By Cody Heacox
Ladies and Gents welcome to my edition of the 2018 Bowman Gray Preview, in what should be another exciting year at the famous ¼ mile oval football field known as Bowman Gray. We’re less than one week away from the start of the race season. After last year’s results I’m sure there is a lot of fired up and hungry drivers ready to pull those belts tight and grab on to their steering wheels and go racing for the 70th season at the Madhouse.
For those of you who are new here’s a little summary of Bowman Gray, as for 70 years Bowman Gray Stadium has been known as a family friendly place. Families use it as a Saturday night family tradition by going weekly and never missing a race. There may be an occasional fight, or sometimes every weekend for a while until the feuds calm down; on the track/pits or even in the stands over whose driver is better but regardless at the end drivers will be either cheered or booed by fans or in some cases the unfortunate middle finger.
But that’s why it’s called “The Madhouse” even legendary Cup names such as Petty, Earnhardt, Pearson, and Johnson have raced at the Madhouse. Not to mention Hall of Fame owner Richard Childress grew up selling popcorn and peanuts at the track. But then there have also been memorable moments from Richard Petty winning his 100th career race to a young upcoming driver named Ben Kennedy win the K&N series NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 at a track his great-grandfather helped establish.
After taking a year off, Derek “Primetime” Stoltz returned to the Madhouse as if he had never left picking up multiple wins and consistent finishes to pick up his second title in the Sportsman Division while having to battle it out with John Holleman. Holleman himself picked up a record tying 8 wins.
While the Sportsman series will lose Zack Clifton as he has decided to focus on racing at other tracks, I wish him the best of his future. You can expect to see the division to continue to be competitive. Look for Tommy Neal, Taylor Branch, Dylan Ward, Zack Ore, Michael Adams and Kevin Neal to find their way to victory lane as they look to dethrone Derek “Primetime” Stoltz along with John Holleman who looks to win his first title. My pick to win the Sportsman Title will be (Let me just say this was a tough decision to make.) but I got to go with Superman himself John Holleman. I honestly believe it’s his time. But don’t expect Derek Stoltz and the others to let him have this one very easily.
The Street Stock series could be the most competitive series at Bowman Gray this year with many talented drivers in this series such names as Amber Lynn, Brian Wall, Taylor Robbins, Jeremy Warren, Aaron Hylton, Fletcher Whaley, Bryan Sykes, etc, and don’t count out last year’s champion Jac Creed, as he stayed consistent all year and was in the right place at the right time. After last year I’d say this division could go down to the wire. I know these drivers are going to compete night in and night out giving it all they got. As Derrick Rice shocked the fans of Bowman Gray midseason and retired after winning two championships, while Derrick has told me many times, he has no interest in returning to the series. While Jeremy Warren and Amber Lynn dominated the series last year. I don’t really see one driver dominating this division but I do see multiple drivers dominating. My pick to win the Street Stock will have to be Jac Creed or Jeremy Warren. I feel like both drivers will be consistent and be there at the end.
Next up the Stadium Stock Series never seems disappoint as it came down to the last lap finish with Wesley Thompson being crowned champion, but A.J. Sanders, Chuck Wall, Billy Cameron Jr, Zack Staley, Chris Allison will look to have something to win the title this year. I see Kyler Staley being up there beating and banging going for wins this year. My pick for the Stadium Stock would be Chris Allison, I know I picked him last year but I feel like this could be his year.
Last but not least, the Modified series. As Burt Myers picked up championship number 9 last year, he’ll look to go for a three peat this year, while Tim Brown looks to rebound and get his 11th title after a third place finish last year. Over the past decade or more this division hasn’t been much more than a Myers/Miller/Brown showdown. While Junior Miller “retired” after picking up a win last year, but just a few days later changed his mind and returned to racing. We will see what he decides to do, as John Holleman will run in the modifieds driving Junior Miller’s car. You’ll see guys like Danny Bohn, Brandon Ward, Bobby Measmer Jr, John Smith and Chris Fleming battle for wins and hope to take the trophy away from the Myers/Brown dominance. Expect to see another name added to the mix, George Brunnhoelzl III. sound familiar? Well the 4 time Whelen Southern Modified Champion will drive for Hillbilly Racing as they will be running full season again. Now for my pick, I believe your 2018 Modified Champion will be for the eighth time and third in a row Burt Myers.
Make sure you come check out this season’s action, I expect there to be a lot of great finishes, record-breaking milestones, some drama off of the track, but more importantly some good old fashion hard racing. So be sure mark your calendars for 8pm on April 21st as the Modifieds will race for 200 laps following a 40 lap Sportsman race. The Street Stock will have a 20 lap event following the Hayes Jewelers 200 and lastly, the Stadium Stocks will have a pair of 15 lap. Be sure you check out my articles all season long as I preview and recap all of the actions and go in-depth with one-on-one interviews with some of your favorite drivers!
Also make sure you check out The Rundown with Desmond Johnson (Saturday at 10am on WSJS 600 or www.wsjssports.com) as I will be a guest on his show and talk Bowman Gray all season long!