Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gladiators Narrow Coaching Candidates

Gwinnett Gladiators President Steve Chapman announced Friday that the candidates for the team’s coaching search have been narrowed to three finalists: Steve Weeks, Leigh Mendelson and John Wroblewski. The organization plans to name their second head coach in team history to replace Jeff Pyle within the next seven days. Pyle was named the head coach of the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League on July 13th.

Over the past two weeks, the Gladiators received over 50 inquiries from interested applicants concerning the position. After a detailed preliminary review and screening process, the list was narrowed to about a dozen candidates for phone interviews.

“The sheer number and quality of the applicants was quite impressive,” said Chapman. “It was very difficult to pare the applicants down to a workable number, but that is certainly a good problem to have. It’s also a tribute to the solid reputation established by the Gladiators organization within the professional hockey community to see such a large number of qualified coaches express their interest in leading this team.”

Weeks served as an assistant coach for the Atlanta Thrashers for eight seasons from 2001-2010. Prior to his time with the Thrashers, Weeks spent eight seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes (and previously Hartford Whalers) organization from 1993 to 2001 as an assistant coach and scout. He played 13 NHL seasons from 1980 to 1993 with the New York Rangers, Hartford Whalers, Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Canucks and the New York Islanders. Prior to turning pro, he played four seasons at Northern Michigan University where he helped the Wildcats to the 1980 “Frozen Four”.

Mendelson was an assistant coach with the Utah Grizzlies last year during the 2010-2011 season and he helped the Grizzlies advance to the Western Conference Semifinals before falling to the Victoria Salmon Kings. He served as an interim head coach with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL during the 2009-10 season posting a 7-7-2 record during his time behind the bench. He was also an assistant with the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies during the 2001-2002 season.

Wroblewski served as an assistant coach for the Wheeling Nailers last season and helped the Nailers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Prior to that, he served as an Assistant Head Coach for the United States National Development Team from 2007 – 2010. Wroblewski skated four seasons in the ECHL with the Fresno Falcons from 2003 through 2007 amassing 299 total points during his pro career while also serving as Team Captain in his final two seasons. Before turning pro, Wroblewski played four seasons at the University of Notre Dame from 1999 to 2003 and also served as Team Captain in his final season of collegiate hockey.

“All three candidates bring quality coaching experience and significant leadership abilities to the table,” said Chapman. “Honestly, any one of these three would be great choices.”

Relative to a new affiliation agreement, the Gladiators are in discussions with three separate NHL hockey teams about the possibility of a working relationship. The team hopes to make an announcement on their affiliation plans in the next 2 to 4 weeks.

The Gladiators are members of the ECHL, the Premier “AA” Hockey League and play all home games at the 11,355-seat Arena at Gwinnett Center, located just off I-85 on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth.

Nelms at the Helm for New Senoia Raceway Inaugural Weaterless Boat Race

July 31, 2011 (Senoia, GA) Michael Nelms has won his share of racing at the 3/8ths mile clay oval just west of Senoia, GA. But, he has never been the victor in a more bizarre way than he was on Saturday night when he crashed, smashed and bashed his way to victory in the inaugural ‘waterless boat race’ at New Senoia Raceway.

“This car has been beaten up before,” explained an amused Nelms along a junk filled front stretch. “But, I have never run into a boat on a race track.”

Nelms survived the fifteen minute crash-filled special event featuring various vehicles pulling old boats around the track without the assistance of any wheeled trailers. The Newnan stock car racing veteran outlasted fellow Newnan competitor Ricky Payton as the crowd of 1,027 fans cheered with excitement.

The path to victory was not in the fastest driver with his boat, but the only one remaining with the boat intact at the end of the event. To the delight of the younger fans in attendance, the strategy was to knock your opponents boat from it’s race car power source. The end result was a track full of disabled boats and cars trying to avoid the carnage.

“That was a blast,” said third place finisher Josh ‘Boom Boom’ Ballard of Griffin. “He (Nelms) got me caught up in the third turn and snagged my boat off against the wall. All I saw was the boat being smashed into pieces and then the car felt a lot lighter. I knew he got my boat.”

Other winners in the weekly stock car racing action included Locust Grove’s Racin’ Jason Williams in the Mike Wheeler’s Automotive & Transmission Late Models, LaGrange’s Tod Dard in the Crown Security Crate Late Models, Marcus Caswell of Newnan in the Newnan Bonding B Cadets, Carrollton’s Clifton Moran in the Summit Racing Equipment Hobby Stocks and Dusty Jones, also of LaGrange, in the Mini Stocks.

Williams out dueled current points leader Lavon Sparks in the Late Model division. The fierce competitors were separated by only eleven points entering their 25-lap main event. The Phenix City, AL, driver, Sparks, tried to stay with the hottest driver at New Senoia Raceway, Williams, at the drop of the green, but Williams showed his muscle once again holding him off and snagging the lead from the drop of the green.

While Williams, Sparks and Thomaston’s Shane Fulcher pulled away from the pack, Newnan’s Scott Duffey and Thomaston’s Laddie Fulcher were in a classic New Senoia Raceway battle for the number four spot. Duffey and Fulcher swapped the spot back and forth twice on lap nine before Duffey slid to the high side in turn two. After the two made contact exiting the turn, Duffey clipped the outside retaining wall which caused the race’s first caution.

Up front, Sparks would get close, but was never able to get a good enough run to squeak past Williams. The end result was Williams bringing home his eighth feature win of the season including four straight in the month of July. Sparks would settle for second again with Shane Fulcher third. Fayetteville’s Glenn Morris would fight his way to the number four spot and Newnan’s Nicky Prosser would take home his first top five of the season finishing fifth.

