FRANKLIN COUNTY SPEEDWAY NIGHT OF DESTRUCTION
The military has an unofficial slogan- Improvise, adapt, and overcome. Because when it comes to survival, you have no other options. If you want to move forward in any situation where you are faced with challenges, you must adapt and overcome. Those two actions will lead you to the improvisation that will allow you to continue. Your only other option is to quit. But if you want to survive, quitting is not an option.
We put out a flyer before the Night Of Destruction event at Franklin County Speedway that read, “You got a car? You got a helmet? Need $2000?.” And when we arrived at Franklin County, we ran into a guy who was stripping the headlights, turning lights, and other items the track mandates to compete in the $2000 to win Any Car race that is the feature event for the Night Of Destruction. We had heard about the guy before we got to the track from some social media post that was aimed at poking fun at the fellow. And when we got there we took a look for ourselves, and sure enough, this guy had driven a 2016 Nissan Altima to the track, and was working diligently to get the items removed he needed to compete. Yes, you heard that right. He drove the car to the track that morning to race it, and his plans were to drive it back home as well. Which we thought was quite optimistic ourselves, but instead of looking at it as comical as the social media post readers were actively doing, we marked it down as something to keep track of, as we knew then that this was already a story. But who were we to foretell how the story would end? We’ve seen enough to know that you don’t make judgments before the trials are over. So we wished him luck, and we got our gear and headed down to the infield to setup shop. It was going to be a long, exciting night. We knew this was going to be different than any other event we’ve covered, but we had prepared for anything, and so at this point, we just wanted to get ourselves ready to capture the night’s events. We had a bit of an ulterior motive for being here, and why we chose this as our third event to cover, and we only hoped it all played out as we had anticipated so we could reveal it. We were however very confident that the outcome would be as we thought, but at that time, what we couldn’t have known, is that our expectations would be exceeded by a long shot, to say the least. We are were we needed to be. The cars have all arrived and are in the infield. The eager crowd has arrived. The pre-show ceremonies have taken place. The event prayer has been said, and the National Anthem has been sung. It’s time, so let’s go racin’!
The night’s competition starts off with Kids Bicycle and Power Wheels racing. We of course didn’t get an entry list for the event, as it was a non signup event, but we were introduced to the cutest little racer we’ve ever seen in the Power Wheels competition, and we were reintroduced to Jackson Lam who won his bicycle racing event. Jackson’s story goes well beyond this win however, so to note, we’ll have much more on this young man as the event story continues.
The car competitions start at the reverse race. It’s just as it implies. Cars race backwards as fast as the skill of the driver will allow. # 88 Greg Mattingly from Avenue, Maryland dominated the 5 lap event. He has a bit of competition on the start, but going into corner 1 it became clear that no one was going to catch Mattingly unless he made a mistake which this event can easily create. But Mattingly was flawless and took a commanding win.
HAYBALE RACE 1-
A Haybale Race (known in some circles as a Flagpole Race), is a race in which the track places haybales in the entrance to the corners of the race track, and drivers must drive around the haybales before going down the straights. In a fierce battle for position dominance between # 88 Greg Mattingly, # 98 Josh Poteat, and # 13 Chad McDowell, in the end, it came down to strategy and determination by Mattingly who again wouldn’t be denied as he won his second event of the night. I have to mention here though, that our hats off to Poteat who really knew how to throw his car in there sideways around the haybales, and we have to mention the skill we saw him employ in his quest for victory. Situations worked against his favor however, leading to Mattingly being able to use his positional strategy to come away with the win after an intense battle with McDowell.
HAYBALE RACE 2-
In Haybale race 2, McDowell was the class of the field, as Mattingly could not enter as he won the first one, and Poteat had rendered his machine inoperable after some tough luck in the first Haybale event. So McDowell was able to walk away after a couple laps and was never really challenged in the event.
TEAM RELAY RACE-
A Relay Race is an event where two team cars line up nose to tail, and when the green drops, the front car takes off and makes a lap, as the teammate waits for him to come around and tag his rear bumper with his front bumper as he gets back to him, signaling the team driver to repeat the process until the checkers fly after the leaders complete 5 laps. You have to make contact before the team driver can go to note, and # 13 Chad McDowell and team driver # 33JR Austin Smith do it best as the team that came across first failed several times to make actual contact and were disqualified from the win. They had some competition from another team as well, but they had been making such hard contact on the tag, that the cars didn’t run as well during the closing laps and lost speed during the event. We have to applaud their effort however as they crossed the line at the end with two heavily smoking machines that showed the effort the drivers had put in.
