SOME OF THE drama of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season finale at Rockingham Speedway was stripped away with the announcement this week that Corey LaJoie had been slapped with a 25-point fine following his win at Greenville Pickens Speedway last weekend.
LaJoie stormed from the back of the pack and put a bump-and-run on Brett Moffitt in the final corner of the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 140 to win the race Saturday night – and take the K&N Pro Series East points lead in the process. He was to enter the series' inaugural race at Rockingham tomorrow afternoon with a six-point lead over Kyle Larson and a much larger one over Moffitt.
Instead, it's Larson who now enjoys a 10-point lead over Moffitt and a 19-point advantage over LaJoie. Chase Elliott is 30 points out and out of contention.
Larson is certainly in the driver's seat. Not only does he have a nice cushion over Moffitt heading into the final race, but he also boasts a career average finish of 3.6 on speedways – defined as tracks .75-miles in length or longer. He won the last K&N Pro Series race contested on a mile track, having visited Victory Lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway back in September.
Moffitt, though, is no slouch. He's won at Dover in his career, and at New Hampshire, and if he can win and lead the most laps tomorrow, the pressure will fall on Larson to produce a Top-5 finish and lock down the series title in his rookie season with Rev Racing.
There are two things that come with LaJoie's penalty for an illegal carburetor at Greenville Pickens: The series has been robbed of a dramatic, three-way, non-Chase battle to the checkered flag at Rockingham, and LaJoie has fallen from the ranks of the feel-good story of the season.
Just a year ago, LaJoie was making his first full run at the series title while lamenting the fact that he had no Sprint Cup Series support or big funding. In the moments following his win at Greenville, he took to Twitter (@supershoeLAJOIE) to defend his aggressive driving.
“Build car, setup car, drive car, start last, win race...don't deserve it?” LaJoie posted on his Twitter account in response to those who suggested his win wasn't “deserved” after he roughed up Moffitt on the final lap.
Think about it: a championship for LaJoie would have provided the ultimate “score one for the little guy” storyline, while also serving NASCAR as an illustration that more than just the big teams can compete at the K&N Pro Series level.
LaJoie did respond to the illegal carburetor allegations this week, also via Twitter, suggesting that it was the same carburetor that had been pulled apart after his three previous wins this season before passing inspection.
But the fact remains that NASCAR saw otherwise, failed the carburetor after the Greenville win, and made it so that LaJoie needs both Larson and Moffitt to encounter trouble in the season finale for him to have his own shot at winning the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship.
Which really is a shame. For everybody.
THE 10TH ANNUAL North-South Shootout is back next weekend (Nov. 8-10) at Caraway Speedway, and despite some ill feelings about the event no longer being held at Concord Speedway, there are reasons for Modified fans to pay attention.
The event, highlighted by a 125-lap Tour Modified feature event and a 150-lap PASS National Series race, pits Pennsylvania's Matt Hirschman and former Bowman Gray Stadium champion Burt Myers against one another again. Qualifying is set for next Friday, November 9, and racing is on the docket for the following day.
Hirschman has won four of the last six North-South Shootout titles. The other two during that span went to Myers, the 2010 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion, who won back-to-back North-South Shootouts in 2008 and 2009.
“You can set up to go to Caraway and be good, and another time you can go back with the exact same setup and it's totally different,” Myers said this week, answering doubts that there might be a home track advantage for the southern-based Modified teams, who race several times a season at Caraway on the Whelen Southern Modified Tour. “I don't think anyone has an advantage. The format is so different from a Tour race, with the tires and qualifying and everything else, it really evens the playing field.”
Hirschman has fared very well in the south, too, given his four Tour Modified wins at the NSS and an accompanying SK Modified win at the event.
“Some people didn't like idea of it going to Caraway at first, because there were so many (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour) races there every year, but me going and winning should give any outside team hope of going down there and being able to win,” Hirschman said. “I proved that it's still it's own race, and I think any outsider can go in and win that race.”
Next weekend, when some of the best Modified teams up and down the East Coast hit the .455-mile Caraway Speedway's high-bans, we should find out.
I'M A PAUL Heyman guy.
I'M A PAUL Heyman guy.
RYAN PREECE, WHO came within the final race of the season of winning the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship this year, is entered in the North-South Shootout – but not in his familiar Flamingo Motorsports No. 16 or even his family-owned No. 41 that he took to Charlotte Motor Speedway last month for the Southern Modified Tour season finale.
Nevertheless, Preece's North-South Shootout ride is a familiar one.
Preece is entered in the No. 7NY that Ryan Newman has driven recently at both New Hampshire and Bristol Motor Speedway. It's a great ride for a talented young Modified driver.
SO, WE FINALLY got word of the rumored head-to-head short-track battle that will take place next July.
When the Super Late Models take over Oxford Plains Speedway for the 40th running of the Oxford 250, ACT-legal Late Models will line up in eastern New York at AirborneSpeedway for part of what they are calling the “International 500,” which includes a 300-lap, Milk Bowl-style race for a hefty purse.
I'm not surprised that ACT is trying to do something to replace the loss of the Oxford 250 for its teams. What is concerning is the timing of the race – which was scheduled directly against the Oxford 250.
Look, short-track teams and fans had things at their best the last two seasons – when both ACT and the PASS-sanctioned Super Late Models were both at Oxford for races during Oxford 250 weekends. Teams and fans didn't have to choose – and both sides were rewarded, with drivers like Joey Polewarczyk Jr., Brian Hoar and Patrick Laperle running both events to everybody's delight.
Most disconcerting was the sentiment among some Late Model fans last weekend that they were much happier to head to Airborne Speedway, forfeiting a five-hour drive from some reaches of Vermont for a one-hour trip to Airborne in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
From this perspective, that's a sad reaction. Makes you wonder if Late Model supporters ever truly grasped what they were given – and sparked such bitter debate in Maine and New Hampshire – over the original decision to let Late Models compete in the Oxford 250, beginning in 2007.
One thing that ACT and PASS proved over the last few years is that there is room for both series, despite ongoing debates to the contrary on internet message boards (yes, they still exist!) and in pit areas across the northeast. What we've learned in the last couple of weeks: we're going to have a harder and harder time seeing just that.
In the end, nobody wins. Stock car racing just loses.
YOU'VE BEEN A great audience. Try the pulled pork with slaw, and don't' forget to tip your waitress. Southside Johnny is here, so stick around.