2013-2014 Can-Am Late Model Season Review

Can-Am Late Model Season Review

Our third crack at an oval racing series, in comparison to previous seasons, a success. On the one hand, car count was at times poor; the season opener at Delaware Speedway brought 12 cars to the table, with the same 12 starting at Barrie Speedway, but after that participation became spotty for several of the drivers, and counts hovered around the magic “9″ for the rest of the season.

Which is a shame–even a field of 14-15 would make a huge difference in terms of filling the field and bringing realism to the proceedings. Still, the previous stockcar seasons we’ve had at ESR had the same, and sometimes worse, car count, so again, in comparison, this was a success. The most important reason? The QUALITY of the racing was outstanding. We started with an inexplicable wreck-fest at Delaware, though that could perhaps be blamed on several drivers having never turned a wheel on an oval showing up without any practice to run. From Barrie onward, though, the racing was outstanding, with tons of great side-by-side action, the odd beating and banging and pushing, all the excitement you expect from a hard-nosed short track racing series.

We only had five winners on the season, but considering the field was only 10, that’s not a bad number! It likely could have been higher were it not for the dominant runs put in by championship contenders Rich Coffey and Sherman Baumann. They would take 8 and 5 wins respectively, and only finished OFF the podium 4 and 5 times out of 21 races! In the end it would be Coffey’s greater number of wins that would prove the difference heading into the finale, despite Baumann netting more pole positions. Qualifying didn’t matter much to Coffey, who likely passed more cars than anyone on the season in the Reed’s Toyota. The two would have the occasional coming together, including Baumann’s sweep of Bristol involving a little Earnhardt-esque bump-n-run on Coffey. But overall the racing was hard but fair, and to see the title fight come down that close shows just how competitive the series was.

Third in points would be Cameron Wagner, who frankly was relatively new to oval racing, but didn’t take long to get acclimated to it. He would match Baumann’s five wins on the season, though one would be at the only road course on the schedule at Mosport. He suffered a bit in the consistency department, in that when he had a bad night, he had a REALLY bad night finishing at the back, and that would have him drop behind the front pair in the points. Still, a solid season, highlighted by a spectacular win at historic Martinsville.

John Culbert, Jr., the most experienced oval track racer of the bunch, was a championship contender from the get-go, finishing on the podium after his pole position at his home track of Delaware. The Canadian would get his first win on the dirt at Ohsweken Speedway, which (briefly) gave him the points lead. He would then round out 2013 in style by winning the Race of the Year at Madison Speedway in a door-banging photo finish with Sherman Baumann. Unfortunately, he would have internet connection issues at the worst possible time, missing the race in Vernon BC, which would knock him out of contention. Still, a pretty successful season with three Poles, a pair of wins and nine podiums.

The rest of the field would be unable to find victory lane, but would still be competitive, another five drivers finding the podium at least once. Tops among them would be EVOL’s Brandon Smith. He had moments of brilliance in Qualifying, nailing two pole positions at arguably the two biggest races, Bristol and Martinsville. He struggled for consistency in race trim but when he was on his game, he fought for wins, including a brilliant pair of Podiums at Bristol. Former late model race winner Glenn Corliss, running a partial schedule in the Gosling’s Toyota, was competitive as always too, finishing third at Thunderhill and then capping off the season with another podium, holding off Culbert on the last lap at Iowa.

Jonathan Hill would also run on a partial schedule, finishing a fine 3rd place at Martinsville. Dirt racer Rudy Kuhl showed up for a few races, highlighted by a hard-fought third at Delaware. And, of course, the only other race winner, newcomer Tim Miller, who showed up for a cup of coffee at Barrie Speedway, dominated and then disappeared off the face of the earth.

Stellar racing all season long though, and it was a lot of fun seeing those new to oval racing gradually grow into it and get used to constant, exciting side-by-side competition. Even toward the back of the field, there was still some excellent battles, and that’s what this league is all about–giving you someone to race, regardless of your pace.

We’ll be taking a break on Wednesdays for a while now, but it’s pretty likely we’ll give this another try in the Fall, with a few tweaks to the schedule.

Hopefully we get a few more cars though.