DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR short-track racing returns to a premier Missouri facility in 2013.
Lebanon (Mo.) I-44 Speedway, a star-making .375-mile banked paved oval, and NASCAR announced today the track will be a member of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series next year.
The marquee track operates on Saturday nights and Late Models is the track’s top division. Lebanon is located about 50 miles northeast of Springfield, Mo., adjacent to Interstate 44. The track remains within the family of the late Bill Willard, who built and opened it in 1983. Willard’s sons Bradley and David now own the speedway. Kevin Greven became the general manager this year.
“The addition of Lebanon I-44 Speedway is a big step for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR vice president, regional and touring series. “It expands the series’ national footprint deep into America’s heartland at one of Missouri’s greatest short tracks.”
Greven, a longtime leader within the motorsports industry, charted the new course for the track’s 30th season in 2013.
“When we looked at the possibilities for our track, drivers, fans and sponsors, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series offers the most to all of them,” Greven said.
Lebanon I-44 was part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series from 1989-2001. During that time the speedway was the home track for five-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Larry Phillips. Phillips competed full-time at Lebanon I-44 during three of those national championship seasons (1989, 1995-96). He also won five Lebanon NASCAR Late Model track titles. Phillips’ other national championships came while he raced primarily in upstate Missouri in 1991-92.
One of many young drivers Phillips mentored, Jamie McMurray — now a six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner — won the Lebanon track championship in 1997. Multi-series NASCAR driver Mike Wallace, the youngest brother of Rusty and Kenny Wallace, won a track and NASCAR regional championship there in 1990. Other Lebanon NASCAR Late Model track champions include Kirk Shaw, Russell Phillips (who is not related to Larry), Steve Shive, Ken Dickinson and Tim Swearengin.
Willard built and opened Lebanon I-44 as a dirt track in 1983, then paved it and joined NASCAR in 1989. The track returned to a dirt surface from 2003-2009, before the clay was removed to go asphalt racing again in 2010.
Greven joined the Lebanon I-44 team at mid-season this year. He was a crewman for Larry Phillips in the early 1990s. He later spent 10 years as O’Reilly Auto Parts’ director of motorsports marketing. Most recently, Greven managed a dirt track in Wheatland, Mo.
“The timing was perfect,” Greven said. “I’ve known the Willards for a long time and this track is part of my heritage.”
In addition to Late Models, Greven said he expects weekly divisions to include Modifieds, Sportsman, Street Stocks and Chargers. Baby Grands and Trucks will also make appearances.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. The series encompasses more than 50 speedways across the United States and Canada.
NASCAR-licensed Division I drivers in Lebanon I-44 Speedway are eligible to compete for NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championships and point fund awards at the track, state or province, and national levels. NASCAR-licensed drivers in each track’s NASCAR-sanctioned support divisions compete for points in the NASCAR Finalist program. The program brings added recognition to drivers in NASCAR Divisions II-V.