The Korean Race is a strategy race in which the 3rd place runner is awarded the win. The difficulty lies in sometimes not knowing who the leader is, and putting your car in position to come across third. # 98 Josh Poteat plays the perfect strategy, and maneuvers his machine into the 3rd spot at the finish. It’s trickier than it sounds, I promise, and Josh was right where he needed to be as the checkered flag flew.
Ashley Hollingsworth in a numberless car wore out the field in this event. It was close for the first few laps of this 10 lap race, but Hollingsworth slowly and methodically pulled away every lap to finish with a commanding lead, leading us to think she may have a future in stock class racing. She may have not considered the option before, but we’re hoping maybe that would change as she ran a beautiful line around the 3/8ths of a mile track, running consistently fast laps that left her with an impressive win.
What was initially slated to be a compact car demolition derby, it evolved into a $500 to win, run what you brung event. And so Kaleb Johnston brought a mini van. But, he brought the biggest “mini” van that can be termed as such, as it was bigger than your typical “mini” van, and Kaleb proceeded to punish the other competitors with it. To it’s credit, some of the other competitors too used bigger than compact vehicles to try and win the event with, but the van was unmatched, as so was the hits Kaleb was giving. And in the end, nothing stood against it, as Kaleb released organized chaos onto the field and came away the easy winner.
NON WINNER STOCK 4 RACE-
The non winner Stock 4 Race begins our rundown for this event of the races that featured two Franklin County Speedway Divisions that were on tap for the Night Of Destruction show. The non winner race is just as it implies, and was an event giving the non winners in the Stock 4 class a chance to race against each for their first win of the season. # 21 Mike Altice had a great battle with # 3 John Coe. It went down to the wire between the two, but Altice crossed the line less than half a car length ahead to take the exciting win.
STOCK 4 Race 1 & 2-
There’s a reason Franklin County Speedway had a non winners race for this event. And the reason’s name is Chris Amos. Amos is undefeated this year. To the point that the track has put a bounty on him. To collect it, you have to beat Amos straight up, without taking him out to win. In other words, you gotta out race him, in a four cylinder stock race car in a Stock 4 Franklin County Speedway Division race. Now to note, Amos is undefeated even though he took his car to Motor Mile Speedway as well. So out racing Chris is obviously not going to be easy. And so, Franklin County has added a monetary incentive to anyone that can achieve it. Now on the surface, with what he’s accomplished this year, that is already a huge task for any competitor. But Chris Amos’ story goes much deeper than that. And so now I get to reveal one of the ulterior motives we had for coming to Franklin County this Saturday, June 12, 2021 to this Night Of Destruction event. On our first visit to Franklin County Speedway as an independent race journalism/coverage entity- Short Track Report, we had to reveal one of the reasons we chose to do so. Chris’s talent is already a huge obstacle to anyone trying to beat him, but what he is racing for adds to his drive to win each and every race he enters.
First though, we thought you should know a little more about Chris’ story. So, we did a bit of research on Chris, and just as we expected, his is an amazing story. From Roanoke, Virginia, Chris is a third generation driver. His grandfather Ernest was a drag racer, and his father Neal was a stock car driver who drove at Franklin County in the mid 80’s. Chris started his racing career at the age of 9 in go karts. And to date he has over 50 wins at Franklin County Speedway. But racing is not the only entertainment or sport Chris has performed in at the track. We found some remarkable footage of Chris Amos, AKA “C Double A” (Christopher Allen Amos), doing a shooting star press off one of the buildings outside of Franklin County onto his competitors. Yes, Chris was a wrestler as well. And as we dig deeper, we found he was at one time a West Virginia Tag Team champion with partner Brad Jones. So yeah, not only is Chris a driving champion, he was a wrestling champion as well. And sometimes, after so much success, you come to win all there is at something on the level you’re on, and you start to begin the process of putting it behind you. And that was where Chris was in his life with racing. He was talking of retiring. But then he was contacted by racer and car owner David Lam. David asked Chris if he would drive for him and take his car to victory lane for him and his son Jackson. How could Chris, being the man he is, refuse such an offer? So, that brings us back to why Chris Amos is going to be hard to beat. See, not only do you have to deal with a man that knows Franklin County Speedway like the back of his hand, and has more wins than he can probably remember, but again, he’s driving for a cause. He’s driving for Jackson Lam.
