An already heavy crowd of Midwest drivers entered for next month’s All American 400 sees another driver put his entry to make the trip south to Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville for the November 3rd race. This entry comes as a surprise to many, as 2012 ARCA Midwest Tour champion Jonathan Eilen will venture outside the upper Midwest for the first time in over five years.
The Hampton, Minnesota driver had competed in all but two ARCA Midwest Tour races since 2011 before scaling back his schedule in 2019. That reduced schedule, combined with a good weekend at Oktoberfest two weeks ago, is allowing his team the possibility to check off the All American 400.
“It’s just kind of always one of those things where if LaCrosse and Oktoberfest go good we’ll do some southern races, but Oktoberfest usually never ends up the best or it’s been a long season,” Eilen told Speed51.com. “But this year I didn’t really do a whole lot of racing. With the new kid and stuff there we didn’t run a lot of races, we only ran six or seven of them so we decided we’d try to do some southern races.”
It will be Eilen’s third attempt at the All American 400 and first since 2008 when the event was split 200-lap races between Super and Pro Late Models. His last start saw him lead 123 laps in the Pro Late Model portion and finishing in the top five.
After 11 years, he still feels comfortable with the 5/8ths mile due to his success at a similar track closer to home.
“It’s probably been ten years I bet since the last time we were down there,” he said. “We had a good run that last time we were down there, we were fast time then we ended up leading pretty much the whole race up until the very end, and then I think it was Brian Campbell ended up winning it or something. I think we finished third or fourth.”
“It’s definitely a different track but it’s a little bit comparable to Madison, that would probably be the closest track to it around here that it simulates a little bit of,” he added. “We’ve ran good at Madison and stuff, we’ve been having the car work good at different tracks, so this will probably be one of our best chances to go down there and run good.”
While he feels he can acclimate to Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville quickly due to past experience, the distance of the event is new territory for him. Four-hundred laps is a far cry from what Eilen’s used to in the upper Midwest, where the longest Super Late Model race is only 250 laps in the Dixieland 250 at Wisconsin International Raceway. He is having to take extra steps to ensure his team will be competitive come race day.
“Just making sure the car’s working well and prepared for it, there’s just a lot that goes into it,” he stated. “You’ve got to go with the bigger fuel cell and a lot more tires and fuel you’ll be going through there, so we’ve got to have extras of everything. We’ll have extra crew guys just to make sure we have the help. There’s going to be good cars down there, so you want to make sure you’re on your A-game when you go down there. You got a lot of money wrapped up into something, so you want to make sure you run good and represent good.”
What happens during the All American 400 could dictate what other races Eilen and team make the trip to throughout the winter. With another six months until 2020 racing season in the upper Midwest begins, the itch to get behind the wheel is strong.
“We’re just going to play it by ear and see how each one goes,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do races like the Snowball Derby. I’m not sure if we’re going to do it this year or not, just more or less see how it goes at Nashville. Maybe try to do the Rattler in March. I thought about doing Speedweeks in Florida there but just with work and stuff it’s crazy to try to get off. We just got a lot of other stuff going on so it’s harder to try to go do that stuff. I thought if I didn’t run as much this summer we can do a few races this winter.”
Stay tuned to Speed51.com for more information regarding the All American 400 as it gets closer to race day.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com