AND FOR THE first time this year, Bump Stops is back. Despite the fact that we're locked in the interminable winter here in New England – where winter is threatening to drag right through August this year – the local race scene has fired up and started to take shape.
There's an interesting field staged to battle for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship, some neat developments involving both the ACT Late Model Tour and one of its marquee teams, and the Cinderella story that continues to feel all warm and fuzzy on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Plus, there's Legends and Late Models and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series tracks getting ready to go for 2013 starting this weekend and next.
And, of course, we've got Denny vs J-Lo, Tony Stewart vs Tony Stewart (see what I did there?) and solid reviews of the racing being provided by the Gen-6 car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
So, away we go. It might be cold outside, but racing is about to get smokin' hot! (I know, I know. Too easy.)
WHEN 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Dylan Kwasniewski made the jump to the K&N Pro Series East this season to drive for Turner Scott Motorsports, it raised some eyebrows – and may have been met with a bit of skepticism.
Kwasniewski posted a pretty impressive record out West – with five wins, seven poles, 20 Top-5 finishes in 28 races, and no points position finish of worse than fifth – while driving for Gene Price Motorsports. But the West series is not the East, where there's a greater influx of development teams and Cup Series-affiliated organizations.
Credit Kwasniewski and Turner Scott Motorsports – led by Mike Greci, who breeds success in young drivers (see: Martin Truex Jr., Trevor Bayne, etc.) – for opening eyes last month. In the season opener at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kwasniewski put a whipping on the field in his first career visit to the track.
“(The car) was on rails. It was just as good at the end as it was in the beginning,” Kwasniewski said after the win. “To win at a track like Bristol – there’s nothing like it. Also, to get the first win of the season definitely gives us a lot of momentum.”
It's not going to be a cakewalk for Kwasniewski here, though. Brett Moffitt is back yet again, and yet again he'll factor into the title picture. Bryan Ortiz returns with Rev Racing, which won last year's championship with Kyle Larson, after opening eyes in his rookie campaign. If Cale Conley does, indeed, run the full season as he's promised, that's another fresh face that can challenge for the top spot.
With guys like Larson, Corey LaJoie and Darrell Wallace Jr. moving away from full-time competition in the series, it's shaping up to be a pretty interesting season there.
They'll race the rescheduled Greenville Pickens Speedway date this Saturday, and it should serve as a barometer for what's to come – it's flat, has little grip and is a true test of driving ability.
WAYNE HELLIWELL JR.'S camp tossed a bit of a grenade into the ACT Late Model Tour picture
It takes a tremendous amount of commitment to run both sides of the coin, and it also means Helliwell will spend less time running weekly at places like Canaan Fair Speedway and Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire.
It's sure to tax his team in terms of effort and resources, but keep in mind – one year ago this week, we thought Helliwell was a nice addition to ACT without garnering any serious consideration toward winning the title.
Well, shows what we know.
Helliwell joins the Tour at one of his best tracks – Lee USA – for the season-opening NH Governor's Cup 150 next weekend, April 13-14.
DOUG COBY CONTINUES to shine as the ultimate underdog, taking Wayne Darling's NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour team from part-time competitor to championship performer.
Despite winning the championship last year, Coby is still not necessarily hailed as a stone-cold lock for the title again this year. That's crazy.
Given the way Coby turned his worst days into Top-10 finishes – and was able to seal the deal virtually every time the chance to win presented itself – he's proven not only to be one of the most talented drivers in the 30-something crop of Modified drivers, but also pretty adept at points racing, too.
His win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the fall only served to further illustrate that this time isn't just one capable of winning on bullrings. They can win anywhere.
Coby's title defense begins next weekend, April 14, in the annual Icebreaker at Thompson International Speedway.
TONY STEWART MIGHT be a bit on the hypocritical side.
While he was complaining about Joey Logano's blocking tactics on the final restart of the race at Auto Club Speedway a couple of weeks ago, he seemed to forget that he was the guy who touched off a multi-car wreck involving a couple of key contenders early in the Daytona 500 after a haphazard attempt to switch lanes heading through the tri-oval and off into the first turn. (Details, details...)
And, before some blocking at places like Talladega from the multi-time series champion, he was famously quoted for suggesting somebody was going to get killed if guys kept driving the way they were on the restrictor plate tracks. (Again, details... I know.)
But here's where I thought Stewart should have been penalized following the race in California – for his actions on pit road in the immediate aftermath.
Look, I'm not going to pretend to be offended by a bleep-laced tirade to a FOX reporter, nor about his deciding to grab Little Joey by the cuff of his firesuit. No, I take issue with him blazing down pit road, blocking off Logano's car, screeching sideways to a halt and completely disregarding the crew member for another team aimlessly rolling up an air gun hose right near the two cars.
That's the stuff NASCAR can't have. THAT is putting people and their safety in serious jeopardy.
JAROMIR JAGR IS old. And I don't think he helps the Boston Bruins – or the problems that have plagued them all shortened-season long – all that much.
There. I said it.
ONE THING I do think is helping, though, is the new Gen-6 car in the Sprint Cup Series. The racing has been good from the beginning – yes, even at Daytona, so don't roll your eyes at me – and people are taking notice.
That's good for the sport, right?
YOU'VE BEEN A great audience. The Foo Fighters are here. Try one of the 117 different varieties of handcrafted donuts, and don't forget to tip your waitress...