PADUCAH – Several Marshall County drivers are in contention for track championship titles in three divisions when Paducah International Raceway’s 2011 season comes to a close Friday night.
The season championship finale will be headlined by the Wayne Coakley Memorial race for Late Model stock cars, with racing on tap in four other divisions on the 3/8-mile high-banked dirt oval and two other classes competing on the 1/8-mile infield short course.
The elite Late Model division returns to action after a month-long hiatus. Kevin Cole of Benton, Ill., has a six-point lead over Marshall County veteran Tim Brown of Benton, 543-537. Third-place Jarryd Holshouser of Boaz is out of contention at 485 points.
Also out of the running is the class’s dominant driver, full-time professional racer Terry English of Benton, who has won five of the 11 features staged this year for Late Models at PIR. Competing in a national schedule of big-money races, English has missed several of the Paducah events. He is fourth in driver standings.
English won June 17 and then strung together four straight victories in races in July and August. His streak was snapped when he finished third behind Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., and Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., in the Aug. 26 USA World 50, PIR’s signature event, on Aug. 19. The World 50 was first held at the south McCracken County track in 1978.
The Late Models have not returned to PIR since that event.
In other division championship battles, Cary King of Benton has a 43-point edge over Credence Mott of Vienna, Ill., in the Crate Late Model division, while Calvert City drivers Hunter Lyles and Kyle Clark are separated by only 13 points at the top of the 4-Cylinder Warrior standings.
King won his third feature of the season on Sept. 16, beating Tait Davenport and Adam Ray to the checkered flag. Mott, who also has three wins this year, finished fourth.
King has 867 points to Mott’s 824.
A feature victory is worth 50 points, with a drop-off of two points per position down to sixth place’s 40-point payoff. Below sixth, points diminish by one point per position. That puts King in solid position to clinch his second consecutive title as long as he can make the start of Friday night’s feature race.
Calvert City’s Troy English has the most feature wins in the Crate division, with four, but is in sixth place in points. The former PIR track champ has not competed in a full schedule this season.
Jeffrey Bailey of Calvert City moved into fifth place in points in the Crate division with a fifth-place finish Sept. 16. Bailey also won one of two heat races on that program.
Crate Late Models are virtually identical to Late Models, but have engines with limited modifications.
In the 4-Cylinder Warrior class, Clark has three feature wins this season. Lyles, with two victories, is atop the standings with 840 points with Clark close behind at 827.
The two drivers have won three of the last five features, with Lyles taking the win on July 29 and Aug. 19. Clark, who won in the sixth week of the season, scored his second victory on Aug. 12 and won again on Sept. 9.
The division is a two-driver battle, with third-place Michael Watson of West Paducah more than 300 points behind the two front-runners.
Clark was second and Lyles third in the Sept. 16 feature behind Watson, who got his second victory of the year.
Another Calvert City driver, Kendall Clark, ranks fifth in Warrior points.
County drivers are prominent in other divisions but none is in contention for a track championship.
Justin Story of Benton is a two-time winner in the open-wheel Modified division, but has only 797 points and trails five-time winner Justin Houston of Hazel (886) and Steve Ladd of Murray (832).
Two drivers are in the top five in the Street Stock standings. Keaton Downing of Gilbertsville is fourth and Steve Hobbs of Benton, with two feature wins to his credit, is fifth. Tony Cruse of Paducah has dominated the division this year with 10 wins and has a 47-point lead, 920-873, over Mike Watson of West Paducah.
In the Under-16 Warriors class, Tya Cunningham of Murray has sewed up the title with 844 points to second-place A.J. Keeling’s 778. Cunningham has one feature victory while Keeling, of Paducah, has won five times. Blake Martin of Paducah leads the division with six wins but ranks fifth in points.
Amanda Bailey of Calvert City ranks sixth in standings.
A newcomer to the series is North Marshall Middle School sixth-grader Eli English of Palma, who began his racing career by competing in the Under-16 Warrior class in the last two PIR races on Sept. 9 and Sept. 16. He posted sixth-place finishes in both features.
Eli is the son of veteran Dennis English, who will compete Friday night in the Kentucky Vintage Racing Series. His No. 42 car has a 1936 Ford sedan body on it.
The vintage cars have raced in a partial schedule at PIR since 2007 as an addition to the regular PIR program. The track does not maintain driver standings or recognize a champion in the class.
Friday night’s main event is an annual PIR race dedicated to the memory of driver Wayne Coakley of Sacramento, who was killed in a highway accident in 1989. He was 46. Several other Kentucky tracks have memorial races in honor of Coakley.
Terry English won last year’s Coakley Memorial race on Sept. 17.
Racing gets under way with hot laps at 7 p.m. and heat races beginning at 7:30. Admission is $12 for adults, with children 12 and under admitted free.