So that brings us back to Jackson. The young man that won his bike race. And after you hear about Jackson, you’ll know it’s quite the miracle that Jackson can even ride his bike today. David Lam had taken his son to a friend’s get together on Memorial Day Weekend on May 26, 2019. And tragedy struck, as it often does, unexpectedly. Jackson was attacked by a pit bull. David was able to separate the dog from his son, but not after tremendous damage was done. Jackson was airlifted to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where he soon underwent one of the many surgeries that Jackson will have to endure, and was placed into an induced coma. But Jackson, through his strength and courage, survived, and here he was today winning his bike race like he never went through his horrific ordeal. He was determined and focused. He was not going to be denied. But Jackson will have to deal with the ramifications of what happened to him that weekend for the rest of his life. He will have to undergo many surgeries, and as he grows older, we can all imagine the things he will face. But Jackson is a remarkable young man, who has taken this all, so far, in stride. He is an inspiration. His will. His attitude. He rubs off on anyone that meets him. His is an amazing story of survival. He has learned to adapt and overcome. And so Chris Amos has his reason to drive.
In both the races Chris ran this Saturday, with a bounty on his head, he was flawless. He was challenged in the first race for a few laps, but every lap they ran, he distanced himself until he was all alone up front. In the second one, he started in the back, but by the end, he was all alone out front again. I watched him intently in these races, placed in the middle of turn one and two so I could watch how he took the corners, and Chris was as smooth as they come, running the same lap time after time. A man with a purpose, and the skill to achieve it. And I wasn’t going to mention it, but I feel I have to. After the first race, one of the people with the runner up team insinuated that Chris was running a car with a bigger motor, and that they knew who built it, and that it was probably illegal. I saw Langley Austin, promoter at Franklin County, try to shake off the comments, but I saw it rolling around in his head. The comments were being contemplated. And after the second race, when Amos came from the rear to beat them again, the same comments were being spoken. Next thing you know, the front three were at tech. Now, thing is, being the event it was, my feelings were that Austin, since this is a Franklin County division race at this event, and all the usual competition entered, was probably going to give them all a break on tech this day. But after the comments, he had the front three at tech. Which turned to five at tech, because guess who wasn’t illegal. And now you can guess who was. Long story short, Chris Amos did what he did several times, and that’s dominate the field. And with what he is driving for, we don’t see this streak ending soon. But to note again, Langley Austin has some extra money for anyone that can knock off Chris Amos at Franklin and reach victory lane in the Stock 4 class. But with the talent Chris has, and the #jacksonstrong logo on the side of David Lam’s machine, all we can do is wish anyone the best of luck who tries to collect that bounty.
$2000 TO WIN ANY CAR RACE FEATURE EVENT-
The Feature event for the Franklin County Shiner’s Revenge Night Of Destruction, fittingly, was the $2000 to win Any Car Race. 36 cars entered, all looking to take home the $2000 purse. With the nature of this event, we did our best to keep up with all the racing action. Not an easy task in this type of event. The cars were lined up 4 wide, and that’s how they start, 4 wide under the green. Immediately as they reached turn 1, a couple of cars go around, leaving the field scrambling, but in these races, the caution is rarely employed unless death is seemingly imminent, and so the drivers have to work it out all on the track. Soon a couple of cars dive in to pit road to get out of the way with their overheating and failing machines, and cars all strewn all over the track in a scorers nightmare. But, a leaders group begins to form, as other machines are constantly spinning out or retiring, but the lead group is racing competitively, and it’s soon obvious the winner will more than probably come from this group. I can’t help but be impressed with the speed and skill from this group. And I see our guy from the beginning, who was out in the parking lot taking his car apart to be able to run. I see his 2016 Nissan Altima, and I think to myself he is getting lapped. The cars come roaring by time and time again in the 50 lap event, but he comes by in the middle groove, with hardly a sound but the wind swoosh his car is creating. But as I focus in on the leaders, I realize he is not getting lapped at all. He is coming around with the lead group, in the middle of them, running with an Impala and what appears to be a Crown Vic, a Mustang, and an 80’s model Thunderbird among the few, and he’s running with them every lap. More cars drop out until there are literally 5 or 6 cars left. 2 cars crawling around at slow speed just trying to make it to the end, hoping something happens to the leaders as they dice it out at the end, and the leaders themselves. The Impala, who’s got a decent lead, the Crown Vic who’s started to make a move. The Mustang who’s running smooth laps but with his front bumper dragging from earlier contact with someone, and the Nissan, still running nice consistent laps. With about 10 to go, I notice a huge change to the sound of the leading Impala. His cars’ going away. Every lap getting worse and worse, and the Vic is catching him. But the Mustang is also closing in, making his move. But here comes the Altima. He gets by the Mustang, and the Crown Vic without laying a fender on ’em. As their cars are going away, the Nissan has found his stride