Speed Zone: The Bo-Time Awards from the 2015 Bojangles’ Summer Shootout Series

Jacob Seelman Carolinas Racing, Featured, Jacob Seelman Blog, Southeast, Staff Columns, US Legends/INEX 0 Comments

CONCORD, N.C. — Column by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — CMS/John Davison photo —

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for!

Well……okay, maybe not.

In any event, I wanted to sit down and compile my thoughts from the 2015 Bojangles’ Summer Shootout Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway into one place and give shoutouts to the drivers, crew members and moments that stood out most to me over the course of the 10-race, eight week grind.

So, without further ado, here are the 2015 “Bo-Time Awards” for this year’s Summer Shootout!

Most Improved Driver:  Dawson Cram, Legends Car Young Lions Division

I found myself asking the question more than once this summer, “Where on earth did Dawson Cram come from?”

The soft-spoken former Bandolero driver moved up to the Legends car ranks during the offseason and, while he hadn’t necessarily shone aside from a win at the end of the Winter Heat Series in February at CMS, came alive amidst the heat of the summer — scoring two wins in the first four Shootout races and compiling a perfect record of 10 top-ten finishes en route to a third-place finish in the final points for the Young Lions division.

While he scored some victories in the Bandolero division at the Shootout, this was the first time I feel like I saw the true aggressive side come out in “DK’s” driving style — and gave credence to the nickname “Donkey Kong” bestowed upon the 13-year-old by several of his competitors.

He’s already dabbling in mini-outlaw karts on the dirt at Millbridge Speedway, and is looking into full-fendered competition on the pavement in 2016 at tracks including the nearby Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

If the six-year Shootout veteran stays with it one more year, this is a driver that can contend for a Shootout title in the Legends cars, and I know I’m looking forward to seeing just how good he gets before he fully takes the next step.

Best Moment:  Champion’s Night Having Three Winner-Take-All Points Battles

I never would have pictured the Shootout coming down to a winner-take-all scenario in one division in 2015, let alone three!

However, that’s exactly what race fans — and us in the media — were treated to during Round 10 action at CMS.

For Sheldon Crouse, John Holleman, Tom Pistone, Scott Whitaker, Michael Torres, Jared Irvan and Jordan Black, their task was simple — win the race, win the championship in their respective division.

Only Black was the one who needed some outside help from the contenders ahead of him (Torres and Irvan) to win the title, and he got exactly that — in the form of a bumper shot to Torres and a subsequent crash behind him that took Irvan out of contention on the final lap.

The top three divisions being so tight — despite field sizes that were down compared to previous years — made for the most intense night in many years at CMS and made for a spectacle that you couldn’t rip your eyes away from until after the final checkered flag came down.

It was truly a night to remember, and a night that no one who witnessed it will soon forget.

Biggest Surprise:  Jordan Stillwell and Joey Padgett Picking Up Maiden Shootout Wins

I want to clarify: when I say that these two wins were the biggest surprise of the season, it’s not because I felt they were incapable of getting the job done.

Rather, their wins came as a surprise because both Stillwell and Padgett had been racing at the Shootout for so long, everyone (myself included) was beginning to wonder if either one would ever get to victory lane at CMS.

Stillwell, an eight year Shootout veteran whose father Walter works for U.S. Legend Cars International’s driving school, had a spark after he finished runner-up in Round Five after leading nearly the entire race, but had seen nearly every vestige of bad luck imaginable bite him in his quest to stand triumphant on the frontstretch of the quarter-mile.

In the same vein, Padgett, one of the Florida gang and a former Winter Heat Series champion at CMS, had seen his car break oil lines, watched motors fail, and been helpless as he was bumped out of the way on the last lap over the course of his prior Shootout years — every time seeing a potential victory slip away.

For both teenagers to finally see their quests come to fruition — on the same night, no less, in Round Nine — was the most pleasant surprise of all.

The victory lane celebrations were emotional and for both, you could tell it was a floodgate of stress and waiting finally released as they allowed themselves to finally bask in the light of claiming a victory on Legends Car racing’s biggest stage.

