CRA SpeedFest has become one of the biggest Super Late Model races of the year ever since its inception in 2005 in Lakeland, Florida. With a race that has so much history, we decided to take a deeper look at that history by going year-by-year.
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 for 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 VanMeter who each came a great distance to run in Lakeland, FL. Hoffman traveled from Illinois, while VanMeter made the trip from Indiana. When it settled, VanMeter 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 books 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 the 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), but 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 Pro Late Model: For the second year in a row John Hunter Nemechek wins the Pro Late Model race. This time it was at out during performance with Bubba Pollard who finished second. Nemechek led the race four different times before taking the top spot for good on lap 112 of 125.
2015 Super Late Model: Chase Elliott capped off his SpeedFest career (for now) with his sixth win and third int he Super Late Model event. Elliott took the lead when John Hunter Nemechek tangled with race leader Bubba Pollard with four laps left. Elliott led the final circuits to seal the win.
2016 Pro Late Model: John Hunter Nemechek dominated the Pro Late Model race for the third straight year as he bested local ace Chris Dilbeck. Nemechek would not run the race in 2017 making him a perfect three for three in the event.
2016 Super Late Model: Finally Bubba Pollard took home the honor as a winner at SpeedFest after three seconds and eight top-five runs. The win wasn’t without controversy as he survived a late race tangle with John Hunter Nemechek and William Byron. Harrison Burton would move to second in the late shuffle.
2017 Pro Late Model: Casey Roderick added his names to the record books as another Georgia driver to win a Speediest event. Roderick’s win was one of his 18 wins in 2017. After leading 108 laps he beat Cole Williams by a little over three seconds for the win.
2017 Super Late Model: in one of the most dominating performances at SpeedFest Harrison Burton led 177 laps and held off Erik Jones for the win. Erik Jones took second and led the other 23 laps along the way. Stephen Nasse was third for his first podium finish in the race. Jeff Choquette finished seventh and has completed every lap he’s ever run at SpeedFest.
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo Credit: Bruce Nuttleman/Speed51.com photo