and sets his sights on the leader. He’s to him, but the Impala holds together, and crosses under the checkers just ahead of the Altima, followed by the Crown Vic, and the Mustang. But as they look at the cars, it appears the Impala team have after market wheels and tires, which would have been legal, but, they are not the manufacturer’s recommended size. These races do not have many rules, but one of the rules they have, is that you must use the wheel and tire sizes the car came with, and the Impala seems to have a wider size than what the car’s manufacturer had intended for that model. They put up an argument, but are shown the actual rule and eventually capitulate. Now, the Nissan driver had started to leave the track before he was informed he finished in the top 4, and tech wanted to see the cars in the top 4 because the leader had been disqualified, but he was also shocked to learn he crossed the line 2nd. And of course, after inspection, he was determined legal and awarded the win. We knew he was legal, as again, we saw this guy stripping his car upon our arrival. He literally drove the car to the track, took off what he needed to, and went and won the race with a Nissan Altima that you would see in your neighbors driveway. Ryan Woods accomplished an amazing feat. He told us he wanted to race this track since he was 14 years old and got his first look at it. But we know that at that time, never in a million years did he think he would do so, and especially in a Nissan Altima that he drove to the track.
Franklin County Speedway is first and foremost an amazing track to see great racing. The turns are banked 22 degrees, but it’s a short 3/8ths of a mile in length. And so I came here this Saturday, June 12th, 2021, to not only cover this great event, but to make a point I’ve been wanting to make for quite awhile. But as I debated how to do it, everything came around to perfect timing, and in a way that I couldn’t deny that it was time. A couple of years ago, after a lifetime of being a racing fan, I decided to put my writing experience where I thought it would do the most good. They say, do what you love, and magic will happen. I can proclaim that this is true. Not just from the experiences I’ve has the last few years covering racing, but throughout my life. And so I know it to be true, that when you put your energy and talents behind something you love, it can indeed be magical. But I am still amazed at what God has put before me. The way it’s all come together this year even has me in awe of it all. You see, I love racing. And to those that don’t understand it, and think it’s just cars going in a circle, I am out to tell you, that you are missing out on great things by placing what you see in a box of close mindedness. Why do I point this out now? Because I am seeing the same close mindedness creep into the sport itself. And that is what led to the down turn in attendance from fans the last couple of years. Here me out. Yes, Dale Earnhardt’s untimely death led to many turning away from the sport. But it goes much deeper than that. Somewhere along the line, the sport’s biggest sanctioning organization lost sight of where it began. Yes, I said it.
They built a magnificent museum filled with artifacts from the past, and I applaud them for moving themselves to save what would otherwise be lost from the past of the sport. But, they also tried to place the past inside of those walls, to lock away forever. They will tell you about the moonshiners, but then act like that is not what they are today. They will tell you about the WW2 veterans who ran alongside the moonshiners competing to see who had the best car, but mostly, who was the best driver. But they won’t tell you why anymore, and I personally think they are losing sight of it. Those guys, the moonshiners, and the veterans, were thrill seekers and daredevils. They loved the rush of risking their life in the guise of car control and speed. Back in the day, sometimes you won a race by showing your competitors you was willing to die for it. It was a different time. Those were special men. And when I heard Joey Logano after a race at Talladega complaining about safety, I suddenly realized how different those men were. They strapped in with literally NO safety. Glass windshields, metal gas tanks, and family seating. A helmet that didn’t protect anything, much less the brain that wanted to risk life to prove themselves the best. I, not very long ago, got into a heated discussion with a Frenchman of all people, on the origins of organized stock car racing. I won’t call it an argument, because picture if you will, a European fellow trying to tell a North Carolina guy born in the 60’s that he didn’t know the truth about stock car racing. Right. Wasn’t much of an argument. But, I was surprised at what he thought about our great sport. His point of contention, was the whole organization of it all at the beginning. There was a reason the sport needed a sanctioning body. And what cannot be underscored, is the true beginnings of our great sport. When moonshiners made bets on who had the best car, and who was the best driver, the found farmer’s fields to prove their points. So, the first race promoters were landowners or men who talked landowners into having their events on the landowners property, and they charged people money to come watch. The people were hearing about the races, and so someone knew you could make money on this deal and that’s how it began. These guys usually paid out to the drivers through a cracked car window with a gun in their lap in case somebody wasn’t happy about the payout. And as it evolved, the tracks became fairgrounds, and lands designated as racing tracks that had great turnouts. That’s why most tracks started as dirt, because it was just a field where cars eventually wore in a racing surface. Then they started taking backhoes and graders out to shape the fastest tracks. But here’s the deal, these “shows” were daredevil thrill shows.
