Look through the UARA ranks and you'll find plenty of youngsters like Lucas Ransone and hi
* 2004 UARA-STARS Champion
* Sharing an interesting honor with short-track racing icon Ralph Earnhardt, Lee Tissot of Arden, N.C., was the last track champion at the now closed Asheville Speedway. The late Ralph Earnhardt was the first. This veteran driver has a win column that any driver would envy.
* 2003 UARA-STARS Champion
* Jason York has more than 50 career wins. He captured three NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Late Model Stock Championships. York also competed in the USAR Pro Cup and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In 2007, Jason started the season strong at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C., taking home three winner's trophies and logging an astounding Seventh place finish in the season's points race after competing in only 13 out of 22 events.
Danny O'Quinn Jr.
* 2002 UARA-STARS Champion
* Danny O'Quinn Jr. won both Rookie-of-the-Year and the Lonesome Pine Late Model Track Championship in just his second year of competition. After his UARA championship, Danny went on to run in the USAR Pro Cup Series, where he was the youngest driver at the time to win a series race. In 2004, O'Quinn was invited to compete in Roush Racing's Race for the Ride. He was then offered a driver development deal with Roush Racing, who ran him in USAR Pro Cup, ARCA, and NASCAR'S Craftsman Truck Series. Danny is still with Roush Fenway Racing, after having brought home the 2006 NASCAR Busch Series Rookie-of the-Year honors.
Who to Watch in 2008
Sponsorships, at this level, can be a day-to-day thing. One day you've got them; one day you don't. It's very hard for these young drivers and teams to plan very far ahead. Many are running out of their family's back pockets. Most are working jobs by day and at their race shops by night. Still, they show up with racecars, family and friends in tow with big dreams and lots of determination.
Darrell Wallace Jr. is one of the up-and-coming stars of the UARA. He's just 14 years old.
2008 is gearing up to be the best season yet for the UARA-STARS. Along with the series' veteran drivers, I'd look for some extra excitement from these hungry youngsters:
Matt DiBenedetto will show up with his supportive family and crew and be gunning for the championship. Matt placed Fifth in the season opener at Hickory. In only his second race with the STARS, he took the win at Concord Motorsports Park, North Carolina's fastest short track. There is no doubt that Matt and company are hitting on a lot of things right. And Matt is not the only talent out of that shop; his hot rod is hooked up too!
Lucas Ransone, a high school junior from Madison, N.C., has already shown a lot of talent, maturity and consistency in only his second year in the UARA. This handsome, self-proclaimed country boy would be any sponsor's dream.
I can't imagine what it would be like to have two sons run in the same series, but the Leicht Family of Asheville, N.C., somehow manages. Twenty-year-old Kevin Leicht, already a UARA race winner, is two years older than brother, Matt Leicht. I'd bet the Leicht boys will have a significant future in racing.
Darrell Wallace Jr. turned 14 a few days before his UARA debut. He ran a very impressive Second at Greenville in 2007, and as the cars pulled into the tech line after the race, fans and press alike crowded around the youngster just to get a look at who was driving that car.
Coming to a Track Near You
I brought some of L.A.'s finest professional actors to North Carolina for the race, but they weren't the STARS out that night. Coming to a track near you, the UARA-STARS 2008.
Marie Hopkins is writer, director and producer of the upcoming film, SHORT TRACK, slated to be released this summer. It was her love for short track racing and admiration of its competitors and their families that brought SHORT TRACK to the screen. Marie has several other film projects in various stages of development. She is also a freelance writer and has contributed numerous articles to several motorsports magazines. Though Marie is currently living in Los Angeles, Calif., she was born to a Greenville, S.C., NASCAR racing family. Her late father, Ronnie Hopkins Sr., was a NASCAR Championship car owner with the notorious Tiny Lund at the wheel. Ronnie also fielded short-track cars for both the late Ray Hendrick and Butch Lindley. He was better known in his later years as the founder of Ronnie Hopkins Enterprises (RHE), a car builder and chassis specialist supplying many of the teams now competing in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck, Nationwide Grand National and Sprint Cup Series.