Las Cruces, NM — Big money and DIRTcar West Modified racing have become synonymous at Southern New Mexico Speedway.
And no one is prouder of that fact that Royal Jones, the co-owner of the 5/16th-mile oval sanctioned by the DIRTcar Racing organization.
A veteran DIRTcar West Modified driver, Jones is ready to put the division he loves in the spotlight once again this weekend (March 5-7) with the running of the 15th annual Winter Meltdown/Chub Daniels Memorial. The 50-lap headline event on Sun., March 7, boasts a top prize of at least $10,000 and a cool $1,250 payoff just for taking the green flag.
“Everybody knows that if it’s the first weekend in March or the first weekend in November, Southern New Mexico Speedway is having a big show for the (DIRTcar) Modifieds,” said Jones, who also posts a five-figure winner’s purse for the 10-year-old Fall DIRTcar Nationals that traditionally cap the track’s season. “We’ve been doing these races for so long now, the racers trust us and know we’re not gonna let them down. That’s why we’ve gotten so much support.”
Indeed, a 77-car field was signed in for last year’s Winter Meltdown and a whopping 104 DIRTcar West Modifieds entered the Fall Nationals. Jones is confident that this weekend’s three-day spectacular will draw more than 80 competitors, including some of the division’s best drivers from the Southwest and Midwest regions.
The huge event will give drivers an opportunity to earn maximum points toward DIRTcar Racing’s UMP circuit state/regional and national points races, which in 2009 paid out nearly $200,000 in points-fund cash.
“Royal Jones and his staff have built Southern New Mexico Speedway into a mainstay of the DIRTcar West Modified program,” said DIRTcar Racing Western Region director Chris Morgan, “and DIRTcar Racing is honored to be part of the Winter Meltdown. After the Modifieds just completed a great DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at (Florida’s) Volusia Speedway Park, it’s exciting to cross the country and fly the DIRTcar Racing banner over one of the division’s most prestigious early-season events in the Southwest.”
The DIRTcar Modified teams will make the long haul to the Land of Enchantment knowing that Jones might put even more money up for grabs in Sunday’s finale. The 55-year-old trucking company magnate was so pleased with the turnout for last November’s Fall Nationals that he added $5,000 to the first-place pay, producing a $15,000 booty for young winner Johnny Scott of Las Cruces, N.M.
“If we’re O.K. with cash after paying our bills, I’ll do that again,” Jones said of the possibility that the Winter Meltdown/Chub Daniels Memorial will receive a last-minute purse increase. “But instead of putting the extra money on top, I might do something different with it. We’ll see what happens.”
Scott and his twin brother Stormy Scott, who won a DIRTcar UMP Modified feature last month at Florida’s East Bay Raceway Park, head the very talented local contingent of drivers ready for this weekend’s action. Christy Georges of El Paso, Texas, who finished third in the 2009 DIRTcar UMP Wild West Region points standings and is the only female DIRTcar West Modified driver with a $10,000 victory to their credit, is another area standout to watch.
The hometown crowd will also be represented, of course, by Jones, who will balance his weekend track-operation concerns with racing his Modified, and several other contenders who have close links to the longtime SNMS promoter. That group includes Royal’s son Bumper Jones, who is looking for his first Winter Meltdown triumph, and daughter Holly, who is emerging as a Modified contender after excelling in the Limited Late Model and Stock Car classes; 2009 Southern New Mexico Speedway UMP DIRTcar Modified champion Fito Gallardo of Las Cruces, N.M., who is Royal’s son-in-law, and Gallardo’s son Jacob; and 2009 DIRTcar UMP Wild West Region champion Jimmy Ray of Las Cruces, N.M., a 60-year-old veteran who happens to be Royal’s business partner and co-owner of SNMS.
“There’s a lot of Modified racers in the family,” smiled Jones, who won the 2002 Fall Nationals at SNMS but is still searching for a victory in the March event. “And all three of my kids have little boys who are three or four years old, so we might have more racers on the way.”
An array of well-known drivers from across the country are expected to top off the field, including defending Winter Meltown/Chub Daniels Memorial winner and reigning DIRTcar MARS Racing Series champion Terry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., and his young teammate Jeremy Payne, a native of Tucson, Ariz., who now lives in the Show-Me State; Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., who won the rich ‘Gator Championship’ event for DIRTcar UMP Modifieds during last month’s DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park; Jason Hughes of Watts, Okla., who finished second in last year’s Winter Meltdown finale; R.C. Whitwell of Tucson, Ariz., who finished third in last year’s Chub Daniels Memorial; eight-time USMTS champion Kelly Shryock of Fertile, Iowa; and Kellen Chadwick of Oakley, Calif.
The weekend will be jam-packed with racing. Preliminary programs — consisting of heats (lined up by pill draws), last-chance races and a feature — will be contested on Fri., March 5, and Sat., March 6, with each day’s 25-lap A-Main locking five drivers directly into the 50-lap championship headliner on Sun., March 7, and additional finishers into Sunday’s B- and C-Mains. The Sunday finale will feature several last-chance events and the series of ‘alphabet’ races topped by the Chub Daniels Memorial.
Sunday’s 50-lapper offers a hefty $1,250 just to take the green flag, while drivers making it to the B-Main are guaranteed $700 and those reaching the C-Main are assured $400.
Support-division action for Street Stocks, Legends Cars and Super Trucks will also be part of the weekend, which boasts a total payout in the neighborhood of $100,000.
Gates are scheduled to open at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 5, with racing getting underway at 6:30 p.m. The Saturday and Sunday programs will begin earlier — gates opening at 12 noon and racing at 2 p.m.
General admission is $10 on both Friday and Saturday and $12 on Sunday. A $3 discount is available each day for students ages 11-15, New Mexico State University students with I.D., senior citizens and members of the military (with ID), and children 10-and-under are admitted free of charge.
Pit passes are $35 on both Friday and Saturday and $40 on Sunday, with a three-day combo pass available for $100.
To view the full Winter Meltdown/Chub Daniels Memorial DIRTcar West Modified entry list, log onto
For more information on Southern New Mexico Speedway, visit www.snmspeedway.com or call 575-524-7913.
Additional info on all of the series, sanctioning and member tracks of DIRTcar Racing is available at www.DIRTcar.com.