The 36th All American 400 had its fair share of storylines, from Casey Roderick winning his first Super Late Model race in over two years to controversy between Derek Thorn and Carson Hocevar. We now take a look at more storylines coming out of Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
Craig Repeats as CARS SLM Champ
Matt Craig had a day he would almost like to forget. He fought his way to a 10th-place finish after struggling throughout the race, which would be good enough to give him his second consecutive CARS Super Late Model Tour championship on the heels of three wins during the season.
“It’s nice to see year-long hard work pay off. We struggled through the night, we battled a little adversity with a shock breaking halfway through the race,” Craig told Speed51. “We were just behind the eight-ball the rest of the race and fighting back. We ended up taking 10th but it feels really good.”
By winning the series championship, Craig has done something that not very many other drivers in Super Late Model history can claim. He has now won a series championship in each of the past five years, winning three with PASS South and now two with CARS.
“This is my fifth championship in a row. I can’t thank my team enough, this is a really good team. To win championships, you’ve got to make bad days good days and that’s something we did.”
Tiger Stripes Scores Top-Ten After Starting on Pole
Heads were turned on Saturday when Kodie Conner scored a surprise pole in qualifying for the All American 400. The day quickly went south for the defending PRA Tours champion, who at one point fell a lap down during the race. However, he was able to recover for an eighth-place result on Sunday.
“We qualified on the pole so we started inside row number one. I screwed up in the beginning, I didn’t tighten the car up for the race. I got too loose and I fell back too quick,” said Conner. “I was trying to baby my tires there because I needed them and I wasn’t sure how tire wear was, I wasn’t able to make a long run in practice.”
It was Conner’s best run to date on the national scene, following starts at Bristol Motor Speedway and in the Winchester 400. This past weekend showed him he could compete with the top drivers in Super Late Model racing as he mulls a potential run in the Snowball Derby.
“For my first time being here, I’m pretty pleased. I know we can run with these guys now and we’re running with the best of the best. The last couple laps there I was having the time of my life. I was side-by-side there for a while and it was racing.”
Midwest Star Has Best Run of 2020
Make no bones about it, Austin Nason has struggled in 2020. He will be the first one to tell you that. Sunday’s race marked a step back in the right direction for the Illinois driver, scoring just his third top-five all year with a fifth.
One of his strongest runs of the year came at the right time, with the Snowball Derby just around the corner.
“It really helps our team, especially going into the Derby. We struggled this year and I couldn’t tell you why,” Nason stated. “It ain’t from a lack of work or a lack of effort, we’ve worked on this thing 24/7 trying to make it faster and I think finally tonight, we showed our speed we’ve had in the years past. I’m glad we got a top-five.”
While his struggles weren’t on the level of Craig or Conner’s, Nason had to fight back in the middle stages of the race. His biggest struggle came with pit strategy and the unpredictability of the racing surface over the course of 300 laps.
“We fought all kinds of conditions. Putting on two tires, you never know what’s going to happen. We put on two rights on early and the thing got so free I almost went a lap down, then we put two rights there at the end and it went so tight I almost didn’t get a top-five. We had a good car, it just took forever to get the thing going. We needed 50-lap runs and then we were one of the fastest cars in the field besides the No. 25 (Casey Roderick).”
Local Favorite Breaks All American Funk With Strong Run
Willie Allen finished runner-up in his third All American 400 attempt back in 2014 after starting 30th. He has struggled mightily in the biggest race at his home track since then, with his best finish having been a 16th going into the weekend.
His luck in the race turned around on Sunday, racing right around the tail end of the top-five for most of the event. Allen finished the event for the first time since that run in 2014, coming home seventh while Brittney Zamora finished 11th in a second Willie Allen Racing machine.
“We weren’t as good as we wanted to be, just too tight in the center. It’s pretty disappointing but we finished in the top-10,” Allen said. “We’ve had a lot of bad luck in past years at the All American and now we’ve got a solid finish, so we can build off that.”
Allen now turns his attention to next month’s Snowball Derby. He broke a little bit of news about who will be in a WAR race car post-race, while hinting towards a possible big development for the biggest Super Late Model race in the country.
“Kyle Neveau’s going to race one of our cars (in the Snowflake 100), we’re still trying to figure out the other seat. We’re finalizing some details on that, I’m not 100% sure who’s going to drive the Super. I think it’s going to be a pretty big name driver, hopefully. I’m pretty excited and I’m looking forward to it, it should be a pretty big Derby.”
A replay of Sunday’s All American 400 is now available on Speed51.TV.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo