CONCORD, N.C. — The Sunoco American Late Model Series will hit a milestone with the upcoming racing season.
The Grayville, Ill., based series will celebrate its 25th anniversary throughout the calendar year beginning on Friday-Saturday, April 26-27. The DIRTcar Late Model cars and stars of the longest running tour in the Great Lakes region of the United States will kick off their season starting at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich., on April 26. Then it’s just more than a 210-mile trip to the famed Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, on April 27.
Casey Noonan comes into the 25th anniversary season as the defending Sunoco American Late Model Series champion. Despite not winning an event in 2018, the 39-year-old did record a pair of fourth-place finishes with those coming at I-96 Speedway and again June 16 at Oakshade Raceway, where he is a former track champion. He also bagged a fifth-place finish on Sept. 1 also at Oakshade and was able to capture his first Sunoco ALMS Championship despite a 15th place finish the next night at Eldora.
Over his Sunoco ALMS career, Noonan has collected seven career series Feature wins with his most recent occurring on May 28, 2017 at Eldora Speedway in the Johnny Appleseed Classic. Ironically his first ever Sunoco ALMS win was also at Eldora back on May 27, 2007. Noonan’s other five checkered flags have all came at his home track of Oakshade.
For the first time in series history, the Sunoco American Late Model Series will kick off their new season in the state of Michigan as I-96 Speedway, located east of Grand Rapids and west of Lansing in Lake Odessa, Mich., starts the 25th anniversary campaign on Friday, April 26. The $2,000 to win season opener will be the first of two races at the fast three-eighths-mile high-banked dirt oval. A milestone will be reached in this event as well as this race will be the 25th all-time for the series at the West Michigan facility.
The series made three appearances during the 2018 racing season as two-time series champion, Brandon Thirlby scored his first victory in Sunoco ALMS competition in three seasons, since 2015, when he grabbed the checkered flag on May 25. Mike Spatola recorded his first triumph in four seasons, since 2014, after winning on June 29 while four-time series champion, Rusty Schlenk went to victory lane on July 27. His win then, was on of two features in 2018 to give him win No. 26 and later No. 27 (at Oakshade Raceway on Sept. 1) over his career in the series, good for fourth all-time and just two back of third, currently held by Matt Miller, who has 29 wins.
Over the years in the previous 24 Sunoco ALMS appearances at I-96, Jeep VanWormer leads the way with four victories while six-time series champion and former track champion, Kris Patterson as well as four-time series champion, Brian Ruhlman both have three wins apiece to sit tied for second all-time. Schlenk and Aaron Scott both have two triumphs to sit tied for fourth all-time.
There have been 15 different winners in the 24 races held at the track. The first ever Sunoco ALMS race at I-96 was held back on April 27. 1996 in the series’ second season. Frank Seder won what would be his only feature victory in the Sunoco ALMS.
The second and final appearance of the season for the Sunoco ALMS at I-96 will kick off the Labor Day Holiday Weekend of racing on Aug. 30. The event will be the first of three races over the weekend and by the end of it, the Sunoco American Late Model Series champion will be crowned.
The famed half-mile high-banked dirt oval of Eldora Speedway (OH), located just east of the Indiana/Ohio state line in Rossburg, Ohio, will close out opening weekend on Saturday, April 27 as part of the tracks’ 66th season opener. The $5,000 to win Late Model LidLifter will be the first of three appearances and the 95th race all-time for the series at the track that has hosted the tour the most of any other facility in the 25-year history of the Sunoco ALMS.
In three races held during the 2018 racing season, Nick Hoffman won the Late Model LidLifter back on April 28, his second triumph in two seasons in the first late model race of the season at Eldora. Eventual 2018 track champion Devin Gilpin scored his first career series victory when he captured the Johnny Appleseed Classic back on May 27 while National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame legend, Billy Moyer, a six-time World 100 winner, won his second Baltes Classic in a row and fourth in nine classics held, back on Sept. 2.