moments of silence and tributes to 99 filled the second half of the season.  Third-place when to the family team of Travis Benjamin who won the Oxford 250 for the first time in his career and then had to go back to work the next morning selling newspapers at the family gas station...papers that had his victory lane photo on the cover.

Best Personality

Ryan Preece was voted as the driver with the Best Personality in short track racing.  His fellow NASCAR Next driver Dylan Kwasniewski was second in the voting after winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East title.  Burt Myers was third as he took his sixth track champion at Bowman Gray Stadium. 

Comeback Driver of the Year 

Matt Hirschman came back from a broken wrist to win 20 times and took the RoC Modified title and the Norht South Shootout.  Frank Kimmel returned to championship from to score win number 80 and take championship number 10, both series records, but came up short in the voting to Hirschman.  Rich Bickle was third in what he says is his final season.  He won the Slinger Nationals and his final race at Madison.  

Short Track Bad Boy

Keith Rocco was seen to be bad to the bone and ends up as the Short Track Bad Boy for 2013 in our 51 Awards.  Rocco takes the honor from Ted Christopher, who won last year, and has been in the top two every season since 2009.  Gray Gaulding ends up in the top three only because of one bump that came at Phoenix.

JEGS Weekly Track Driver of the Year

No one in their right mind could keep Lee Pulliam off the top of this category after the season he had in 2013 and the voting proved it.  He took a total of 32 wins and the NASCAR Whelen All American Series Championship for a second year in a row.  Ryan Preece scored 12 SK Modified wins away from the regional touring stuff and was second as Keith Rocco took 14 wins a pair of track championships in Connecticut en route to third in the voting.

JEGS Best Promoter

Tom Curley captures the award for the year's Best Promoter, according to the fans of Speed51.com.  Curley has built the ACT into one of the premier touring series in both the United States and Canada, as well as continuing Thunder Road International Speedbowl's place as one of the top short tracks anywhere.  On top of the normal events that make up the ACT Tour, Curley as his bunch added the International 500 at Airborne where a $25,000 prize was awarded.  Jerry Brown and Michael Diaz at Southern National (NC) were second and Ron and Scott Wimmer of State Park Speedway (WI) were third.

JEGS Best Short Track

Some historic venues battled it out for the JEGS best Short Track as Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT) just snuck by the Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) in a neck-and-neck race. For third place you have go all the way up to Wisconsin to State Park Speedway. 

Best Weekly Venue

Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) proved to be the best weekly venue for short track racing in 2013 as voted by the fans.  From the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to the SK Modifieds to the entry-level DARE Stocks, this track has enough action for all.  New Smyrna Speedway (FL) was P2 with "the Madhouse" Bowman Gray Stadium (NC) coming in the third position.

Best Annual Race

For every year since 2010 the Snowball Derby has won the honor as the Best Annual Race from the fans. The mystique of this event cannot be topped and because it's the final show of the season, the year goes out with a bang at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.  The Thompson (CT) World Series came home second and the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) was third. 

Best Short Track Announcer

Russ Dowd of Thompson International Speedway (CT) has long been one of the best announcers in New England and now the fans have spoken giving him the honor of 51's Short Track Announcer of the Year.  Ben Dodge of Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) and the Smyrna World Series was second with the team of Andrew Bartlet & Curt Keene from State Park Speedway (CT) taking third place honors.

Best Track Website

The best track website goes to the Waterford Speedbowl (CT) who have a combination of videos and information to make a race fan satisfied in the middle of the week and itching for Saturday.  Madison International Speedway (WI) came home second with last year's winner Five Flags Speedway (FL) taking third this year.  

Best Series Website

NASCAR Home Tracks was voted to have the best series website by our fans as they house the information for all the NASCAR touring series and the Whelen All American Series.  The ACT Tour was second in the voting in this category as the ARCA Midwest Tour was third.

Best Social Media Website

Tom (Sid) DiMaggio of Waterford, CT was awarded the best in the social media class over NASCARHomeTracks.com and Southern Super Series Champion Daniel Hemric was third.  DiMaggio's "Sid's View" videos, featuring behind-the-scenes action from Waterford (CT) and other New England tracks, have become viral sensations.

Best Action Photo - Presented by LimitLess Walls

Alan Ward captured a four wide shot at Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT) in ACT action and his shot was voted as the Best Action photo.  His photo will now be made into a large wall mural by LimitLess Walls and will be presented to Ward.  It's no surprise to see four wide at Thunder Road, but getting those short moments on camera can be hard.  Ward beat out Bruce Nuttleman's shot of Kyle Larson peppering the tailgate of C.E. Falk III at the Battle of the Beach.  Chris Owens' shot of Chase Elliott's flat-tire save at the Winchester 400 was third.

Best Candid Photo - Presented by LimitLess Walls

The fans selected the Bassett brothers celebration as the top candid picture for 2013.  Taken by UARA-STARS series photographer Drew Hierwarter, the shot came right after Ronnie Bassett, Jr. won the race at Anderson Motor Speedway (SC) and his younger brother Dillon win the UARA Championship.  Hierwarter's shot will also be made into a free large wall mural to be given to the photographer by LimitLess Walls.  Ted Christopher's shades by Mark Bochiardy was second and Bruce Nuttleman's Snowball Derby shot of the trophy with tech man Ricky Brooks in the background was third.  

Best Wreck Photo

It was a flash of light that lit up the night at Five Flags Speedway (FL) as Tom Wilsey captured the fiery wreck between Cody Karl and Troy Grisaffi.  Both drivers were ok in this wild incident and allowed Wilsey to take the honor Best Wreck Photo of 2013.  Cale Thompson's Modified junk yard was second and Jamie Williams' airborne shot from Winchester of Bill Burba was third.


Alan Ward won the Best Action Photo Presented by LimitLess Walls with this submission from Thunder Road.
Drew Hierwarter captured the Bassett Brothers celebration to win the Best Candid Photo Presented by LimitLess Walls.
The Best Wreck Photo of 2013 went to Tom Wilsey.
Chase Elliott talks to Ricky Turner in what was the surprise of the year at Snowball Derby when Elliott was DQ'ed.
The Best Finish came from the NWMT.
Lee Pulliam won a lot in 2013 and several 51 Honors.
The Snowball Derby won the best annual event.
Tom Curley is the JEGS promoter of the year for his work with ACT.