NORWALK, Ohio (November 8, 2013) – Wes Neely loves racing at Memphis International Raceway.
The Florence, Mississippi native visited the Tennessee track three times in 2013, winning every time he unloaded the car. The first two wins helped him clinch the Division 4 championship on the Summit Pro-Am Tour in convincing fashion.
And his third win at the track? Well, that only handed him his very first IHRA World Championship in Stock by winning the Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions at the Summit World Finals.
Neely entered the Summit World Finals as one of six drivers representing their division as Summit Pro-Am champion and Neely did his division proud by winning it all in Memphis. Driving a bright red 1988 Trans Am that he has campaigned throughout the south the past four years, Neely went four rounds on championship Sunday culminating with a huge win over Wade, North Carolina's Jeff Longhany.
With nothing to lose, Neely attacked the tree and took a convincing holeshot with a .010 reaction time to Longhany's .057 light and turned that into a very close double-breakout win at the stripe. Neely crossed the finish line first with a 12.369 second elapsed time at 104.35 miles per hour on a 12.37 dial, while Longhany produced a 10.549 on a 10.56 dial at 120.10 mph in the runner-up effort.
"I went into the final with nothing to lose. I was just glad to be in the finals that it didn't really matter to me, win lose or draw," Neely said. "Once I realized I had won it really hit me what it meant. It means that I won, not only in my state and division, but out of the entire country I am the last one standing. That is a big honor."
Neely's weekend, which included a complete washout of competition on Saturday that left him sitting around waiting for his opportunity to get after the track, including a number of gifted rounds that helped advance him through the ladder. He recorded wins over Stephen McGrath, Terry Taylor and Brent Darroch on his way to the final, with all three making mistakes at the line.
McGrath was late off the line in round one by a considerable margin – a .016 light by Neely to McGrath's .075 bulb – while Taylor and Darroch both went red in rounds two and three. Taylor went red by -.004, while Darroch lit the red bulb by -.019.
Even with the mistakes by his opponents, Neely ran well enough to earn his spot in the final and further proved his worth by taking the win.
"It was an exciting weekend. Long and drawn out, yes, but it was exciting," Neely said. "We had a lot of close races, but there are a lot of good racers out here. You know, Stock Eliminator is a tough class to be in. A lot of people around the world can foot brake, so it is tough. And to be the best out of that group, that is really amazing."
In the runner-up spot, Jeff Longhany, the runner-up in Division 9 on the Summit Pro-Am Tour, had wins over Lee Truell and Sam Pourciau and received a bye in round one to reach the final.
Stock Final – Jeff Longhany (near) vs. Wes Neely
Neely's win wrapped up a season in which he won the Division 4 championship despite attending fewer racers than most of his competitors. Neely reached the semifinals in four of his five Summit Pro-Am races in 2013, winning twice at MIR earlier in the year.
Now the veteran of 17 years can add world champion to his resume after producing once again at his new favorite track in IHRA.
"Out of five races we won twice and went to the semis several times. And to win the division, while everyone around us went to more races, that is pretty special," Neely said. "I really couldn't be here today without the support of my wife Audrey, my son Landon, my daughter Brittney, my brother David and his wife Ashley. They have all been very supportive of me. And I also want to give a special thank you to Sammy, he has been an inspiration to me and I am proud to run alongside him."
While Division 4 typically takes some heat with fewer Super Stock and Stock participants than other IHRA divisions, both world champions in the two Stock categories arose from the Renegades Division. A fact that Neely is very proud of.
"Division 4 is a tough place to race, no matter what," Neely said. "It is a great place to race and I am proud to call D4 home."