This was the Charlotte Sun News Press 10-21-08
PUNTA GORDA ? What ended with a champagne shower in the winner?s circle on Saturday night began nearly two years ago as a simple idea. And for all of the time and effort owner Bobby Diehl spent bringing the ASA Late Model Series to the Charlotte Motorsports Park, the results were well worth it. The grandstands were packed to watch Saturday?s feature event, a 22-car, 125-lap race which wrapped up the 2008 season for the ASALMS Southern Division. After an exciting race that featured several spin-outs and cautions and one fantastic wreck 29 laps in, the league crowned its rookie champion, Justin Larson, and southern series champion, Jimmy Lang.
?Our southern division is kind of our own stepping stone to our national series, which runs at some of the Bristols, and we have very good drivers here,? said Ron Varney, president/CEO of ASALMS. ?While we take them to some of the bigger tracks, it?s still all about the short tracks. We?ll never forget where we came from. We need to run places like this in order to keep short tracks alive.?
The American Speed Association is one of a few ?feeder series? with a pipeline directly to NASCAR and the Nationwide Busch Series. Current NASCAR drivers Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace both won ASA titles on their way up the racing ladder, so fans in the crowd knew they were sneaking a peak at the stars of tomorrow.
?ASA is really is the premier late model series in the country,? said Diehl. ?Nobody else has the professionalism that these guys have.?
One of those up-and-comers was Blake Koch, who recently inked with prestigious Childress Racing?s driver development. The 22-year-old has been racing cars for just 11/2 years (he had 15 years of motorcycle racing under his belt prior to that), but impressed enough to earn a nod from the same company that employs Kevin Harvick, who?s currently ninth in NASCAR?s Chase for the Championship.
Koch, his stepfather and crew team flew in from California to compete in Saturday night?s race, and were set to head back to the West coast on Sunday evening.
?It?s nice to be back home,? said Koch, a West Palm Beach resident. Dustin Dunn, who finished third in ASALMS rookie points this season, agreed.
?I?ve raced at this track at least 30 times, both trucks and late models, and it?s comfortable here,? he said. ?It?s definitely a little bit smaller than the regular (series stops). There are only two tracks this year where we pit outside the track. ? but it?s comfortable here.?
Having the ASALMS come to Punta Gorda and its family-owned, 3/8-mile, semi-banked oval was certainly one of the highlights of a racing season that?s also seen the United Dirt Late Model Series visit the paved track, motorcycle stuntmen and figure 8 racing.
Always willing to try something new, Diehl was not about to let the ASA opportunity pass his track by.
?Bobby and I were just talking one day, and we needed a closer, and it was kind of the idea to make this a big deal,? said Ron Varney, president/CEO of ASALMS. ?We?re also working on some big announcements for the future to work with Fastrucks. We?ve got a pretty good tie-in here, and we?ve got some big plans to help Bobby and to help Fastrucks. It?s going to be a good deal for everyone.?
Colt James, who won Saturday?s ASALMS feature race, best summed up the experience as he dodged spurts of celebratory champagne.
?It was well worth the 12-hour drive to get here,? James said.
Wow!!! Was ASA impressed. The count may not been those of 2004 when 56 FASTRUCK Pro’s last raced with the ASA (Marty Zehr won), BUT the race was every bit as exciting. We are looking forward to the Road Trips. Get ready for the NEWS releases about to come out. Sorry for those who could not make it.
Thanks to all of those who BELIEVED (Teams, Staff and most of all the FANS)
GET READY TO ROCK CCMP Late Model style!!! You don’t want to miss this one.