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Motor Mile Speedway

Motor Mile Speedway News
Aug 9, 2009 - updated Aug 9th, 2009 11:48am
Web posted by

Radford, VA. --

Five races. Four contenders. Only one champion.
JW Martin

Frank Deiny, Jr. has one. Chad Harris has three. Philip Morris has six.

The top three contenders in the Late Model point standings are past champions, and at present, all have a near equal chance of earning the distinction again.

With five races remaining, four drivers are vying for the prestigious track title in the pinnacle division at Motor Mile Speedway. Six points separate the trio of veteran racers mentioned above; less than 30 points back looms the silently successful second-year driver Brandon Dean, who in contrast to his competition has neither a championship nor a win at MMS.

One race could change all that.

With the margin of error as slim as the lead Deiny retains heading into the Valvoline 150 this weekend, all are aware of the significance underlying each passing lap. One circuit can irreparably change the complexion of the point standings. One mistake can derail championship dreams.

There are currently four contenders. At season’s end, only one will be a champion.

The 2009 season is coming to a close. But the championship battle is wide open. Where do the top drivers in the Late Model division stand? Quotes and notes help break down the standings to get to the point.

[1] #4 Frank Deiny, Jr. – 622 points
Frank Deiny, Jr. left Motor Mile Speedway in 2005 with the lead in the Late Model point standings.

With five races remaining in his first full season back at MMS, Deiny is picking up right where he left off.

“It’s a heckuva battle right now---it’s fun,” Deiny says.

The unvarnished owner of FDJ Motorsports has been outspoken about his goals this season: win more races than Philip Morris, and win the championship.

Although Morris still leads the Late Model roster in the win column, Deiny’s eleven top fives and twelve top tens is a division high this season. However, it’s his lone victory and seven runner-up finishes that have driver No. 4 on the cusp of his second track title at the Radford oval.

“It’s really tough right now. Philip [Morris] and Chad [Harris] have won championships there, I’ve won a championship there---we’ve all been there and done that. In all honesty –and I hate to say it – it’s gonna come down to luck at the end.”

Deiny is the third driver to lead the standings this season. Since the track ownership change in 2004, Deiny is the only driver other than Morris to attain a track title.

[2] #3 Chad Harris – (-6)
In two short seasons, Landmark Builders/Dublin Developers has constructed a championship-caliber team.

In their initial season as an organization, driver Chad Harris and BBD Motorsports posted a fifth place finish in the standings. This season, Harris has collected a pair of first place trophies accompanied by ten top fives and twelve top tens---the second highest total in the division.

The results have transformed a once fledging operation into a powerhouse capable of procuring not only race trophies, but the championship trophy as well.

“To be in the hunt at this point in the season, I mean, you’d probably be kidding yourself if you didn’t expect to win it,” says Harris. “To take a second-year team and be where we’re at is a heck of an accomplishment.”

Harris has been in this position before. The Stuarts Draft, Va., driver has three championships spanning two decades. Furthermore, each of Harris’ victories this season has come in 75-lap heats. Of the five races remaining, at least two are billed with a distance of 75 laps.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome, Harris is satisfied with the team’s achievements thus far.

“It won’t be a [disappointment] to me if we’re not able to win it, but we’re gonna do everything we can,” says Harris. “Our chances are as good or better than anybody else. I think we’re in good shape.”

[3] #26 Philip Morris – (-6)

Whats wrong? Morris expects to rebound, the question is when.

At this point in the season a year ago, Morris had a 128-point lead in the track standings.

What a difference a year makes.

Once a stalwart at the Radford speedway, Morris has seen his dominance wane and his competition converge and, in some circumstances, surpass him on the track and in the points.

“The season started off great, and somehow or another we’ve got stuck in a rut,” Morris states. “We’ve tried harder in the last two months than we have since we’ve started racing, but for whatever reason we’ve struggled.”

Off to the best start of his career at MMS, winning the first three races of the season and four out of the first five, Morris appeared poised to defend his track championship as well as his national crown. But the team’s fourth visit to victory lane on May 30 has been their last.

Morris’ goals are still attainable, however. Morris currently trails Keith Rocco in the national standings by a mere 13 points –the equivalent of one race– despite the draught. And the defending LMSC champion is still a heavy favorite to win the track title…for the fifth consecutive year.

“I think we have a positive outlook. I think we are going to improve, and the turnaround is right around the corner. I’m very optimistic about what the team is capable of doing,” Morris says.

Hope is not lost. Neither is the championship.

[4] #5 Brandon Dean – (-26)
He’s been the No. 99. He’s been the No. 5. In terms of consistency, Brandon Dean has been No. 1.

Dean began his 2009 campaign piloting the family-owned Brandon Dean Racing No. 99 entry, achieving exceptional success with mediocre funding. When financial support began to diminish in July, a merger was announced with Kiker Motorsports---a move that transferred Dean to the seat of the No. 5 Kiker Tree Service Chevrolet. And although much changed, on-track results didn’t.

Dean has posted 13 top ten finishes---the most among any active driver in the division this season. Dean’s worst effort of the year was an eighth place outing in the latter 75-lap race on May 2--- also a season record.

