As the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour regulars and some of the biggest names converge onto Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway for Saturday’s Masters of the Pro’s, the track regulars will be looking to defend their home asphalt. Three former track champions, including champions from each of the last two years, will lead the local charge as they look to keep the green jacket at the 5/8ths mile.
Cole Williams, Jackson Boone and Michael House find themselves on a prestigious list of former track champions at the historic facility. They now look to add themselves to the list of Masters of the Pro’s race winners.
Williams has already gone to victory lane at Nashville this year, having won the season opener on July 4. That win, paired with his two track championships in 2014 and 2016 has him confident in his chances come Saturday night.
“I always love going to Nashville. It seems like we’re finally getting to race a little bit more, the more races we get in the more exciting it is,” Williams told Speed51. “Winning the last race two weeks ago definitely gives us more excited going in with a little bit more momentum than others. I’m definitely looking forward to that, there’s going to be a lot of good cars this weekend so I think it’s going to be a good race overall.”
Williams can also call himself a former Masters of the Pro’s winner, having won the final event held at Lebanon I-44 Speedway in 2017. The win came after close calls in the years leading up to that race, leading all 144 laps in the process.
“The Lebanon one was kind of different for us because I was so close to winning it the two years before I actually won it. The year Anderson Bowen won it (2014) we led the first 100 and was looking pretty good, we had a good shot at winning the whole thing. We ended up getting a flat tire while leading the race right at that break. It was aggravating knowing we were so close and that we had yet to pull it off. It was bittersweet to finally get that win.”
Defending track champion Jackson Boone is set for his first Pro Late Model start of 2020 after making the switch to Super Late Models. He is coming off a career-best second-place run at Montgomery with the Southern Super Series.
Boone is leaning on the experience he’s gained in the Super to go into Saturday’s Pro Late Model crown jewel.
“It’s kind of funny, I got into a Pro car a few weeks ago and it felt like a go-kart because the Super’s got so much power. I’m hoping to take the experience I’ve been able to grab with the Super and apply it to what I’m about to do with the Pro car,” Boone said. “It’s definitely a huge opportunity to be back at home and be back at a track where I know the way around the place, and use the experience I’ve gained traveling on top of that to hopefully run up front and compete for the win.”
Last season saw Boone grab his first two Pro Late Model wins while finishing no worse than fourth to win his first track championship. It proved to be his coming out party in the Southeast Late Model ranks, ending 2019 with a seventh in the Snowflake 100.
“Last season was one to remember. Obviously that’s a cliché statement but I can’t tell you how proud I was of our organization. We started out the year and I think I finished second three or four times in a row.
“In racing, once you figure out how to win you begin to do it more and more. The championship came from a combination of figuring out how to win and also figuring out how to win a championship. I credit my crew chief for teaching me how to win a championship, he taught me how to approach a championship, there’s a completely different mindset you’ve got to have to win a championship like that.”
2018 Nashville track champion Michael House returns to Nashville after finishing second in last year’s finale. He had help from another former track champion to prepare for Saturday’s 150-lap main event to make sure everything is in working order for when teams from all over the country get together.
“I feel like we’ve got a good car, I feel like we’ve done everything in the shop that we can do to prepare for this race,” House said. “I’ve worked really closely with Willie Allen as far as setup goes, I feel really confident and feel like we have a good shot at running well.”
House’s track title was the latest in a long line of family success at the track. While the last name House away from Michael may be unfamiliar to fans, they will for sure recognize the last name Marlin. He is the son-in-law of three-time track champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner Sterling Marlin.
Marrying into the family rather than being born into it, he was proud to carry on the family legacy and hopes it can continue into the future.
“The track championship means a lot with the history. My father-in-law was able to be really successful here, it means a lot to win the track championship here. More or less, just coming back here and racing really means a lot, I’m hoping we all as a group can keep this track alive for the future and so my son, when he grows up and if he wants to race one day, he can be a track champion and keep the Fairgrounds history alive.”
All three drivers will look to represent the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway regulars well. For Williams, a second Masters of the Pro’s win will prove to be a bigger moment than the first due to the connections he’s made at the Tennessee oval over the years.
“To do it in front of Nashville, I feel like Nashville’s more like my home more than ever because we’ve grown so many friendships and so many relationships there,” Williams said. “It’s just kind of my home track, with the history behind it and what we’ve achieved there we can capitalize and go win a race like this.”
While Williams will be going after a second green jacket, both Boone and House will be making their first starts in the Masters of the Pro’s Both drivers are looking to take one for the home crowds as Nashville-area natives.
“I cannot tell you how much I really want it for this organization and everyone behind me and all my sponsors,” Boone stated. “All glory goes to God but I can’t even imagine how much it would mean in front of a hometown crowd and my family most of all because they’re the ones supporting me day in and day out. It would just mean everything to me.”
“It would be really big just because we’ve put a lot of hard work and we’ve been racing for about a month straight,” House echoed. “We’ve kind of been in a little bit of a slump lately so being at our home track, to come out with the level of competition that is here for this race, I think a win would be extremely huge for us.”
Race fans can watch the Masters of the Pros for $19.99 on Speed51. Click here to watch Saturday’s race.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo