Southside Joins NASCAR For 2011
Virginia short-track to be part of Whelen All-American Series
By Paul Schaefer, NASCAR
Southside, a .333-mile paved oval in Midlothian, Va. – southeast of downtown Richmond, Va. – are the fifth addition to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for next season and will be the sixth track in the Commonwealth to host NASCAR’s grassroots racing.
Sisters Sue Clements and Patsy Stargardt own the facility, and now operate and promote the track. They are daughters of J.M. Wilkinson, who founded the track in 1959. The track was previously a member of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series from 1983-2002.
“Southside Speedway has generated some great history and great drivers in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, and we’re happy to renew our partnership with the track,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR managing director of racing operations. “Sue Clements and her team have revitalized a great speedway.”
Chris Stefi is a former Southside driver who now handles public relations for the track.
“New history will be made at Southside starting in 2011,” Stefi said. “This is a great opportunity for our drivers and fans. We’ll be the only Friday night NASCAR track in the state, so Southside Speedway could be a key for drivers chasing the state points. We could be part of the national championship picture.”
Other Virginia tracks in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series include Langley Speedway in Hampton, Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Old Dominion Speedway, and South Boston Speedway
Southside’s 2010 track champions include Chris Dodson (Late Models), Thomas Stinson (Modifieds), Tommy Tatum (Grand Stocks), Mike Chapman (U-Cars), Mike Ganoe (Street Stocks), and Buzz Moore (Champ Karts).
NASCAR-sanctioned divisions at Southside in 2011 will be Late Model (Division I) and Modified (Division II).
NASCAR-licensed drivers in the track-designated Division I compete for track, U.S. state and Canadian provincial championships and point fund awards, as well as the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship. Series sponsor Whelen Engineering provides customized championship driver helmets for track champions and a championship racing uniform for state champions. In addition, NASCAR introduced the “Finalist Program” in 2010 to honor a track’s Division II-V competitors.
All NASCAR-licensed drivers competing in NASCAR-sanctioned divisions at sanctioned tracks are also eligible for NASCAR Participant Accident Insurance Coverage.
The eligibility for a NASCAR Learner’s Permit is 14 years of age. This allows drivers and crew members the opportunity to compete in entry-level divisions as designated by the track.
Southside Speedway opened as a .200 mile dirt oval in 1947 and was paved in 1948. Its configuration was changed to a .250 mile dirt oval in 1950, which was paved midway through the 1951 season. It was expanded again to its current .333 mile paved oval in 1962.
The track hosted four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events between 1961 and 1963. Those events were won by Junior Johnson, Jimmy Pardue, Jim Paschal and Ned Jarrett.
During the 1980s, the track became a star-maker in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Elton Sawyer was the first breakthrough driver, winning NASCAR Whelen All-American Series regional championships in 1984 and 1985. He was also the 1984 Late Model champion at Southside and Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va.
Phil Warren won Southside’s 1999 championship over a young Denny Hamlin. Warren also won his NASCAR regional championship in 1995.
Other Southside champions who were perennial regional title contenders include multiple track title holders Eddie Johnson and Roy Hendrick. Other Late Model track champions include Curtis Markham, David Blankenship, Roger Sawyer, Bugs Hairfield, Shayne Lockhart, and Bubba Urban.
Hamlin, who finished second in the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, won Southside’s Mini-Stock division championship in 1997. After competing in Grand Stocks in 1998, he moved to Late Models and placed second to Warren. Hamlin was also fourth in track points in 2004.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is the grassroots, foundation of NASCAR and consists of more than 50 short tracks across North America. Since its inception, NASCAR Home Tracks have served as a springboard in the careers of many NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers. Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Hamlin, and Jamie McMurray are among the drivers who began their careers racing in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. More information on the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is available at www.NASCARHomeTracks.com.