NASCAR national championships will be determined in NASCAR weekly racing support divisions for the first time this year.
The new NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II-V Championship program rolls out this week. Today’s first weekly posting of the support division national point standings will introduce the new structure.
National championships will be determined in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series support divisions II-V. In each division, dirt and asphalt tracks are combined in point standings. The four national champions will receive a trophy and a trip to the series’ national awards event. In addition, the top-three dirt and top-three asphalt drivers in each division will be invited to the awards event.
Shawn Balluzzo, a 57-year-old rebounding veteran driver from Newport News, Va., plans to be a contender in 2014. He topped the former Finalist Division II point race in 2011 and is delighted with the new program.
“I think this is a much better format,” Balluzzo said. “Who doesn’t want to race for a championship? I’m really glad for the improvement. It makes you feel good about the goals you’re racing for. We’re absolutely shooting for the Division II championship.”
Balluzzo competes in Modifieds at Langley Speedway, a .396-mile paved oval in Hampton, Va. He’s already posted his first win of the season. Modifieds return to action at Langley Saturday, May 10, with a pair of 30-lap features.
The top five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II-V Championship leaders this week include Division II Spencer Davis, New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway; Brad May, New Smyrna; Garrett Jones, New Smyrna; Shawn Gray, Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway; Donald Parsons III, Columbus. Division III John Ketron, Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway, Lonesome Pine Raceway, Coeburn, Va.; Aaron McMorran, The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway; Donald Sargent, The Bullring; Jared Umbenhauer, Grandview Speedway, Bechtelsville, Pa.; Jerod Weston, I-80 Speedway, Greenwood, Neb., Adams County Speedway, Corning, Iowa. Division IV Jeremy Menninger, Columbus; Jimmy McElfresh, Columbus; Brad Derry, Adams County, I-80; Michael Robison, Columbus; Corey Kyler, Columbus. Division V Brian King, Anderson (S.C.) Motor Speedway, Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway; Chris Harvell, Anderson, Greenville; Donavan Beacham, Greenville, Anderson; Don Tavernia, Greenville; Michael Cross, Anderson, Greenville.
Balluzzo is a six-time Langley modified division champion, but his April 12 win was his first in 19 months.
“That was a big win,” Balluzzo said. “We finally made it back to Victory Lane. So many people helped us along the way.”
Balluzzo’s most recent win at Langley was Sept. 22, 2012. That win was his 11th in 16 starts and brought him his sixth Langley modified championship in seven years. He’s one title away from matching retired late model driver Phil Warren’s record of seven championships in a single Langley division.
“I’d like to match Phil’s record or break it,” Balluzzo said. “Then I’d probably retire and be able to go out on top.”
After launching a new team with co-owner Gene Nichols in 2013, Balluzzo posted three runner-up finishes, eight top-fives and nine top-10s in nine starts. In early June he was among the track point leaders.
Balluzzo became ill on June 8. Medical evaluation indicated a heart attack caused by three blocked arteries, the driver said. Three stents were inserted. Blood flow from the heart returned to normal and there were no other complications.
“I was back at work in three days,” Balluzzo said.
After receiving medical clearance to race he returned to the track August 10. His season ended that day with a shove and a demolished race car.
“In retrospect, totaling the car was a good thing because it pushed us to build a new car,” Balluzzo said. “We decided to just write off the 2013 season and come back with a vengeance this year.”
Balluzzo began his career in grand stocks at Langley in 1985 and advanced to late models in 1986. He finished as high as second in track point races and is a 16-time late model race winner. Balluzzo joined the modified ranks at Langley in 2006 and now holds 54 wins in the division. He did double-duty driving in both divisions for several seasons before selling his late model in 2011.
The modified division allows Balluzzo to be competitive on a budget.
“Modifieds are much more economically feasible for a guy like me,” Balluzzo said. “Weekly expenses are a lot less, and we’re talking $30,000 for a late model motor versus $10,000 for a modified motor.
“I enjoyed racing late models but modifieds are much more fun. They’ve got more horsepower and narrower tires. Racing a modified, the driver makes a big difference in overall performance.
“The first time I drove a modified I was scared, and I’ve never been nervous in a race car before,” Balluzzo said of the transition. “As a driver I had to get familiar with where the corners of my car were. You can rub tires in a late model and go on. If you rub tires in a modified you can go over. I ran a couple of outlaw races and won in my fifth start. In my first full season at Langley in 2006 I won four of eight.”
Balluzzo and late model car builder Bobby Creech got together to build Balluzzo‘s 2014 modified chassis.
In addition to Nichols and Balluzzo, team members include Alan Hobkins, Balluzzo’s son-in-law T.J. Largena Jr. and David Oshman. The car is powered by an R.P. racing engine built by Ronnie Prestwood. Sponsors include Dodd RV and Advanced Custom Coatings of Virginia.
Balluzzo and his wife Terri have four children including Christopher, 24, Alyssa, 22, Bri, 17 and Bryce, 15. He owns and operates Signs and Graphics To Go in Newport News. The company creates advertising “wraps” for commercial vehicles including box trucks and tractor trailers. He recently “wrapped” an off-shore racing power boat.
The NASCAR point structure in Divisions I-V has been adjusted slightly for 2014. 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. At season’s end, drivers in Divisions II-V will be ranked by their best 14 NASCAR point race results. The season concludes September 21.
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.