On the strength of his fourth consecutive win, Williams is now within eight points of the top spot in the standings for the Mike Wheeler’s Automotive & Transmission Late Models. Lavon Sparks has led the race for the championship since opening week this past April and was crowned the mid-season champion two weeks ago. This Saturday, August 6, is a double points night for all the divisions at New Senoia Raceway. At the last double points event in early June, Sparks out ran Williams to increase his lead on the points. Williams has been chipping away at that lead ever since.

Tod Darda is working on his points position in the Crown Security Crate Late Models. Darda finds himself in a regional points battle for the NeSmith Crate Series title and his current win streak at New Senoia Raceway is helping him climb the rankings.

Darda picked up his sixth race of the season and third straight on Saturday night. He held off Phenix City’s Russ Ogletree for the win. Ogletree was the dominant driver early in the season winning three feature races. But, Saturday night’s runner-up has not visited victory lane at New Senoia Raceway since the first weekend of May.

Carrollton’s Carey Smith returned on Saturday night and started scratch on the field. Smith was the hard charger of the night as he scooted past competitors to snare a top five finish.

Current track point’s leader Doug Ludwig of Grantville finished in the number four spot while LaGrange’s Dennis Hale was third behind Darda and Ogletree.

“They are not getting any easier,” said Darda afterwards. “Eighty-eight (Ogletree) pressured me the entire race. I could not make any mistakes.”

Newnan’s Marcus Caswell went from the outhouse to the penthouse this week in the Newnan Bonding B Cadets. Caswell had his driveshaft come up through the cockpit of his race car a week ago Saturday night narrowly missing serious injury. This week, Caswell shot out to the lead and never looked back posting the wire to wire victory over Stockbridge’s Jeff Carter and Fayetteville’s TJ Joiner. Last week’s victor, Blake Griffin of Grantville finished fourth followed up by newcomer Richard Davis of Griffin in fifth.

Short fields in the Summit Racing Equipment Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks disappointed fans, but still produced great racing action with Clifton ‘Hog Head’ Moran picking up his eleventh win of the season for the Hobby Stocks. Moran outlasted Kerry Carden for the win. Brook’s Carden claimed his best finish of the season with a second place run. Newnan’s Rusty ‘Rocketman’ Johnson came home third.

LaGrange’s Dusty Jones walked away to his seventh win of the season in the Mini Stock division. Barnesville’s Gary Parker finished in the runner-up spot followed by Griffin’s Bo Chambers and Whitesburg’s Dorough Bright.

Parker’s second place finish coupled together with Bright’s fourth place finish has tightened up the points battle for the four cylinder stock car racing division. Parker has slashed the points lead to seven points as the duo heads into this Saturday’s double points night. The point separation is three positions on the race track.

The double points opportunity this Saturday, August 6 allows the drivers in all weekly divisions to move up spots or move closer to their nearest competitors in the season point standings. The top ten in each division will be awarded prize money at the end of the season this September.

Family fun is also planned again for Saturday night as the track will host it’s Kid’s Bicycle Races. Children of all ages are invited to bring their bicycles to New Senoia Raceway where officials will separate the group into age categories and conduct fun-filled bicycle races along the front stretch and around the high banks of the track. All participants should bring their bike helmets.

The pit gates open at 5:00pm. The grandstands open at 6:00pm. Hot laps begin just after 7:00pm with racing set to go green at 8:00pm. Grandstand admission is only $12 for adults with kids six through twelve admitted for five bucks. Children five and under are admitted for free.

For additional information on New Senoia Raceway, visit the speedway website at, join their family of friends on Facebook or call the speedway at 770-599-6161.

By Katherine Adams


Mike Wheelers Automotive & Transmission Late Models

Feature: 1-Jason Williams, Locust Grove 2-Lavon Saprks, Phenix City, AL 3-Shane Fulcher, Thomaston 4-Glenn Morris, Fayetteville 5-Nicky Prosser, Senoia 6-Laddie Fulcher, Thomaston 7-Scott Duffey, Newnan Fast Qualifier: Williams (15.203 seconds)

Crown Security Crate Late Models

Feature: 1-Tod Darda, LaGrange 2-Russ Ogletree, Phenix City, AL 3-Dennis Hale, LaGrange 4-Doug Ludwig, Grantville 5-Carey Smith, Carrollton 6-Trey White, Jenkinsburg 7-Troy Tyson, Fayetteville 8-Kyle Lowry, Covington 9-Roger Cassell, Franklin 10-Todd Mitchell, LaGrange Fast Qualifier: Darda (15.870 seconds)

Newnan Bonding B-Cadets

Feature: 1-Marcus Caswell, Newnan 2-Jeff Carter, Stockbridge 3-TJ Joiner, Lithia Springs 4-Blake Griffin, Grantville 5-Richard Davis, Griffin 6-Corey Payton, Newnan 7-Chris Carr, Newnan 8-Buck Williams, Watkinsville 9-Lee McElwaney, Newnan

Summit Racing Equipment Hobby Stocks

Feature: 1-Clifton Moran, Carrollton 2-Kerry Carden, Brooks 3-Rusty Johnson, Newnan 4-Mike Jenkins, Brooks 5-Zak Sockwell, Newnan

Mini Stocks Feature: 1-Dusty Jones, LaGrange 2-Gary Parker, Barnesville 3-Bo Chambers, Griffin 4-Dorough Bright, Whitesburg