DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After kicking off his NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour career with a bang in 2009, Luke Fleming completed his first full season of competition this year as the Sunoco Rookie of the Year.
Fleming, 26, outdistanced Jeremy Gerstner for the honor and was the top-finishing rookie on four occasions this year. Overall, he finished eighth in the championship point standings with one top-five and five top-10 finishes behind the wheel of his No. 40 Koma Unwind Relaxation Drink/AutosByNelson.com Ford. He scored a season-best finish of fifth on Oct. 5 at Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, N.C.
“It’s what we set out to do at the start of the season and we’re really proud that we could see it through,” said Fleming. “With the point structure it’s difficult to build a lead. It made it exciting.”
The Mount Airy, N.C., driver made his tour debut in 2009 at his home track of Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., and collected the victory at the historic venue. He again competed in the Bowman Gray event in 2010, but did not return to the Southern Modified Tour until the start of the 2013 campaign.
Fleming stepped into the seat vacated by his uncle, Frank Fleming, at the close of last season. The elder Fleming’s NASCAR career began in 1986 in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and he became a Southern Tour fixture when it began in 2005 in which he scored 25 top fives and 59 top 10s in 96 starts. He also made 10 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts along the way.
“Frank is and was a great resource. He has a wealth of racing knowledge,” he said. “Beyond his knowledge of the sport the biggest thing he did for me was keep me calm during the races, which was a huge help.”
Gerstner, from Wesley Chapel, Fla., finished 11th in the overall standings with three top-10 finishes.
The Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings are determined by a driver’s finishing position versus other rookies in the race. The top-finishing rookie in a race receives 10 points, second receives nine and so forth. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year honor goes to the driver with the most rookie points on the year.
Fleming finished the season with 109 rookie points while Gerstner scored 101. David Calabrese followed in third with 82.