NCAL LOOKS TO INCREASE CAR COUNTS WITH AFFORDABLE RULES PACKAGE
By Bert Lehman
After a meeting between Joe Lewandowski and Gene Coleman in January 2020, the National Crate Asphalt Latemodels (NCAL) organization was born.
“Our mission statement is real simple – A fast, affordable, safe, and reliable NCAL Late Model to increase participation in template asphalt Late Model racing in the United States,” said Lewandowski, who has a vast racing resume.
He added, “One of the big things that we are concentrating on is to increase participation in weekly Late Model racing because the asphalt car counts have been very low.”
The goal of NCAL is to decrease the cost to build an asphalt Late Model for the weekly racer. To accomplish that goal, Lewandowski said the NCAL rules were developed to reduce the cost of the suspension, shocks, and engine.
The suspension rules call for a standard three-link suspension with no bump stops and no coil bindings, Lewandowski said.
NCAL legal shocks are steal, non-adjustable Bilstein shocks, which cost $217 each. The engines must be Chevrolet 602 or 604 crate engines.
“We’ve basically taken the two real expensive parts out of the car to control costs, which are the shocks and the motor,” Lewandowski said.
Coleman added, “We estimate we can reduce the cost of a top running Super Late Model by an estimated $30,000.
According to Lewandowski, the first NCAL legal car was built to race in Florida. Over a three-month span, around 20 companies donated roughly $15,000 worth of parts to build the car. The parts were bolted on a 2003 chassis.
At New Smyrna Speedway in Florida, the NCAL car finished fourth out of 12 cars in a 100-lap race, Lewandowski said, adding that many of the cars in the race had $100,000 in them. He said the NCAL car had around $25,000 in it.
“We were excited that we proved that you could take a used car that was sitting there for 10 years, clean it up, put some new parts on it, and go racing,” he said.
Despite that, Lewandowski said race promoters in Florida didn’t want the NCAL car racing against high-dollar cars.
“The drivers with the high-dollar cars did not want the low-dollar car racing with them,” he said.
With Coleman’s involvement in Wisconsin asphalt Late Model racing, Lewandowski said the organization is concentrating on asphalt Late Model racing in Wisconsin.
“All I know is that Wisconsin has the most asphalt Late Models racing,” Lewandowski said. “The center of asphalt Late Model racing is in Wisconsin. The asphalt fans in the state of Wisconsin are so lucky because they can go watch racing four nights a week. There is no other part of the country that has the number of cars racing than the state of Wisconsin when it comes to asphalt Late Model stock car racing.”
Lewandowski stressed that NCAL is not in competition with the many traveling asphalt Late Model series in Wisconsin, such as the ARCA Midwest Tour, the TUNDRA Super Late Model Series, the Super Late Model Elite 8 Series, or the Alive for 5 Super Late Model Series. He referred to those series as the “big leagues” of Wisconsin asphalt Late Model racing.
“We’re building a crate racing program to get more people competing because it costs less, and hopefully build some stars and get some 16-year-olds, some younger kids starting out, that will move up to the big leagues,” he said. “We got to get more cars racing so we hopefully get more people in the grandstands.”
To help introduce NCAL to the Wisconsin racing scene, Coleman, who owns Coleman Racing Products in Menominee, Michigan, built a NCAL legal car to race weekly at Norway Speedway in Norway, Michigan. The car was driven by Braison Bennett in 2022.
“I’m 79 years old, I’ve been in racing for 60 years and I spent a fortune racing, and I never ever went out and looked for a sponsor,” Coleman said. “I paid all my racing out of my pocket and I went broke buying good high-end engines.”
That’s the reason Coleman built an NCAL legal car.
Coleman is thankful Norway Speedway allowed a crate motor for Super Late Models to be competitive.
“My opinion is the tracks don’t want the 604 (crate engine to be competitive) because people who spend $20,000 to $30,000 on an engine, cannot emotionally accept being beaten by a $7,000 box stock engine,” Coleman said.
Coleman’s NCAL car driven by Bennett has won one feature at Norway Speedway in 2022 as of mid-summer.
“We’ve been qualifying in the top six almost every week,” Coleman said. “We’ve won a dash and we’ve won a feature. We’re not setting the house on fire, but we’re not a sleeper. We got a little more learning to do because it’s been umpteen years since we’ve run a conventional suspension. We’re still working to get the car at its best.”
He added that he is happy with the progression of the car over the course of the season so far.
To help bring awareness to what NCAL is trying to accomplish, it will be hosting the WHELEN World Crate Asphalt Latemodels Championship Twin 55’s at Marshfield Motor Speedway on Sept. 16. The race was originally scheduled for Aug. 27 but was rescheduled because of rain.
“Every crate asphalt Late Model that races in the state of Wisconsin will be eligible to race with us,” Lewandowski said.
There will be different weight levels for the Late Models depending on the type of chassis it is. All Late Models will be required to have a crate engine and 60% left side weight. Hoosier 1070 tires will be used, which are the more economical tires, Lewandowski said. A set of four tires costs $560.
Twin 55 lap features will be run, with each feature paying $500 to start. Total payout for the two races will be $28,212.
Holtger Bros Inc., LLC is sponsoring the first pace awards in each race for $604. Coleman Racing Products is sponsoring $604 in bonus money to the top four legal cars in points for the twin races.
Lap bonus money will also be available with $50 available for each lap. The leader of each lap will receive $20, the second-place car each lap will receive $15, third place will receive $10, and fourth place will receive $5.
“If I can get 25 cars in this economy, I think we did a fantastic job,” Lewandowski said. “But we’re also paying really good money. If you make both races, you’re getting $1,000.”
General admission will be $20 for spectators.
“This is the inaugural race in Wisconsin and if it goes over good, we’re going to hopefully run more races next year,” he said. “If we do run some races in 2023, they are going to be on off-nights because we don’t want to do anything to upset local promoters with their weekly cars.”
(This article appeared in the July 2022 issue of Full Throttle magazine.)