Were there tears? Yes, but they’ll never admit to it. Were there smiles and hugs? Enough to supply a race team for the rest of their career.

The night was as much of a relief as a surprise, but for both Stillwell and Padgett, they’ll tell you — they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Driver of the Year:  Jordan Black, Legends Car Pro Division

I know you had drivers like Daniel Wilk (seven), Ashton Higgins (seven) and Chase Purdy (six), who won more races than Black did, but you have to take the body of work into perspective as well to realize just how incredible of a ten-race run the Florida native truly had.

Black won four races en route to the title, had to come from eight points down in the final race, and above all, accomplished the entire thing after having had to sit out round two due to a paperwork snafu.

He won the championship with one less race than the rest of the field, and had a 44% win ratio in the events that he competed in.

You can’t deny that’s impressive.

The soon-to-be 18-year-old was batting from behind all season long, but put together a stunning performance in the waning laps of the Round 10 finale to accomplish a dream he had held since he was a little kid — winning a championship at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

And the entire time, he did so with such poise and composure, you would never have known that he was frustrated to the core after missing the second race of the summer. He put it behind him, focused ahead and made that attitude pay with the biggest reward of all.

In my book, I don’t know how it gets any better than that.

Spirit of a Legend Award:  And the Winner Is…

For 17 years at the Bojangles’ Summer Shootout, the annual “Tom van Wingerden Spirit of a Legend Award” was given out during the Round 10 drivers’ meeting to the driver that best exemplified the principles of competitiveness, determination, sportsmanship, respect and fairness, as well as showed the spirit of friendly competition throughout the ten-race series.

That tradition seemingly vanished at this year’s Shootout, and the award was not handed out — something that greatly got under my skin — but that’s a story for another column.

The staff at Race Chaser Online collectively came together and put the topic under discussion, and the biggest realization we had was:  “Why can’t off-track demonstrations of the qualities represented by the award be given just as much weight as on-track demonstrations?”

Thus the conversation began.

Once we were all in agreement, the staffs settled on one name. This driver was a multi-time winner at this year’s Summer Shootout, and showed his determination and competitive drive by fighting from seventh to the victory several times over the course of the series.

As the season went on, the driver was eventually beaten, but made it a point to shake the hand of the competitors that bested him every time he climbed from the car at the conclusion of the feature event. He never let frustration overhaul his good nature, and showed the spirit worthy of both a Legend and a champion.

In addition to all that, he proved that this spirit didn’t simply reside at the track — taking the majority of his Bojangles’ winnings and using them as food donations to aid those less fortunate at two crisis centers in the Charlotte area. That was a move that not only impressed those he helped, but even some of his fellow competitors that we spoke to in the waning rounds of the summer.

With all that being said, though we obviously understand that this is by no means an official recognition, the staff at Race Chaser Online who covered the 2015 Bojangles’ Summer Shootout is in agreement that the driver best exemplifying the “Spirit of a Legend” is Bandolero Bandits competitor and champion Daniel Wilk.

A round of applause goes out to Daniel for his selflessness and love of the sport shown through his actions and treatment of his fellow competitors, and all of us at Race Chaser Online hope that that spirit will burn brightly in him for many seasons to come.

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With everything wrapped up above, that brings Race Chaser Online to the conclusion of our in depth coverage of the 2015 Bojangles’ Summer Shootout Series! We will continue to roll through our #6in6 series highlighting the champions crowned in each division, but we are now equally looking ahead to this weekend’s Bandolero Nationals at CMS and towards the rest of the year in motorsports as well!

We thank CMS, Lenny Batycki, Laila Razmyar and all the staff at Charlotte Motor Speedway and U.S. Legend Cars International for their hospitality over the past two months, and look forward to returning for the 23rd annual Bojangles’ Summer Shootout Series in 2016!

Until then, keep it off the wall and have a safe rest of your racing season!

The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, Speed77 Radio, the Performance Motorsports Network, their sponsors or other contributors.

 

About the Writer

Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s. He is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

Email Jacob at: speed77radio@gmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @Speed77Radio or @JacobSeelman77

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