Quiet consistency has been the hallmark of Dean’s season, and the success has been stunning, even to the driver… a little.

“I tried to stay out of trouble at the beginning of the season, and I did, and now it’s paid off with five races to go. I’m not too surprised –maybe a little bit – we’ve been running good all year,” says Dean.

Now, only 26 points out of first in the standings, Dean has positioned himself with an opportunity to capture the championship. Does he think he can do it?

“Yeah, I definitely do,” Dean says. “I think if we can snag a couple wins in the races coming up and stay out of trouble we can. There’s no doubt in my mind we have the stuff to do it.”

Dean believes the No. 5 team to be a contender for the championship. But even he admits you can’t win a title without winning a race--- a feat the 21-year-old driver has yet to accomplish in his short, two-year tenure at the .416-mile oval.

[5] #27 Tommy Lemons, Jr. – (-108)

Lemons, Jr. (left) and Harris (right) are still mathematically capable of taking the title.

In his inaugural season at Motor Mile Speedway in 2007, Tommy Lemons, Jr.’s, best finish was third. In 2008, Lemons’ best finish was second.

This season, the driver of the No. 27 Bailey’s Chevrolet has finished first…three times.

2009 has been a watershed for Lemons and the No. 27 team. Lemons is credited as the driver that broke Morris’ first place stranglehold at the beginning of the season, snapping the defending champ’s three-race winning streak en route to victory lane on May 2. The team followed up the record outing with back-to-back wins two weeks later.

But on-track success has not translated to gains in the standings.

Despite having the second highest winning percentage in the division, Lemons ranks fifth in points. A pair of twenty-first place finishes coupled with two fourteenth place showings attribute to the team’s current standing.

“So far we’ve been inconsistent, but there have been more mechanical problems than anything. The past month we’ve lost three rear-ends at Motor Mile---it seems like every time we turn around, something’s biting us,” Lemons says.

Lemons is 108 points out of first, a surmountable deficit. Can a late-season surge propel the team to a title?

“No,” says Lemons. “It’s going be a good battle between the top three, though, that’s for sure.”

And Lemons will have a front row seat.

[6] #47 Mike Looney – (-126)
The aptly-named Black Cloud Motorsports operation has seen a significant share of bad luck this season.

“It was Abraham Lincoln that said ‘we endeavor to persevere’; that’s kinda been the attitude of our whole team,” Looney explains. “I think our performance has been good –we’ve had speed– but circumstances have just plagued us this year.”

Engine failures. Broken wheels. Underbody complications. Looney and the No. 47 team have incurred a myriad of uncontrollable issues that have rendered the Weigh Station Chevrolet immobile this season.

Officially, the team has one win to their credit. Plagued with setbacks, the team’s perseverance has propelled them to seventh in the standings--- two positions higher than their finish a season ago. That could be the biggest victory of all.

And while it may be mathematically improbable or even impossible for him to win the title, Looney is still undeniably capable of taking the checkered flag.

That makes the No. 47 team the X-Factor down the final stretch.

[7] #41 Rusty Skewes – (-166)
Rusty Skewes is situated solidly in the top ten nearing season’s end. After fading to twelfth in standings in 2008, Skewes and the No. 41 team have made tremendous gains in the standings this season on the strength of seven top ten efforts.

That is a marked improvement over a year ago, when Skewes managed to record only three top tens.

“I think we’ve done a good job. I’m real happy with the support I’ve gotten from the team,” says Skewes, who competes under the FDJ Motorsports banner. “I’d like to hang on to our spot in the standings, and if we could move up, that would be wonderful.”

[8] #25 Derrick Lancaster – (-232)

Checkers or wreckers: Bad luck has overshadowed good runs in the No. 25 camp.

Statistics can be deceiving. Just ask Derrick Lancaster.

The season has been a relative success for the No. 25 RGM Erectors team, which is in only its second season as an organization at the Late Model level. Coinciding with seven top tens, Lancaster has tallied a pair of fifth place finishes.

But misfortune has negated several other impressive outings.

“We’ve had a lot of bad luck that hasn’t been of our doing,” explains Lancaster. “We’ve run a lot better than what [statistics] show.”

One way or another, Lancaster hopes the statistics will indicate a few more good finishes before season’s end.

[9] #24 Jordan Pennington – (-286)
After starting the season in the No. 55 Chevrolet, Jordan Pennington made the move to the cockpit of the No. 24 Camry last month. Now a part of the FDJ Motorsports stable, Pennington is already reaping the rewards of the newfound opportunity.

Finishes of eighth and sixth in the past two events at MMS account for two of Pennington’s three top tens this season.

Sometimes change is a good thing.

[10] Shaun Mangum – (294)
Released by Kiker Motorsports in mid-July, Mangum has yet to return to Motor Mile Speedway. Mangum tallied one top five and five top tens in nine starts in 2009.

Late Model racing at Motor Mile Speedway is winding down. But the race to be No. 1 is just starting to heat up.

Written opinions are solely those of the writer

Posted by jwmartin

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