A historic Arizona short track and NASCAR have reunited.
Tucson Speedway, a .375-mile paved oval, is the seventh track to join the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for 2014.With different configurations and names, the track was previously NASCAR-sanctioned from 1987-2008.
“Tucson Speedway’s return to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series signals a new beginning for a famous track,” said Bob Duvall, NASCAR senior director of business development. “John Lashley and his team are revitalizing one of Arizona’s premier facilities. The track is known for great competition and family entertainment.”
In October 2012, Lashley obtained the lease on the inactive Pima County-owned property and took more than six months to bring the speedway back to life.
“We’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Lashley said. “We have a great facility. It took a talented group of people to make it happen. The grounds and the racing surface were in horrible disrepair. We rehabilitated it and returned it to its prominent status.”
Lashley re-opened the speedway in April 2013, and established a successful program that attracted participants and fans alike.
“The next step in our rebuilding process is to re-connect with NASCAR and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series,” Lashley said. “Now our drivers and teams can be part of something bigger. NASCAR brings them recognition and rewards.”
Super late models will be NASCAR Division I at the track. Other NASCAR-sanctioned divisions include limited late models, pro stocks, modifieds and hornets. The track operates on Saturday nights.
The speedway was a .375-mile dirt oval known as Raven Raceway when it joined NASCAR in 1987. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France was in his 20s and learning the family business when he assumed operation of the track in 1990. He renamed it Tucson Raceway Park. After extensive updating and remodeling, France paved the track for the 1993 season.
Tucson loomed large in France’s development of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The track became part of the series’ foundation, hosting four of six “preview races” in 1994. The events were used for research and development purposes by drivers, teams and NASCAR. Ron Hornaday Jr., Rick Carelli, P.J. Jones and Mike Skinner won those events.
In 1995, the track hosted the Camping World Truck Series’ second official event of its inaugural season. In all, the series visited Tucson three times. Hornaday won the first in 1995 and last in 1997. Skinner, the series’ 1995 champion, won the 1996 event. The track also hosted the off-season NASCAR Winter Heat Series from 1994-99 that included the Trucks, NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, NASCAR’s former Southwest Tour and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series late models.
Carl Trimmer of Tucson was the dominant driver during the track’s previous NASCAR Whelen All-American Series era. He won a total of 10 NASCAR late model titles. Two were on the old dirt track, in 1987-88. From 1993-99 he reeled-off seven consecutive pavement late model championships, and added an eighth in 2001. He also won NASCAR regional championships in 1987 and 1996, and ranked No. 3 in 1996 final national standings behind Larry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., and Wes Troup of Riverdale, Maryland.
In addition to Trimmer, other Tucson dirt track NASCAR champions included Erik Gibson (2), Rick Sipes and Paul Banghart. Other pavement late model NASCAR champions included Charles Wares (3), Ron Norman (3), Dusty Fielden and 2008 state champion Scott Rueschenberg. Banghart, Norman and Rueschenberg remain active.
Norman is the track’s 2013-14 super late model division point leader in a season that ends June 7. The track’s 2014 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season opens July 12.
In addition to Tucson, other tracks joining the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series this year are Airborne Park Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y., Anderson (S.C.) Motor Speedway, Autodrome St. Eustache in Quebec, Canada, East Carolina Motor Speedway in Robersonville, N.C., Lonesome Pine Raceway in Coeburn, Va., and Utica-Rome Speedway in Vernon, N.Y.
Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. Fifty-eight paved and dirt tracks throughout the United States and Canada participate.
Pavement Late Model driver Lee Pulliam, 25, of Semora, N.C., is the two-time defending NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion.
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.