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BUMP STOPS: Comparisons, Competition And Cup Debuts

Friday, September 7, 2012
Photo: Travis Barrett/GWC

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

I THINK IT'S time to throw this comparison out there: Brian Hoar is the Jimmie Johnson of the ACT Late Model Tour.

The championships are one thing. Hoar has eight ACT Late Model Tour championships, the most the most of any active driver and the most in Tour history. Johnson, obviously, has five NASCAR Sprint Cup titles. Hoar leads all drivers in history with 37 points wins, while Johnson has 58 career Cup wins – among the active leaders.

But it's more than just statistics, as good as those statistics are.

Like Johnson, Hoar gets a lukewarm reaction from most fans. It seems they respect his record of dominance, but like Johnson there doesn't seem to be a groundswell of overwhelming support for everything he's accomplished already.

Consider the relative ages of the two competitors, too – at 40, Hoar has several of his prime years still ahead of him. The fact that he has trained for marathons and leads an active lifestyle away from the track only suggests that he's got as many years left as he'd like to have. For Johnson, he's not going to turn 37 until later this month and has another decade behind the wheel if he'd like. 

Both are in equipment that ranks among the best in their respective series, too. Johnson has won the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 the Coca-Cola 600 and virtually any other of the highlight events on the Sprint Cup schedule. Likewise, Hoar has won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and he's won the Milk Bowl and Labor Day Classic 200 at Thunder Road. About the only thing missing for Hoar at this point is a TD Bank Oxford 250 title – in part because he's only had a few cracks at it since it became a Late Model race.

One of my favorite comparisons of the two is in their demeanor. While Hoar – under much less media scrutiny, of course – can offer pointed quips with the best of them, he is all business from the start of practice through the final checkered flag of the day. Johnson, criticized earlier in his career as too vanilla to be likable, has let more of his personality shine of late, though he is intensely serious under race conditions.

Is it fair to compare the two careers as if they were on a level playing field? No, probably not. But what the two drivers mean to their respective series through the individual histories they continue to write is impossible to ignore.

SPEAKING OF BRIAN Hoar, his two straight wins to pull within eight points of ACT Late Model Tour leader Wayne Helliwell Jr. has been an amazing feat. Perhaps as amazingly is the Twitter banter between the two drivers following Hoar's Labor Day Classic 200 win at Thunder Road on Sunday.

First, a photo of Helliwell's wife with Hoar surfaced on Twitter with the caption, 'My new favorite driver?' Then there was a tweet from Helliwell talking about a Vermont television recap of the Labor Day race, where Helliwell asked if there was a button on the remote that would allow him to throw things at the TV when Hoar came on the video.

It went on for a little bit – a good-natured rivalry between two drivers who obviously respect one another's accomplishments.

Wait – a rivalry in racing without hatred and vitriol? Ridiculous.

Follow the two of them – @BH45 and @WayneHelliwell – for yourselves to join in the fun.

WHAT LOOKED LIKE it was going to be a long break between the final two NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races of the season – from September 28 at Dover to November 3 at Rockingham – got interesting last week when the Kevin Whitaker 140 at Greenville Pickens Speedway was rained out.

The event was postponed until October 27 – meaning the final two points races of the season will take place just six days apart.

Will Brett Moffitt be able to hold off the competition? Heck, will he be able to hold off his own team.

News broke this week that Moffitt's Hattori Racing Enterprises team isn't sure it has the funding to complete the season – even with Moffitt holding a sizable lead through 10 of 14 races.

“I just found out on Monday,” Moffitt told Sirius' Dave Moody. “I was in shock when they told me. I knew money was tight, but I figured that with us leading the points, they’d find a way to push through and keep racing. But I guess not.”

According to the report, HRE only had an eight-race contract in place with Moffitt to start the season and that finishing the year hinged on the ability to find more sponsorship.

ONE PLACE THAT really does NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour racing right is Thompson International Speedway, and this weekend's UNOH Showdown is one of the neatest events you'll find anywhere. It features both the Whelen Modified Tour and the Whelen Southern Modified Tour running separate point events on the same afternoon at the track, and the joining forces for a 50-lap non-points shootout with a big payday.

There may have been reservations last year heading into the event about just how well this idea would work – given the point both Tours are at on their respective schedules, the travel involved for the southern-based teams and the 'gimmicky' nature of the event where there used to be a Thompson 300.

But one thing was clear after last year's Showdown – it was an exciting event, won by Doug Coby, who lauded the efforts of NASCAR and track management for thinking outside the box and offering a big payday to such a small Modified operation.

The 75-lap sprint of a points race is dramatic enough, but the fact that teams don't have to worry about the championship picture in the Showdown is, ummm, money.

GOOD TO HAVE Mike Olsen back at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Olsen is planning his Sprint Cup debut in the Sylvania 300 with fellow New Hampshire native Frank Stoddard serving as car owner and crew chief.

Olsen is a two-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion, and he hasn't run full-time since the end of the 2007 season. He won at New Hampshire in 2006 – the same year he won his final championship.

His first title came in 2001.

ONE OF THE highlights of the open ACT Late Model Tour test at NHMS last week was the emergence of 15-year-old Emily Packard.

The 15-year-old racer from East Montpelier, Vt., has been competing weekly in the NASCAR Whelen-All-American Series Late Model division at Canaan Fair Speedway this season, winning the Rookie of the Year title there, finishing fourth in the overall standings and posting back-to-back runner-up finishes to close out the year.

She headed to Loudon to hit the big track for the first time last week, posting the sixth-fastest speed in the afternoon session.

“I learned a lot about drafting, and a lot about big tracks. It was a great learning experience,” Packard said. “Even if we don't get to come back (for the Sept. 22 ACT Invitational), I'm glad we had this chance.”

Only 20 teams out of the 36 expected to be invited have been named. ACT officials expect to have more invites announced in a mater of days.

Check out this video from Speedway Mom talking to Emily during the test day.

YOU'VE BEEN A great audience. Try the Virginia baked ham and don't forget to tip your waitress. Jason Aldean is here, so stick around.

– TB