Now so, I could go on about that, but research it yourself. Look at the clips from the beginning, as you will see it was indeed advertised as daredevil thrill shows with slogans like, “Come watch as these daring drivers risk their lives…”. And the drivers knew it. It was part of the allure. And that allure drew in the vets coming home from the war, because after years of risking their life for their country, found they couldn’t shake their addiction to the adrenaline rush of risking your life brings. And these guys were successful because adapt and overcome was their mantra. And they were mechanics too, just like the guys that built those moonshine runners. They had ingenuity. They are the reason a V8 motor can take 9000 RPMs for 500 miles, because they wanted the machine to be able to handle what these drivers would put it through. But now, in my opinion, NASCAR, looking at it’s image, wants to place these men and what they were in a museum, and they have moved today to try and control their image at all cost. Terms like redneck make them cringe. And in the process of trying to change their image, they have, and they don’t even realize it, started to alienate their beginning core base. Now in their eyes, they are looking to the future. But if you lose sight of where you began, you will lose sight of where you’re going.
Now I am not here to bash on NASCAR. What they have done to grow and organize the sport cannot be understated either. Their work in safety. Their push for larger tracks. All this should not be forgotten. But how it all began and by whom should not be lost either. To try and put it in a building, and push away the culture that grew around it will come at a cost. And right now, the cost to run in organized stock car racing is getting out of reach for the blue collar racer. And NASCAR itself for whatever reason seems to be moving away from the blue collar racer themselves, and the fans that support them, in a favor of the car itself, an an ideal fan that does not exist. But, I do see a change in their direction that I applaud. The new car is now being worked to put the racing back in the drivers hands. And I for one know that if that continues, then the return to prominence for NASCAR will be sooner than later. For that we can only hope. But one thing is for sure and we can only hope they notice. And that is that there is a resurgence in blue collar, grassroots, short track racing. The fans are back, and the tracks and drivers are noticing. And we here at Short Track Report knew it was coming, because we know you can’t keep a good group down. What we also know is that the tracks, teams, and drivers that notice, will build on this trend as they did in the past. And the tracks and tours, and organizations that build on this the right way, by embracing the fans that are coming, and keeping cost down for their competitors will find themselves back on top of the sport when it’s all said and done. In the history of Franklin County Speedway, amongst the chaos over the years that it has endured working to survive, here it stands over 40 years later. And as attendance drops off at the NASCAR Museum, Franklin County has kept itself alive, standing unchanged from it’s beginnings, like it’s own working, functioning museum, putting on shows by dare evils and thrill seekers risking death to come out on top. Surviving by adapting and overcoming all the obstacles it’s faced. And to this day, puts on the best racing events that you can find anywhere. And while some would look down on Franklin County and what some perceive as it’s image, I will continue to come here and be reminded of how and why the races started to begin with. And this Saturday I came to Virginia to see the epitome of adapt and overcome in Jackson, Chris Amos, and David Lam. And as God and fate would have it, with all the ulterior motives in mind, I was blessed with watching Ryan Woods do it as they did in the beginning, and drive his car to the track, enter the race, and risk everything only to leave with $2000 more in his pocket than he began. He chased a dream he had since he was a teenager, and came out on top. Thus proving that Franklin County, no matter what class, is indeed made for racing. This track still after all these years, unchanged, makes for some of the best racing you can see in the country, and reminds me of my love for racing, and why I love it every single time. And it helped me realize one last thing I have to leave you with. It was a stark realization that we came to. And take this for what’s it’s worth, with whatever your thoughts are on it. But when we filled our coverage calendar of the best racing action we could find to report on that we know proves we are in the best racing area in the world, in the heart of NASCAR country, not one event on our calendar, that we know of, is NASCAR sanctioned. We again left Franklin County waiting for the day we can return, and reminded of how it all began. Till next time, see you at the track!