Lake Norman & Mooresville

Conner claims 1st pro late model title

Kodie Conner leads the field at Concord for the Old Glory 125 and eventually won the race.
Kodie Conner leads the field at Concord for the Old Glory 125 and eventually won the race.

Kodie Conner’s third season in the PASS Pro Late Model Series was filled with obstacles, but they didn’t keep the 14-year-old Kannapolis resident from earning his first-ever championship on the tour.

With four victories, six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 10 races, Kodie finished 254 points ahead of runner-up Zachary Dabbs of Mooresville. That, despite dealing with a blown engine at one track where he had to qualify without practicing and constantly dealing with little things that could cause major problems.

“It’s definitely a great feeling just to know that my third year in it we had our ups-and-downs, not the greatest season, and we still came out with the championship,” said Kodie, a third-generation driver. “It’s just unreal. It’s amazing.”

Kodie and his dad, Shannon Conner, prepared the race car together but also received a great deal of help from Jeff Fultz.

“If we have any questions, such as with a new track, we’ll go to him,” Kodie said about the former NASCAR competitor and successful late model driver. “He’s helped us out a few times this year with (the car’s) setup.”

Shannon drove in one pro late-model event this year at Caraway Speedway near Asheboro at his son’s urging but was better known for his street stock and modified races in New Jersey at Wall Stadium, Flemington and New Egypt. Kodie’s grandfather, Jerry Conner, also raced at the same tracks, as did his uncle, Pride Conner.

When Shannon Conner moved to Kannapolis in 1999, he sold all of his racing equipment. So when the family decided to re-enter racing with Kodie, they had to start from scratch. It was a decision that initially didn’t please Kodie’s grandfather.

“But now, he’s all about it and he’s my main supporter,” Kodie said. “He’s my main sponsor. He was very excited (about the championship); he was overjoyed. He does everything for me, and my dad definitely enjoys helping me.”

Kodie noted the paint scheme currently on his super late model was a replica of one used by his grandfather.

“It was supposed to be for the North-South Shootout (at Concord Speedway), but, unfortunately, we didn’t compete because the motor blew up,” Kodie said. “At first, when Grandpa was looking at it he said, ‘I don’t like it.’ Then, once it sunk in, and he started to realize (it was his old paint scheme), there were a few tears in his eyes. Then he started telling a whole bunch of stories about it.”

Kodie’s 2016 plans call for him to step up to the super late model ranks and compete in as many races as financially possible. He noted their first race would be the season opening PASS South Super Late Model event Feb. 6 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Easley, S.C. He competed in three super late model races this year; two with PASS and one with the Mooresville-based CARS Tour.

In addition to working on his race car with his father, Kodie focuses on high school honor classes and community college courses at Rowan-Cabarrus Early College in Salisbury. The dual program allows Kodie to receive his high school diploma and an associate degree simultaneously. Upon graduation, he plans to attend N.C. State University and earn a mechanical engineering degree.

Most popular honors

Trey Hutchens is the recipient of the Most Popular Driver Award this year on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. He is the son of Bobby Hutchens, the competition director for the Harrisburg-based JTG Daugherty NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team. Hutchens will be recognized Dec. 12 as part of the NASCAR Touring Series Awards banquet at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Food drive

For two weeks in November, Mooresville’s GoPro Motorplex gave a $10 discount on each rental race purchase with a donation of five, nonperishable food items. This year, the facility collected 3,831 pounds of canned food for the Mooresville Soup Kitchen. That amount exceeded last year’s collection by more than 1,000 pounds. Last year, 2,745 pounds of food were collected for the Mooresville Soup Kitchen.

Deb Williams is a freelance writer: