As some of you know, today marked the very first practice for Bowman Gray Stadium competitors. Although there were many races going on in the South-East, a few made the trip down to the Stadium to finally lay down some laps after a long winter. Among these drivers were Zack Clifton, Derrick Rice, Daniel Yates, Taylor Branch and a handful of others. The track was in good shape for a the first practice of the year. I say this because usually the track takes a couple of days of practice to get it back into form, but this year seemed different. Many cars had plenty of grip and made gains throughout the day. This practice is in preparation for the Hayes Jewelers 200 Season Opener on April 22nd. Now I did a 'bold prediction' article a couple of years ago, and I believe I'll kick-start this Bowman Gray season with another.
There will be new faces in all four division of racing this year at the Famed Quarter Mile. Amber Lynn will be making her rookie debut in Street Stock, I believe Bryan Sykes has moved up to Street Stock, and the return of Primetime Derek Stoltz. Now this is probably the most excited I have been for a season at Bowman Gray in a long time. The competition we have in the Modified division now is unlike any before. You probably have seven or eight drivers that could win a race on any given night, which is very good for a primarily Brown/Miller/Myers owned division. The Sportsman class, though car count has dwindled a bit, has very stiff competition as well. Now let's get to my predictions for various awards, championships, etc.
I'll first start with the Stadium Stock division. As everyone knows this class has been dominated by drivers like AJ Sanders, Wesley Thompson, Chuck Wall, and a few others in recent years. So of course I am going to go with my gut and say that Shane Southard, Wesley Thompson, Chris Allison and AJ Sanders are going to have a dogfight all year-long for this championship. I could see these two winnings four or five races a piece, easily. The talent and experience that these two drivers bring to the table is incredible. My predictions for this division.... Top Gun, Wesley Thompson. Hard Charger, Chris Allison. Pole for the 50 lapper AJ Sanders. Rookie of the Year Kyler Staley. 2017 Champion, AJ Sanders. Well, because he's AJ Sanders, do I need to say much more?
Possibly our most interesting division is Street Stock. There is so much talent in this series, but sometimes it just doesn't translate to the races. Derrick Rice, Brian Wall, Taylor Robbins, among others will be hard to beat this year. Now the interesting part is the rumors of how many rookies will be in this class this year. Drivers like Amber Lynn, Bryan Sykes, Chad Brooks and others will be competing for ROTY honors. I do believe that you'll see more than a handful of different winners this year, and some new faces competing for a championship. Guys like Jeremy Warren, Fletcher Whaley, Jamie Byrd, etc are going to compete night in and night out. Hopefully the quality of racing in the beloved Street Stock division is great all year, but with these guys you never know. My predictions for this division... Top Gun, Brian Wall. Hard Charger, Derrick Rice. Pole for the 50 lapper, Taylor Robbins. Rookie of the Year, Amber Lynn. 2017 Champion Brian Wall. Brian will break through this year and finally take home that elusive first championship, he ended last year on a tear, and I believe he picks up right where he left off.
So we move on to the Sportsman division. Most of the time this division delivers the best action you see every Saturday night. There are at least ten cars every night that could take home a trophy, well make that eleven with the addition of Derek Stoltz now. Hopefully these guys can race it out every Saturday night, but you never know with this division. Which is why most people call this division their favorite. I am a firm believer of their being at least eight different winners this season. There is simply so much speed, and top-notch equipment in this division it's hard to bet against any of these guys. Tommy Neal finally took home his first Sportsman championship last year and I believe he is as hungry as ever. Primetime Derek Stoltz will probably be on a tear this season doing whatever it takes to win, and that's why we love him, he could easily win five races. I don't want to forget about the other experienced Sportsman talent like Zack Clifton, Michael Adams, Robbie Brewer and much, much more. But to keep this short I will give you my predictions. Top Gun, Derek Stoltz. Hard Charger, Derek Stoltz. Fastest lap of the year, Derek Stoltz. I do not believe there will be any rookies competing full season, but if Andrew Durham does compete he will win Rookie of the Year. And finally your 2017 Champion, Tommy Neal goes back to back. Reasoning behind this, Tommy is the most consistent driver I have watched in a stock car, no matter where he goes, he not only finishes, but finishes well.
Last but not least, the feature division, Modifieds. The last decade or more this division hasn't been much more than a Myers/Miller/Brown showdown. But with guys like Brandon Ward, Danny Bohn, and a few others thrown into the mix, this division has gotten much more competitive. Word around is that Nate Monteith has bought a modified and will be racing a few times at the Stadium. Along with some new names like Lauren Edgerton, Andy Seuss, who rarely makes the trip down to the Stadium unless it is a touring event and Bobby Measmer Jr. The championship will come down to your regulars. Brown, Myers, Ward, Smith. I have also heard that James Civali 'the rocket launcher' is racing full time as well. If that is the case... he should mix things up to say the least. Obviously you're going to have a few different winners with the 25 lappers and 50 lappers but I still don't think you'll see too many winners in this division. With all this being said I'll go ahead and give you my predictions. Top Gun, Brandon Ward. Hard Charger, Bobby Measmer Jr. Fastest lap of the Year, Jason Myers. Rookie of the Year, Bobby Measmer Jr. 2017 Champion, Brandon Ward. I say this because I am a firm believe that Brandon Ward is one of the smoothest to ever sit down in a race car. With Jeff Day and Will Spaugh's brains, the quality of race car Brandon is given every week, the guy will be hard to beat if he doesn't beat himself.