A year ago, Brandon Davis was just trying to get acclimated to oval-track racing.
Now the 25-year-old from Huntington Beach, Calif., has his sights set on short-track racing’s biggest prize. Davis is a perfect five-for-five in the Auto Club Late Model Division this season at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.), and checks in at seventh on the first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national points release of the season.
More importantly, Davis has the highest points-per-race average of any series driver with more than one start at 44.2.
A driver’s best 18 results through Sept. 18 are counted toward their state and national points totals, and the champions are decided on overall points total.
“I’m surprised we’re doing as well as we are,” Davis said. “It’s one of those things, do we expect to win five in a row? No. But we have as good a chance as anybody every week. We have a fast car and the guys worked hard in the offseason to be competitive.”
Defending national champion Keith Rocco, of Wallingford, Conn., continues to maintain his position atop the points standings. The 26-year-old has five wins and eight top fives in 11 starts in the Modified divisions at three Connecticut tracks – Thompson International Speedway, Stafford Motor Speedway and Waterford Speedbowl
Rocco led wire-to-wire last year in claiming his first NASCAR national title.
“We’re picking up right where we left off,” said Rocco, who posted 21 wins in 53 starts last year. “Points haven’t really crossed our mind this year. We’re just happy winning races.”
Rocco has 317 points, followed by three-time champion Philip Morris in second with 283.
Morris, of Ruckersville, Va., has won seven of eight Late Model Division starts at South Boston (Va.) Speedway.
Zachary Hausler, of Tomball, Texas, is third with 257 points, followed by Lee Pulliam, of Semora, Va.
Hausler, a 16-year-old Modified Division rookie at Houston Motorsports Park and Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas, has been dominant with nine wins in 12 starts. He has won all seven races this season at Houston.
Pulliam, 23, has won four of the first five Late Model Division races at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va. He was a close second to Morris this past weekend at South Boston.
Tommy Lemons Jr. rounds out the top five. Lemons has raced at Motor Mile, South Boston and Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C.
For Davis, being in this position was inconceivable at this time last year. With a background limited to sports car racing, he spent much of the first half of the season getting comfortable before he could get competitive.
“I used all of last year to gain experience,” said Davis, who leaned on teammates Rod Johnson Jr. and Tim Huddleston. “I kept inching away at it. They helped me learn at a quicker pace.
“Probably with about four or five races left, it finally felt the same as when it’s road racing – we were competing for wins instead of just being happy with progress.
“By the end of the season, we were just as fast as anyone. And we went into this season definitely looking to go after the championship.”
Davis won the 2010 season finale at Toyota, and then kicked off 2011 by sweeping the opening-night twin features. The biggest news for Davis, though, came at the track’s test session the night before the opener when he proposed to his girlfriend, Erica Lindeman. She said yes, and Davis has kept the “Will You Marry Me?” on the hood.
“I don’t know if it’s our lucky charm, but why change it while we’re winning?” Davis said.
At this rate, it may be on the hood for quite a while.
Under the points structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner received two points for every car in the event up to 20. Second place received two fewer points, and so-on through the field. Race winners received an additional five bonus points. For example, if there are 20 cars, the winner received 45 points, second gets 38 and third 36. If there are 15 cars, the winner received 35 points, second gets 28 and third 26.
Track, state and provincial champions and the top three finishers in the national standings earn invitations to the 2011 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet.