It's a season over the course of nine days.
There is nothing like it and there will likely never be. The World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing might be one of the toughest places to showcase a driver’s talent. Short sprint races against the best from Florida, the best from the southeast and the best from all around. Winning at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida means everything. Names like Dick Trickle, Junior Hanley, Gary Balough, Mark Martin, Joe Shear and others have found glory off of route 44 at the New Smyrna Beach half-mile.
As we head into the 2013 Smyrna Speedweeks we anticipate another Championship battle, but we don't dare bet on an odds-on favorite. There are too many factors that go into crowing a champion. We caught up with a pair of former champions to relive the dedication and drama that one must endure to call themselves Champions of the Super Late Model marathon in early February.
We wanted to see if there is a formula. The result comes down to not taking chances being a key to success.
"You have to keep in mind you can't control everything," said David Rogers, the Orlando, Florida veteran who has won Speedweeeks titles in three different decades.
"It's just like when you run for any points deal," added Rogers. “If you are off a night, you just have to accept that. Don't try to make more out of it then what the car is giving you. If you've had a couple of bad nights then you have to try harder and thrown it all out there."
Rogers entered the final night in 2009 tied with Jeff Choquette for the championship. On that night we asked him about it.
"The points were tied at the beginning of the week, weren't they?,” Rogers asked the night of the title race.
Rogers went on to win the race after Choquette had a flat tire. That was his fourth title, but there have been chances at many more.
“It's a tough deal to do to come to Speedweeks and run up front night after night," said Rogers. "Sooner or later it will bite you. It's rare you have eight real good nights. One night will be costly. We have lost them early on, on the final night and right from unloading."
Rogers has always been a cool customer when it comes to racing.
"You always have to remember that the guys you are running against are going to have the same kind of luck," explained Rogers. "If it's a bad night let be a bad night. Don't make it worse."
Since 1987, the year of Rogers’ first title, there have been many chances to get wins, championships and more. However that does not make it easier for a local hero to run with the big boys from out of town.
"I should have the advantage having run here so much, but Speedweeks brings a lot of talent from all over to run these races. The quality of cars is that much better and everyone is tuned up for the season."
While Rogers is has the most titles on record, it was a different approach that led fellow Floridian BJ McLeod to the title in 2010. McLeod, with Rich Lushes at the controls as the Crew Chief, had a game plan from the drop of the first flag on the week.
"You need to have a game plan," said McLeod. "Am I going to be aggressive and try to win races and maybe wreck? Or am I going to be cautious and not break a fender? That's what we did. We stuck to staying out of the way."
McLeod had solid finishes and with rainouts, disqualification and attrition found himself on top of the standings heading into the final night.
"If he (Lushes) hadn't had control of me, then there is no way I would have won it," added McLeod. "I use a lot of what I learned that week into working with Matt Tifft and Scott Heckert now. You have to be patient."
McLeod also said he was forced to trade in the desire to win each night for being smart and not bending the car up. Because of that, according to McLeod, there have not been many multi-time champions in the Super Late Model division. Since 2002 there have been 11 different champions.
"We had a good lead going into the last night, but we had to keep Rogers in our site," said McLeod about the clinching night. "We still had to be smart because if I had wrecked on the last night in the 100 lapper and he won he could have beaten me."
Even last year when Kyle Benjamin won the championship, the hard charger from South Carolina found himself in conservation mode on the final night. To be the best you have to be the smartest and or the luckiest at Speedweeks.