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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The end of the racing season at Canada’s Sunset Speedway was bittersweet for 26-year-old Eric Yorke.
The Milton, Ontario, driver was in contention to win the Mini Stock track championship at the third-mile asphalt oval, but he was disqualified following the final points paying race of the season on Sept. 16 for what track officials deemed was an illegal body modification.
As a result, Yorke failed to capture the Mini Stock championship and had to settle for fourth in the Sunset Speedway standings.
Despite that bitter disappointment, Yorke still has a very big reason to smile after officially being named the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division III National champion.
“I’ve won one previous track championship (in 2012 at Sunset in the Mini Stock class), but I’ve never won the NASCAR title,” Yorke said. “I don’t even think I’ve finished anywhere near the top before. It’s a cool thing to win and it kind of took my mind off the stuff that went on for the track championship.”
So how did Yorke manage to capture a coveted NASCAR National championship despite finishing fourth in Sunset Speedway’s Mini Stock standings? It’s all in the numbers.
In 18 points paying starts at Sunset Speedway, Yorke managed to score four victories, 15 top-five finishes and 16 top-10 finishes. NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II-V drivers are ranked by their best 14 NASCAR points finishes in series-sanctioned events. Drivers receive two points for every car they finish ahead of – up to 18 cars – and two points for a win, with an additional three points available if the driver starts 10th or lower.
Because NASCAR takes the best 14 finishes from each driver, Yorke’s disqualification in the final race of the year didn't factor into his overall points total. His 14 best finishes were all within the top-five, which gave Yorke 478 points. That was just enough for Yorke to beat fellow Sunset Speedway driver and UNOH Youth Achievement Award winner Daniel Montanari by 14 points for the Division III National championship.
“I guess it was an up and down year,” Yorke said when recapping his season. “It started off a lot better than it has previous years. Seems I’ve always had engine troubles or something. On opening night I’ve never had my gear top notch to start the season. This year I came out swinging. I won on the second night and I think I finished in the top-five every night except for one night in the middle of the season.
“Basically I just ran consistent and stayed out of trouble as best as possible. My top 14 nights were all in the top-five for the National championship.”
Yorke, who began his racing career in go karts before eventually transitioning to oval stock car racing, will be honored alongside all the other NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National champions during the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards at the NASCAR Hall of Fame/Charlotte Convention Center on Dec. 8.
Thinking about it now, Yorke still has a hard time wrapping his head around the idea that he is a NASCAR National champion. In fact, he said he may not full comprehend it for quite some time.
“I don’t think it’s quite set in. I think it’ll set in when I’m actually there (to Charlotte for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards). It’s still kind of, I guess, surreal,” Yorke said.
“I’ve got to thank my crew, family and friends. We’re basically a family run team. We also have a lot of sponsors that made this happen. The main ones are probably Partimer Signs, Skytec Rentals, Can-Alignment Motorsports, Solex Steel, Budget Tire, CRP Promotions and Scentsy Consultant - Lisa DeLeeuw.”
As far as 2018 is concerned, Yorke said he hasn’t decided exactly what his plans will be.
“I’ll probably stick with the Mini Stocks, whether or not I’m going to be racing a full season or not I’m not sure,” Yorke said. “I have actually been wanting for the last couple of years to travel around to different tracks. Maybe not chase points at a single track, just travel around and try to chase some wins at different tracks.
“I’ve been points racing for, I think, 12 years now. I just kind of want to step back and run where I want, when I want.”