Concord, NC — A showdown between a grizzled veteran and a fresh-faced youngster. A dramatic, down-to-the-wire points battle. A dose of national recognition and cool points-fund checks at the end of the rainbow.
Those were the lead stories of the 2009 season in DIRTcar Racing Western Region’s open-wheel Modified division, which picked up more steam thanks to an exciting duel for regional supremacy featuring fellow Las Cruces, N.M., residents Jimmy Ray and Stormy Scott.
In what was by far the closest points race among the 10 regions that comprised the nationally-known UMP DIRTcar Modified program in 2009, the 60-year-old Ray nipped the 19-year-old Scott by a mere two points (1,989-1,987) to win the championship of the Wild West Region, which includes the best DIRTcar Modified racers from New Mexico, Arizona and Western Texas. The title will bring Ray a $2,000 prize from the $6,400 Wild West Region points fund when checks are distributed during the 2009 UMP DIRTcar Racing ‘Night of Champions’ Awards Banquet on Jan. 9 in Springfield, Ill.
“Seeing an established standout like Jimmy Ray outduel a rising star like Stormy Scott in the closest regional points battle in the country made the 2009 season truly memorable for DIRTcar Modified racing in the DIRTcar Racing Western Region,” said DIRTcar Racing Western Region director Chris Morgan. “The exciting points race – and the season-ending points-fund bonuses that went to the top DIRTcar Modified drivers in the Western Region – put DIRTcar Racing in the headlines as we continue to build Modified racing in the Western Region under the DIRTcar Racing banner.”
A prominent proponent of DIRTcar Modified racing’s expansion in the Southwest is Ray, who not only is a leading driver in the region but also co-promotes two flagship DIRTcar-sanctioned tracks in the area. Ray and his business partner Royal Jones, a 55-year-old from Las Cruces who also competes regularly in the DIRTcar Modified class, operate Southern New Mexico Speedway in Las Cruces and El Paso (Texas) Speedway Park.
“I enjoy racing a DIRTcar Modified,” said Ray, who combines with Jones to operate Mesilla Valley Transportation. “I like the (DIRTcar) rules because a racer can still feel like he can build things and be creative – to a degree – rather than having everything controlled, and the points deal is a nice bonus.”
A competitive sort who has driven everything from Modifieds to Sprint Cars to Late Models to Legends Cars during his long career behind the wheel, Ray built up his ’09 UMP DIRTcar points total running his 10-year-old, homebuilt DIRTcar Modified weekly at Southern New Mexico and El Paso. He also competed in special events at other DIRTcar Racing-sanctioned tracks in the region – White Sands Speedway in Tularosa, N.M., where Ray was crowned the 2009 track champ for his success in a six-race Modified series, and USA Raceway in Tucson, Ariz., where Tucson’s R.C. Whitwell emerged as the Modified titlist (and finished 12th in the Wild West Region).
Ray held off a furious late-season rush from Scott to secure the Wild West Region title.
“We knew it was gonna be close coming down the stretch,” Ray said of his points battle with Scott. “(Scott) had more wins (11) than we did (Ray was victorious just twice), but we had an awful lot of seconds and that kept us on top.”
Scott, meanwhile, ran out of time in his pursuit of Ray. The teenager (who turned 20 on Dec. 16) won nearly half his DIRTcar-sanctioned starts in 2009 competing at the same selection of sanctioned tracks as Ray, but he didn’t enter as many events as Ray, putting him at a disadvantage in a points system that used drivers’ best 30 finishes/points nights to determine the regional standings. While Ray was able to replace several of his worst outings, Scott didn’t make enough starts to wipe out any of his low points nights.
“Once we realized we had a shot in the points we started running more DIRTcar shows,” said Scott, a DIRTcar Modified racer since the ripe age of 12 who competed in 2009 as a teammate to his fraternal twin brother Johnny in cars fielded by his grandparents. “We could’ve used a few more races.”
Scott figures to be a contender for the Wild West Region title in 2010 – and perhaps even the UMP DIRTcar national crown (worth $20,000) if he enters more DIRTcar-sanctioned events. He finished 21st in the national standings in 2009 (besting Ray’s 29th-place finish because he earned points outside the Wild West Region), earning himself an additional $700 to go along with the $1,500 he will collect for taking the runner-up spot in the regional race.
“I think DIRTcar Modified racing is a good deal for our area,” said Scott, a sophomore business major at New Mexico State University. “It allows you to pretty much run anywhere in the country with the same car, and I’m looking forward to running more races next year.”
In fact, Scott will make his second consecutive February trip to Florida in 2010 for some DIRTcar Modified racing. He has landed a ride in a car owned by J.R. Baxter of Albuquerque, N.M., for the eight nights of UMP DIRTcar Modified action (Feb. 2-9) that are part of the 39th annual DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.
Ray and Scott were two of five Wild West Region drivers who cracked the top 100 in the 2009 UMP DIRTcar Modified national points standings. They were joined by female driving standout Christy Georges of El Paso, Texas (third regional, 62nd national), Royal Jones (fourth region, 90th national) and Royal’s son Bumper Jones (fifth region, 64th national).
Scott and Royal Jones also made the tow out to last month’s inaugural Silver State DIRTcar Championships at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, showing their backing of DIRTcar Modified racing in the West. Scott was victorious in the weekend’s preliminary feature and finished second in the main event.
Jones made a point of supporting the Silver State DIRTcar Championships. He wants to see the DIRTcar Modified division expand across the western states.
“I’m a big supporter of DIRTcar,” said Royal Jones, who scored a pair of top-10 finishes at Las Vegas. “I think the rules and structure (DIRTcar provides) can be a real good thing for our area.”
With strong testimonials from such major players as Jones, DIRTcar Modified racing’s growth in the West is sure to continue in 2010 – with more tracks, more cars, more big events (like November’s Fall DIRTcar Nationals which paid $15,000 to win and drew 107 cars to Jones’s Southern New Mexico oval) and more opportunities for drivers to bid for the biggest UMP DIRTcar points prizes.
Additional info on all of the series, sanctioning and member tracks of DIRTcar Racing is available at www.DIRTcar.com.