By Riley Hicks
All season long Senoia Raceway had three wide, wall-to-wall and bumper-to-bumper racing. People came from miles away to watch or race on the gumbo clay and see what all the hype was about all over social media. Each week fans filled the stands fence post to fence post hoping to witness their favorite driver take home the win that Saturday night. The drivers came to put on show, and at the same time raced for the chance at a championship.
Now that the points season has officially ended, Saturday night Senoia celebrated the 2017 champions for its eight dirt racing divisions. A few drivers placed themselves in the history books for the first time, and one continued his championship streak making it his third in a row. Each class throughout the year put on some tight races and had many different winners, but the drivers who won the championships remained consistent every weekend.
The Hot Shots is the cheapest division to join at Senoia with cars just being four cylinders. Most of these drivers are just wanting to dirt race, so a lot of them go to junk yards to buy old cars then place a motor in them and go racing. This was the first year that Senoia added this class, and it had a nice turn out. Every week the fans saw an exciting show because the drivers were so evenly matched, and they didn’t care how their cars looked after the race since they were already beat up.
Nathan Farrow No.78 was crowned this year’s champion in the Hot Shots. He took some time to figure out the track at the beginning of the season. When Farrow finally learned the track he was hard to pass and ran up front. Dave McWilliams kept the points close finishing only 49 points behind Farrow.
The second championship went to Mark Newton No.MD1 of the Mini Stock class. All season Newton dominated the Mini Stocks winning a total of 10 races. At one point, Senoia placed a bounty on him, meaning that if anyone beat him they earned extra prize money. Newton never had competition when it came to the final points winning by 187 points over Jamie Nicholson Sr. Instead of coming back next year for a repeat, Newton plans to travel with Kajun Mini Stock Association.
“We pulled off seven in a row and had a great season,” Newton said. “I want to thank John Holcomb, 3B Performance and Round Boy Motorsports because they are a big help.”
The championship in the Bomber division held a tight race separating first and second by only 13 points. It came down to the last night of points racing to settle the champion and Dorough Bright No.D7 edged out as the winner. His competition came from Charlie Garrett, who like Bright remained consistent throughout the year. The reason Bright claimed the championship was because he captured more wins than Garrett. These two should be back next season to chase for another title. This class also welcomed 14-year-old lady driver McKenna Nelms to the podium as she finished third in points.
Senoia Raceway’s Hobby Stock class found itself a champion in Joe Hillman No.01, who managed to secure a handful of wins this season. The championship did not come easy though, as Ted Willingham found himself in victory lane on more than one occasion. What helped Hillman was that he always finished races, and when he did not win the race Hillman rarely ended up past third. The margin of separation from Hillman and Willingham came to only 60 points. As for next season, Hillman plans to hopefully move up to a higher division at Senoia.
“I was able to get a lot of sponsors this year which was a great big help,” Hillman said. “We got to stay on top of things and the outcome was great every weekend.”
Another close championship race came in the Late Model Sportsman class, which showed Senoia’s most drivers compared to all other divisions. This class welcomed over 60 different drivers throughout the season, but three drivers that competed every week took the top spots. Third place went to Curtis Turner while second came to Billy Stevenson, who found victory lane quite often this season. The driver that finished first overall was Keith Fields No.1J that displayed the face of Jesus on his car. Fields did not make it to victory lane this season but ran up front enough to gain the most points on his way to the championship.
The second late model class at Senoia is the Crate Late Models, and this season the championship was given to Jamie Maurice No.17c. Before coming to dirt racing Maurice found a passion in lawn mower racing, where he was quite dominating. After giving up lawn mowers, Maurice decided to jump into a Crate car and once he found a feel for the track he started racing up front. Maurice has yet to find victory lane this season since the other competitors like Dennis Lykins Jr., Marty Lunsford and Dylan Knowles have battled their ways to wins. Maurice was still able to remain up front to take home this year’s title.
“I guess you could say consistency paid off because we had no DNF [did not finish], and a bunch of top fives and top tens all year,” Maurice said. “Everybody I can thank, I want to thank all of them because they backed me all year and had faith in me.”
In the Limited Late Models this season, two drivers fought for the championship spot, but ultimately it was Matt Dooley No.18, taking the series title. Dooley drove his way to victory lane four times and never had a DNF, which helped win the championship. Jason Williams though made Dooley fight each weekend as he had a strong car week in and week out. This was the first time Dooley had won a championship at Senoia since racing a Legends car when the track was asphalt. His Rocket Chassis race car sure put on some great Limited races for the fans this season.
“I am proud of my whole team,” Dooley said. “I am glad to be home racing and it’s a big accomplishment for my career.”
The last championship of the night was given in the fastest series of them all the Super Late Models. This seasons champion won his third in a row and his name is Clint Smith No.44. He planned to run with the Southern All Stars, but many drivers were using his business of Clint Smith Racing so he decided to stay and run at Senoia. On most Saturday’s Smith took the car to the top spot helping him secure the championship. He also took the big money of $4054 in the Mike Head Jr. Memorial race when it came to Senoia for the first time.
“Our cars that we worked on were champions in the top four classes,” Smith said. “I am proud of my shop work and all my guys work. That means just as much for me to win a championship for all my guys to win championships.”
Now Senoia Raceway has three weekends left with one of those being the Showdown at Senoia from Oct. 26-28. The top drivers from around the country will come down and try to take home the prize money in all eight divisions.