CARS Tour Title Hopeful Blazes Charts in Super Late Model Practice: North Carolina’s Matt Craig has plenty of success in three trips to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, including a win in this year’s Masters of the Pro’s at the historic track. Craig picked up where he left off in July, pacing three of the four Super Late Model practice sessions on Friday.
“The car was really good,” Craig told Speed51. “We led three out of the four practices. We had some long runs in there and made a qualifying run. The car is really balanced. That’s going to change from now to Sunday, so we’ve got to stay on top of it.”
The All American 400 is a crown jewel event in its own right, but also carries the significance of being the points-paying finale for both the Southern Super Series and CARS Super Late Model Tour this year. Craig holds an 18-point advantage over Sammy Smith in the CARS Tour standings, something in the back of Craig’s mind going into Sunday.
“We’ve got a championship battle going on. As long as we finish top-15, we’ll be fine. As long as nothing crazy happens, we should be fine. Winning the All American 400 would be bigger than winning the championship.
Crump Tags In While Hocevar Goes Trucking: Carson Hocevar has his sights set on another crown jewel victory after winning the Winchester 400 earlier this month. However, he was not at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway Friday during practice.
Instead, Hocevar was at Martinsville Speedway, competing with the NASCAR Truck Series. While Hocevar was in Virginia, Kyle Crump hopped behind the wheel of Hocevar’s No. 14 Super Late Model to prepare the machine for Sunday’s race.
It was a learning experience for Crump, as the Michigan native turned his first laps at the fast 5/8-mile oval.
“I’ve never been here before, so the first practice session I was trying to learn the track,” said Crump. “The main idea today is to shake it down. We’ve got a new transmission in here. We’re making sure everything’s working right and nothing’s falling apart to have it ready for Carson tomorrow.”
With both Hocevar and Crump working closely with Johnny VanDoorn and VanDoorn Racing Development, Hocevar’s machine behaved similarly to the car Crump typically pilots in the Midwest. Crump admitted the car’s handling fit like a glove – even if other parts of the car didn’t.
“This is pretty much identical to the No. 131 car that I drive. It’s a pretty similar feel. I’m still using his seat and stuff, so it’s a little awkward. It takes a few practice sessions to get used to, but it’s a pretty good car so I think he’ll be happy.”
West Coast Star Brings Momentum to the East: Derek Thorn has been nearly unstoppable on the West Coast in 2020, winning six of his seven appearances in the SRL Southwest Tour. That momentum carried over to his first day of a trip to the east, as the Bakersfield, California driver was fast in both his Super Late Model and Pro Late Model.
“We won last weekend at Kern. Byron Campbell’s given us an awesome opportunity to have the cars we have, and Mike Keen has done an awesome job getting these things right for here. It’s still a learning curve for us, we haven’t been on this tire in a year. We’ll just keep chipping away at it. Hopefully we’ll keep running where we’re at and be good on Sunday.”
Despite a strong start to the weekend, Thorn knows better than to assume Sunday success after last year’s trip to Nashville. In 2019, an accident in Pro Late Model practice prevented that car from ever taking the green flag.
“Races like this, you try to take them a day at a time. Last year, I messed up in practice and wrecked our Pro Late. It’ll be a win just to stay on track and keep these things in one piece.”
Highs, Lows for Pro Late Model Title Contenders: In the final practice for Pro Late Models on Friday, both Cole Williams and Dylan Fetcho were in the top six, with Williams setting fast time in the session. The journey to that point was not so straightforward.
Fetcho’s day started with a trail of smoke billowing from his No. 89 machine, victim of a broken sway bar in just his first few laps of practice.
“It came off of four and the sway bar broke,” said Fetcho. “The adjuster snapped, so we got that fixed and got the rear end squared back up, and we’re ready to go.”
Both before and after the mishap, Fetcho’s car showed plenty of speed, giving him plenty of confidence entering Sunday’s 100-lap showdown.
“I feel good about it. Before that, the car felt good. We were running some good times. Other than this, I think we’re in good shape.”
Williams’ day was less eventful, allowing him to focus on dialing in his No. 46 throughout the afternoon.
“It’s early right now, so we’re just tweaking and fine-tuning,” said Williams. “We’ve run a lot of laps here this year, so we’re making sure we don’t overadjust for the weekend. It’s a little bit different deal for us this weekend. We’ve been running at night all season long, so adjusting to the day will be a little bit different.”
Along with the prestige of competing for the Pro Late Model victory on All American 400 weekend, there is the Nashville Pro Late Model track championship on the line. Williams leads Fetcho by four points entering the race, putting extra pressure on Williams to perform well on Sunday.
“It’s a lot of pressure, sometimes, to think about that. You enter the race with one goal, and that’s to win the race. That settles the points itself. At the same time, you’ve got to keep yourself clean. If you don’t have a car, you don’t have anything.”
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo