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NICK SCHWIEN â ¢ Hays Daily News Jeff Tubbs takes the low line during a stock car heat race earlier this season at WaKeeney Speedway.

Season turns golden for stock car driver Jeff Tubbs

Danny Carmen tried to have the champagne ready. He was told to shake it up well, and that would be enough to do the trick.

But when the crew chief for stock car driver Jeff Tubbs shook the bottle Sept. 21 at RPM Speedway in Hays and was ready to spray down his driver in celebration, something went amiss.

The cork popped out, and just a trickle came pouring out. Carmen's hopes of dousing Tubbs in celebrating his track title at the dirt oval was unsuccessful.

It was the only thing Tubbs, his family and crew didn't have pan out this season.

Tubbs put together the most successful racing season in his two decades of facing that began years ago as a teen in the mini sprint division.

"It's time to retire and just go drink,"  Tubbs joked afterward as he basked in the glory of an amazing regular season, not wanting to think about the big shows that remained this year. "I don't even know. I don't know about Fall Nationals. ... One night at a time. I also think that's what also wins you championships is you can't look way too far ahead. You have to keep in mind what's going on that day, that night. One day at a time. One lug nut. One bolt. Get through each night, then worry about the next one."

Tubbs earned the right to not give a care that night. And he earned it through several nights of hard racing and stellar finishes.

The Colby stock driver won track titles at RPM and WaKeeney Speedway by large margins. In fact, all he had to do was sign in the final night of racing at each track in order to secure the crowns.

And he added two more track titles to boot -- one at his hometown Thomas County Speedway and the other at Sherman County Speedway in Goodland. Both of those nights came down to the final night of racing, and Tubbs secured the titles with great finishes.

And he wrapped up the crown in the Dirt Track Central Great Plains Stock Car Series this year, a special series of 10 races at different tracks throughout Kansas.

He won the IMCA state title as well. And he had an easy top-10 finish in the national standings.

Plus, Tubbs qualified for the big dance on the first night the stock cars competed at the 31st annual IMCA Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa. He finished 15th in the event's main feature that Saturday night. It was the first time he qualified for the big dance in several years of trying. This year's field had nearly 200 drivers competing in that division alone.

"I guarantee there's not a race car driver in America that expects to win four track championships, a series championship and a state title all in the same year," Tubbs said. "Some guys don't do that in their whole life, let alone in one year. There's no way you can expect that. I maybe kind of expected one or two. But to only have one DNF out of 50 races, that's what won us championships. That's what it takes to do it. The odds of doing that are slim to none."

That DNF came at Colby midway through the season. It came only because the gas pedal broke during the feature.

"This is by far more successful," Tubbs said. "We've won a lot of races before, but to win at every track and to win four track championships -- we've won six championships this year. You can't even fathom that. That only happens once in a lifetime to very, very few people."

Tubbs won two races at RPM this year and six more at WaKeeney. Plus, he had more victories at other tracks, too.

His spectacular regular season didn't come against weak competition, either. Tubbs competed weekly against some of the best stock drivers in the nation, including Jason Rogers, his younger brother, Nick, B.J. Wagoner, Mike Nichols, Josh Hudson and Kyle Vanover, just to name a few.

"That's one thing I can say is we've won multiple races at every track we've won a championship at," Tubbs said. "And we won multiple races in the series against really, really good competition. Sooner or later, there comes a time where it's not just luck. It turns into more than that where you actually do the work, do the homework, do the time and maintenance on the car and that's what puts it together."

Rogers even playfully joked Tubbs had something special in his car -- a golden horseshoe.

"Not letting it fall out," Tubbs joked about the horseshoe and his key to the year. "Tell Rogers they do sell those at Target.

"We had a few bad nights, but we still persevered and finished. There was one night we finished ninth (at RPM) during the series race where the front end was all cobbled and all smashed up. But instead of pulling in, you just drive through it and try to get to that checkered flag. That's what wins championships is not getting tore up too bad and taking every checkered flag you can."

Tubbs did that, and then some. Next up is Fall Nationals VII in Hays, a track he knows how to get around.

He averaged a fourth-place finish in 12 races this year at RPM. He had nine top-five finishes at the track.

Perhaps there will be an opportunity once more this season for Carmen to soak Tubbs in celebration.

If not, Tubbs doesn't really care. He's already accomplished more than he ever thought possible this season.

NICK SCHWIEN

nschwien@dailynews.net