It’s a race that is full of history after only a decade. After stops in Florida and North Georgia, SpeedFest found its home at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, GA. SpeedFest has established itself as the first major doubleheader event of the season. Very few times can you see Pro Late Models and Super Late Models race on the same day and SpeedFest is one of those days.
Speed51.com took a look back at the history of the event, which previously used preliminary races on Saturday prior to the bigger show on Sunday. Once the race moved to Lanier National Speedway (GA) it then became a doubleheader with Pro Late Models and Super Late Models. Only Chase Elliott has swept the two events since the creation of the new format.
Check out the history of the event below and purchase your 51 TV pay-per-view package to watch this year’s version of SpeedFest.
2005: Super Late Model – Charlie Menard took the lead from a young Bubba Pollard to win the first SpeedFest event at USA International Speedway (FL). A highly talented field of 38 cars took the green flag that day to lay the ground work of the annual season kick-off event.
2005: Mike Fritts won the 100-lap preliminary race after nine cars didn’t make it out of the first turn. Mario Gosselin was second and Jeff Choquette was third.
2006 South: Mario Gosselin finished up what he started the year before when he was second, but in 2006 he won the 100-lap South race. Gosselin led Clay Rogers and Mike Fritts across the line for the victory. A record 20 cars were on the lead lap at the end of this one.
2006 North: The Eddie show was that of Eddie Hoffman Jr. and Eddie Van Meter who each came a great distance to run in Lakeland, FL. Hoffman traveled from Illinois, while Meter made the trip from Indiana. When it settled, Metter was the winner over Hoffman and Maine standout Ben Rowe.
2006 SpeedFest: The main event in 2006 was a party for the Florida Short Track mafia. Mike Fritts got around Clay Rogers late to take the win. Rogers ended up second and Travis Kittleson finished up the podium.
2007 South: Wayne Anderson added his name to the record at SpeedFest with a win over Jay Middleton and Justin Drawdy. The next day Drawdy would end his day on the podium again in the main event. Anderson started eighth and worked his way forward for the win.
2007 North: Ben Rowe charged from 19th and avoided a huge early wreck to take a trophy back to Maine. Rowe held off Jeremy Lepak and fellow Maine driver Cassius Clark for his only win in Florida to date. Eddie Hoffman rebounded from trouble and an 11th-place finish to win the next day.
2007 SpeedFest: Eddie Hoffman Jr. took the SpeedFest trophy back to Wheaton, Illinois after beating out short track legend Butch Miller for the win. Justin Drawdy was on the podium in third. Hoffman came from 21st to win the race while Miller came from 15th.
2008 South: Jeff Choquette gets the win in the first of his weekend sweep at USA International Speedway. Choquette beat out Jay Middleton and David Rogers for the win. Choquette was the only driver to win both Saturday and Sunday in SpeedFest events at Lakeland.
2008 North: Ryan Lawler held off Kyle Busch for the win in the Saturday’s tune up for the big event on Sunday. CRA champion Scott Hantz was third in this classic battle which featured Mike Rowe in fourth, the final car on the lead lap.
2008 SpeedFest: Jeff Choquette added another win for Florida as he captured his first win in the main event and also in the final SpeedFest run at USA International. Ryan Lawler was second and Shane Sawyer was third. Choquette won the race from the pole.
2009 Pro Late Model: Greg Simpson won a late race battle with Russell Fleeman after a bump-and-run to score the win in the first ever Pro Late Model portion of SpeedFest. The first PLM race was run at Lanier National Speedway.
2009 Super Late Model: Kyle Busch made a winning pass on lap 105 of 200 to score his first win at SpeedFest. Busch beat out Jason Hogan and Johanna Long.
2010 Pro Late Model: Casey Roderick and Kyle Busch had a great battle going before contact between the two drivers on lap 143 sent both to the rear for the final seven laps of 2010 running. That opened the door for Greg Simpson to capture his second-straight win in the SpeedFest Pro Late Model race. Dwayne Buggay and Shane Sawyer rounded out the top three.
2010 Super Late Model – A late night and a cold race track was no match for Kyle Busch as he led 216 of 250 laps. Steve Wallace was second and Jeff Fultz was third.
2011 Pro Late Model: Chase Elliott got back around fellow Georgian David Ragan to win the 2011 Pro Late Model version of SpeedFest. Elliott led a total 87 laps on his way to the win in the 150-lap event. Dwayne Buggay was second for the second year in a row and Bubba Pollard was third.
2011 Super Late Model: Chase Elliott never took tires and swept the SpeedFest final run at Lanier. Elliott beat out Bubba Pollard and Late Model rookie Daniel Hemric. Elliott led 85 laps in a race that saw eight lead changes.
2012 Pro Late Model: Chase Elliott took his act to Watermelon Capital Speedway (GA) and picked up his third-straight overall SpeedFest win and second in the Pro Late Models. Elliott passed Mike Garvey with 30 laps to go for the win. Daniel Hemric was on the podium in this race.
2012 Super Late Model: The Elliott bid for four straight never materialized as Watermelon Capital Speedway (GA) fans were left with a thrilling battle with NASCAR star Kyle Busch and Bubba Pollard. Pollard led late until Busch made his move with 14 laps to go. David Ragan was third in the final rundown.
2013 Pro Late Model: Elliott made it three Pro Late Model wins in a row after he passed Justin South with 11 laps to go. Elliott’s pass was the 15th and final lead change of the day in one of the most competitive races ever run at SpeedFest. Bubba Pollard logged yet another podium with a third-place run.
2013 Super Late Model: One of the wildest races in short track history saw 25 yellow flags and Jeff Choquette in victory lane. John Hunter Nemechek and Chase Elliott both got wrecked out of the lead. David Odell finished second and Scott Heckert was third.
2014 Pro Late Model: The streak came to an end for Chase Elliott because he didn’t run the SpeedFest event handing the title to John Hunter Nemechek. Jeff Cannon shocked most of the short track world by winning the pole for the event. Nemechek charged forward and led 97 of the 125 laps. Spencer Davis was second and Korey Ruble posted a third.
2014 Super Late Model: Chase Elliott used SpeedFest 2014 as redemption. He won after coming up short in 2013 and then after getting disqualified at the Snowball Derby. Elliott led 110 laps and dominated for his fifth SpeedFest win. Daniel Hemric got one spot closer with a second and Austin Theriault was third.
2015: Tune into 51 TV on January 24-25 to find out. Order early by clicking here and be ready for one of the most anticipated racing events of the 2015 racing season!
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com. Photo credit: Speed51.com