BUMP STOPS: Points Racing, Points Runaway And On Point

Thursday, August 2, 2012
Photo: Travis Barrett/GWC

It's Thursday again. Time to take the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust her off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

PRIOR TO THE ACT Late Model Tour return to the points-racing portion of their schedule, eight-time champion Brian Hoar found himself in an unusual position.

Instead of being the chased, Hoar was the chaser – sitting third in the standings, even after winning two of the first five races of the 2012 season. Problem was, leader Wayne Helliwell Jr. had also won twice already this season and Joey Polewarczyk Jr. was having a more consistent season.

As Hoar headed to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway last weekend locked in a tight championship battle – the Top-4 in the standings were separated by only 42 points – where all involved had shown the ability to run at the front of the field week in and week out. Hoar suggested that “winning” had become the new “points racing” on the ACT Late Model Tour in 2012.

“When everybody is as competitive and as good as the top few teams are, then, yes, you probably are going to need to win some races here,” Hoar said. “But it also depends on what everybody else does, too. If they finish 30th, then we don't need to win, right? But our plan going in, we need to get top points, lead some laps, and win some races.”

Austin Theriault took notice of the philosophy, apparently.

Theriault led a race-high 60 laps to win the ACT 150 at Beech Ridge, a rain-shortened event that was halted after 112 laps. Theriault had a dominant race car after starting on the outside pole, and nobody who was present would have suggested he wouldn't have been the car to beat had the race gone the full advertised distance.

With his first career ACT win, Theriault leapt from fourth in the standings to second – chopping what had been a 42-point deficit down to just 16. It proved yet again what people always say about points at the short-track level – win races and you get the most points, and the championship picture begins to take care of itself.

But while others like runner-up Jeff Taylor, fourth-place Glen Luce and even Helliwell and Polewarczyk had stalled out in their marches toward the front, Hoar might have been the only car that had a real argument that things might have been different without weather. He gained three spots on the final restart with three laps remaining, and seemed to have plenty of car left.

It was almost as if Hoar had it pegged – he needed to have enough car to win and keep his championship hopes alive.

IT'S NOT LIKELY that Brett Moffitt is going to have a hiccup this weekend – though that's exactly what the competition needs from him with only five races remaining.

Moffitt finished second last time out and now has a 22-point lead over Chase Elliott as the series heads to Iowa Speedway. But that's not the only obstacle facing the field when it comes to Moffitt – who led 144 laps in the Graham Tire 150 at his home track in Iowa back in May.

Four of the final five races of the season will be held on speedways – with only the Labor Day weekend stop at Greenville Pickens Speedway as the exception. There's Iowa this weekend, then Greenville followed by the mile tracks of New Hampshire, Dover and Rockingham to close out the calendar. Moffitt has been very, very good on the speedways, too. He won the season finale at Dover in 2010 and last year he won at New Hampshire.

If Moffitt has a repeat performance at Iowa in the Pork Be Inspired 150 on Friday night, he might be able to start picking out his tuxedo for the championship banquet in December.

HAD AN INTERESTING conversation on “In The Pits” – a Portland, Maine-based auto racing radio show on Friday mornings – last week with Krista Voda. The SPEED Channel and NASCAR on FOX personality spoke at length about the A.J. Allmendinger situation, and said something a couple of things that really didn't sit too well with me.

When asked about what had happened, Voda opted for the route of surprise, saying, “He's a really good guy.” To me, that's irrelevant, and it shows how much touch the national racing media has lost when it comes to racing. Just because a guy smiles at the track, happily answers questions for television cameras and drinks a few beers with everybody back in the motorhome lot, that doesn't make him a “good guy.” We still don't know what a person is like behind the scenes.

That's not to say that A.J. Isn't a good guy. But I can't say someone is a “good guy” anymore than I can speculate that he's a “bad guy” just because of his presence in and around race cars in the circus that is the Sprint Cup Series.

Pressed further on the topic, Voda was asked why Major League Baseball players – including, specifically, Manny Ramirez, perhaps the greatest power hitter of his generation – don't get the same sort of conspiracy theories and three-week long coverage of their suspensions.

Her answer, in a nutshell: “I think it's because we're around these guys so much and we're right there with them all the time.”

Ouch. If that's the case, then there needs to be a new set of guidelines for NASCAR reporters.

I'm not suggesting that the positive sides should never be pointed out, no more than the difficult stories should be pursued. But to suggest that we're not getting objective reporting of the people in the NASCAR garage is an insult to all motorsports fans.

All we want to know is the truth – that the people we see are what we are told they are.

IT'S A SHAME we can't see Matt Hirschman in a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event, especially at a place like New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Hirschman has shown a penchant for winning the biggest open Modified races in New England, having taken the checkered flag in a $5,000-to-win event at Star Speedway in June and a $10,000-to-win race at Seekonk Speedway last night.

To win those two races, Hirschman had to beat Tour strongholds Doug Coby and Ryan Preece, suggesting that the former threat to win the Whelen Modified Tour championship still has what it takes to compete.

He certainly comes from great bloodlines.

Hirschman's father, Tony Hirschman, won 35 races in a career that also netted five Tour championships. The elder Hirschman won seven of those races at New Hampshire, including three of the four staged there in 1996.

YOU'VE BEEN A great audience. Try the cheddar stuffed turkey burger with mustard pickles, and don't forget to tip your waitress. Mac Miller is here, so stick around.

– TB