CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Blog By Race Chaser Online Senior Editor Tom Baker — Scarlett Inkwell photo —
I don’t care what that groundhog says.
I’ve had enough cold weather for one winter, and I know all my fellow Race Chasers in the Northern half of the nation would agree…it’s time to go racing!
The “Sunshine State” is buzzing with activity as Speedweeks is in full swing. As I craft this column, ARCA practice has ended with Empire Racing’s Patrick Staropoli on top of the charts and fans are gearing up for tomorrow’s ARCA race and the Sprint Unlimited on the big track.
There are Late Models and K&N Cars at New Smyrna, dirt cars all over the state, and even the Legends cars get in on the act with their Winternationals at Orlando Speedworld over the next week.
If you can afford to travel down there, Florida is a veritable racer’s buffet right now. If you can’t, no worries! Just stay close to your phone, tablet or computer and you can use Social Media to keep up with all the news.
One thing to keep your eye on as we go into this season on the regional and national “stock car” level is the growing level of “Next Gen” talent that are going to make their mark. Some will not start their season during Speedweeks.
Defending K&N Pro Series East champ Ben Rhodes will make 10 starts for JR Motorsports in the XFINITY Series this year, for example, but Daytona is not on his schedule. Reid Wilson makes the jump to K&N from the now defunct Pro Cup Series, but Reid’s limited schedule is keeping him on the sidelines this weekend.
For many others, however, pedal-mashing begins in Florida. I can’t begin to list everyone here, but here are a few names you may want to watch (by series) in 2015, beginning this week/weekend.
The K&N Pro Series is particularly loaded with talent and a lot more strong teams as well. HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks has five of them. Rico Abreu, J.J. Haley, Dalton Sargeant, William Byron and Scott Heckert. But there are so many others. John Holleman, Gray Gaulding and too many more to mention will make that series’ title fight a ferocious one throughout the season with the action heating up at New Smyrna.
The Camping World Truck Series has Matt Tifft sitting in a Venturini Motorsports entry next week but focusing on running for Kyle Busch Motorsports along with fellow youngsters Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones. Daniel Hemric has just set a full season schedule with NTS Motorsports. Cameron Hayley will see duty this year in the Thorsport Racing No. 13. Jordan Anderson went out and hustled for some “marketing partners” for his No. 74 and will be at Daytona ready to rock and roll.
Cole Custer brings JR Motorsports into the series in what well could be a championship-chasing effort. John-Hunter Nemechek will be fun to watch in his father’s NEMCO Motorsports No. 8. Austin Hill will drive for Empire Racing at Daytona and possibly beyond.
In the XFINITY Series, of course Bubba Wallace has moved over to Roush Fenway Racing and “up” to XFINITY for a full-season run. Harrison Rhodes gets a full-season shot behind the wheel of a JD Motorsports entry. Brennan Poole will run part-time for HScott with Chip Ganassi’s team. Cale Conley has signed on with Tri-Star Motorsports for a full season.
Again, those are just a few names that you might want to watch as the season progresses. I’ve never seen so much young talent in these series, and it’s good to see that drivers such as Hemric, Anderson and Harrison Rhodes can prove that hard work and talent can still “attract” the necessary resources and people to get to the national series.
These racers should be an inspiration to those at lower levels — that although it’s very difficult and can take years to make happen, it is entirely possible to reach your goals if you’re willing to work hard for as long as it takes, invest in your career (not just your race car) and listen to those who are taking the time to help guide you.
In the famous words of ole’ DW…”Boogity, Boogity, Boogity! Let’s go racin!”
All of us at RaceChaser Online will do our part to keep you updated. Just go to @RaceChaserNews on Twitter and watch our website (www.RaceChaserOnline.com) and Facebook page (Race Chaser Online) for the latest news and developments in long-hand form from across the motorsports world!