A veteran of hardscrabble racing at one of the toughest tracks in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series got back in Victory Lane for the first time in two years. This month he shortened the time span between wins from two years to two weeks.
Chris Fleming won modified division features at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., on May 3 and May 17. Last Saturday night’s finishes of fourth and 10th in two 25-lap features lifted him to second in track points. He’s just eight behind leader Burt Myers entering a pair of 100-lap features this weekend.
His win drought at the tight quarter-mile paved oval was taxing.
“I got to thinking I couldn’t win anymore. I was doubting myself,” Fleming said. “We haven’t forgotten how to work on race cars. We’re good on these cars. But I just needed to win so badly.”
Entering this weekend, Fleming has two wins, three top-fives and five top-10s in six starts. In addition to the track championship, he’s chasing the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series North Carolina title – currently led by Dillon Bassett.
Anthony Anders maintains his season-long point lead in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship standings, but two former champions climbed to second and third.
Anders, of Easley, S.C., won two 40-lap late model features at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway and has 644 points. He also leads the series with 13 wins. He also has 20 top fives and 21 top 10s in 22 starts. NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I drivers are ranked by their best 18 NASCAR points finishes in series-sanctioned events.
Peyton Sellers of Danville, Va., the 2005 national champion, and Lee Pulliam, of Alton, Va., the two-time defending national champion, each earns wins in twin 75-lap late model features at South Boston (Va.) Speedway Saturday.
Sellers jumps to No. 2 from fifth last week, with a runner-up to Pulliam in the first feature and a win in the second. He has 447 points, 197 behind Anders. Pulliam finished 11th in the second 75-lapper, and retains his No. 3 national ranking. Pulliam and last week’s No. 2 driver Bassett each have 443 points. Pulliam takes the spot with the tie-breaking greater number of wins. He has nine wins compared to Bassett’s five.
Bassett, of Winston-Salem, N.C., is fourth in points. He won a 100-lap late model feature at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway Saturday. Matt Bowling of Ridgeway, Va., drops from fourth to fifth in points with finishes of 19th and 10th at South Boston.
Tommy Lemons Jr., retains sixth in points with a 100-lap feature win at Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, N.C. Randy Porter is steady at seventh place with two top-fives at Greenville Pickens. Kres VanDyke advances to eighth in points with a seventh-place finish at Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway. Defending track and state champion Chad Finchum moved to ninth in points with a fourth-place finish at Kingsport. And Keith Rocco, the series’ 2010 national champion, posted an SK Modified win at Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl, but dropped from eighth to 10th in the national point race.
Fleming, 50, of Mt. Airy, N.C., is part of multi-car efforts. He’s been driving for Jerry Hunt Auto Sales and car owner Todd Hunt since 1998. Hunt continues a racing program established by his late father Jerry. Hunt’s company owns and sponsors a car in each division at Bowman Gray. Hunt’s son Chase is working his way up the racing ladder. He’s currently fourth in street stock division points.
Fleming also has two sons in action.
Luke Fleming, 26, runs the full NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour schedule and is fifth in points. He won his first career tour start in the Advance Auto Parts 199 at Bowman Gray in 2009. He competes in selected NASCAR Whelen All-American Series modified events at the stadium. He had finishes of 20th and 18th there Saturday. He drives for Chris’ brother Frank Fleming, a 21-time modified feature winner at the track. Frank posted finishes of 11th and sixth in Saturday night’s modified twin-bill. Jordan, 21, is 11th in the track’s sportsman division standings after a disappointing 17th-place finish Saturday.
“Frank and his wife Gina take a lot of pressure off me by putting Luke in their car,” Chris Fleming said. “I’m not going to race unless my kids can race. I’d stop driving if that’s what it takes to keep them racing.
“Our family is close knit. My parents (Charles and Faith Fleming) don’t get out a lot and my sister Debbie York looks out for them when we’re at the track. Mom always says ‘go win the race for me,’ and they’re excited by our success. They’ll watch us race on the computer and I call dad as soon as the race is over.
“Our racing rule is that if Luke is going to run the tour modified, he has to help Jordan with his sportsman car. Jordan wrecked his car in a Friday practice session and I didn’t think it could be fixed. Luke worked on the car all night. It was ready to race by 9:30 Saturday morning and Jordan got a good finish that night.
“A win by Luke or Jordan is more important to me than any win I’ll ever have. I wouldn’t trade one of their wins for $10 million.”
He’s also proud of Luke’s third-place finish in the modified portion of the Battle At The Beach at Daytona International Speedway in February.
“Going to Daytona isn’t about the money. It’s about racing at Daytona. When you walk into that place, you get cold chills. It’s something you want to be a part of,” Fleming said.
Based on his schedule and the racing budget there have been seasons when Fleming competed part time at Bowman Gray. His best finish in track points was third in 2012. He plans to run the full schedule this year.
“I’m not being conservative and point racing,” Fleming said. “This car is supposed to win races. I’m there to win every race.”
In the May 17, Kevin Powell Motorsports 100, Fleming made a daring pass of Lee Jeffreys on lap 66 to take the lead and eventual win.
“I made an outside pass for the lead. Fans are there to see a show and I’ll do my part to give them what they want. I may not always win but we’ll put on a good show.”
Fleming says a new Rahmoc racing engine has boosted him to success this year. The car is based on Troyer chassis. His crew chief is T.J. Farmer and the spotter is Chip Johnson. Fleming said his wife Amy is “the backbone of our team.” In addition to car owner Hunt and Rahmoc, other sponsors include Perkins & Associates, www.autosbynelson.com, Adam’s Towing & Recovery and N.C. Granite Corp.
Family racing patriarch Charles Fleming began the family racing tradition in motorcycles. Frank and Chris began their careers in dirt track stock car racing in the late 1970s. Chris won the four-cylinder dirt modified track championship at 311 Speedway in Madison N.C., in 1989. From there, the brothers moved on to pavement racing at Bowman Gray.
Under the NASCAR point structure in Divisions I-V drivers receive two points for every car they finish ahead of in an event, up to 18 cars. Three bonus points will be awarded to a race winner with a single-digit starting position and five bonus points will be awarded to a race winner with a double-digit starting position.
Drivers must be NASCAR-licensed and cars will be verified for display of required series sponsor decals to be eligible for NASCAR points and awards.
Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. In all, 58 paved and dirt tracks throughout the United States and Canada participate.
Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering is the series’ title sponsor. Whelen Engineering is a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting. NASCAR tracks and pace cars across North America are among the many showcases for Whelen products.