The Mercy Master of the Pros 144 at Lebanon I-44 Speedway in Lebanon, Missouri is quickly becoming one of the top Pro Late Model events in the United States and one of the marquee events on the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour schedule. The third annual edition is scheduled for this Saturday night at the 3/8-mile high-banked oval.
One guarantee with this year’s event is that there will be a first-time winner. The two previous winners, Chase Elliott (2013) and Anderson Bowen (2014), won’t be back to go for another win.
The race itself is the longest on the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour schedule. It will pay $8,000 to win along with the winning driver receiving a green jacket, just like the one the winner of The Masters golf tournament receives, putting them in a unique group with a one-of-a-kind trophy.
One driver looking for that green jacket is 2013 Lebanon I-44 Speedway track champion Cole Williams, who picked up a weekly win at the track one week ago.
Last year, the 19-year-old from Sellersburg, Indiana, thought he was en route to picking up the biggest win of his career until a flat tire, took him out of the running after leading 83 laps.
“I have been wanting that green jacket for two years now and really thought I had a good chance of winning it last year, but we just came up short with a flat tire at the break,” explained Williams. “I would see it as a true blessing winning the green jacket, especially in front of what I consider a home crowd.”
Williams, who went on to win the track championship last year at the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville in Tennessee, feels that the entry list for this year’s event will be one of the best.
“The last two years has brought an elite field of Pro Late Models and looking at the entry list this year, it looks tough,” exclaimed Williams. “I feel the key as always will be assuring you have a car at the end to compete for the win, but if anything, saving tires will be big. I believe I have the crew and car that can contend for the win again this weekend, so I am anxious to see what happens.”
Some of those contenders that Williams mention includes Cody Coughlin, John Hunter Nemechek, Justin South, Matt Wallace, Dalton Armstrong, Sterling Marlin, Mike Slone, Quinnton Bear, Mike Slone, Chuck Barnes, Jr. and many more.
One driver also on that list, and making his JEGS/CRA All-Stars tour debut, is 2014 ARCA Midwest Tour champion Ty Majeski.
Not only is he making his debut in the series, he is also driving the #71 Lisa Thomas Salon prepared car for the first time and in his first start at Lebanon I-44 Speedway.
“I am really looking forward to competing in this event. I have been watching a lot of YouTube videos trying to get an idea of the preferred line around the track,” said Majeski. “The place looks real fast and it appears that the second and third groove are the preferred lines. I think the key is if you can get your car to work in the bottom groove, you can pass a lot of cars to get to the front.”
It wasn’t until a week before the originally scheduled date that the Seymour, Wisconsin driver confirmed that he was going to drive for TK Motorsports.
“Eddie Hoffman was trying to get off of work to drive, but is not able too, so Tom Kmak asked me if I was interested and I said yes right away,” recalled Majeski. “I think we can be a contender for the win. I am driving the same car that Johnny Van Doorn won the Battle at Berlin 251 with last year, so I feel confident going into this weekend.”
On Saturday, the first practice will get underway at 12:30pm with the final session starting at 1:30 p.m. Qualifying will start at 3:30 p.m. with an on-track autograph session at 4:15. Racing will get underway at 5:30 p.m.
-By Kevin Ramsell, Speed51.com Midwest Correspondent
-Photo credit: CRA Racing