A racing season that appeared to be in question during the first part of 2020 has turned into one of the closest and most competitive championship battles in recent years. The Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco will feature four drivers within 14 points of each other, all squaring off at one of the short track racing’s marquee events, the All American 400 at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
Longtime Pensacola, FL racer Jeremy Pate currently leads the points after a season of consistency, but only by three points over Pinelas Park, FL native and 2017 SSS champion Stephen Nasse, who comes in with three series wins in 2020. In third, 11 points out of the lead, is the young gun Jake Garcia of Monroe, GA who like Pate, had played the consistency game. Then in fourth, sporting three series wins in 2020, the 2014 SSS champion out of Senoia, GA, Bubba Pollard.
Starting with the points leader Jeremy Pate, simply being in the points race is privilege enough. The driver of the No. 21 Super Late Model has shown winning potential all season, and hopes that this Sunday is the day for a breakthrough.
“It’s pretty neat putting it all in perspective to have a shot. With this long a season and how crazy the year has been, we have a slight lead, but it’s not really a lead. It’s going to be decided on the last lap. It’s pretty exciting and cool, we’re going to enjoy the moment,” Pate told Speed51.
Despite Five Flags Speedway being his home track and having only a limited amount of starts at Nashville, the Fairgrounds have become a favorite stop of Pate’s, especially with the All American temporarily reverting back to a 300-lap format for the Super Late Models in 2020.
“That’s my favorite race track. This race, it owes me one from a long time ago,” Pate said. “That’s another reason I’m looking forward to it. It’s also the same 300-lap format as it was the last time I ran the All American. We got a good plan going in, got a pretty good idea what we want of the car, and hopefully we can keep executing like we have all season.”
Stephen Nasse is a driver not known to aim for consistency. It’s winning or nothing. With the points race as it is, his approach may be just the approach needed to win a second SSS title.
“That’s my goal every weekend, just go out and win. I feel like I got some unfinished business with Nashville. We had a good car last year, and we weren’t able to finish and get the win. I feel good about the car again this year, we had the speed at Winchester, New Smyrna, and Pensacola. Can’t wait to get on track and see what we got,” Nasse said.
Speaking of Pensacola, Nasse also enters All American weekend with a win at Five Flags this past Sunday. A perfect time for a jolt of momentum.
“Oh yeah! That’s a win I needed after some bad luck, some which we brought on ourselves and some we couldn’t control. Just to be able to go there and take the trophy home was a great feeling.”
On the flip side, Jake Garcia sees the All American 400 as a race of survival, even with the 100-lap reduction for this Sunday. With heavy attrition rates the past few years, in the first half of the race alone, the 15-year-old is confident in his veteran-like approach.
“With it being the All American 400, a lot of attrition goes into the race, even at 300 laps. Eleven points out of first, it’s going to be important to finish, just doing that we’ll have a really good shot at winning the championship. Considering the amount of cars that finish compared to the field, if you can complete all 300 laps, you’ve got a shot,” Garcia explained.
Still, Garcia knows he still has a lot to learn, and he’s willing to learn his lessons from anyone who’s put their time in the racing game; even his closest competition.
“Pate, Nasse, and Bubba are all really good drivers, they’ve been doing this for a while. There’s something to learn from all of those guys. So, it’s cool to compete against them for a title. It’s going to be very tough to beat them, but we’ll do our best.”
Bubba Pollard is ready to give All American weekend his best too, despite being the furthest back in points after missing the event at Bristol in September.
“I haven’t even looked at the points since Bristol, I thought we were out of it. We haven’t run well at Nashville the last couple of years, so I’m not expecting too much out of it. But, we’ll give it the best shot we got. Maybe we can make some chicken salad of chicken poo I guess,” Pollard joked.
Recent troubles in a Super Late Model at Nashville aside, it is a track that excites Pollard every time he pulls through the gate. It’s also a track where he also still has a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
“It’s a great place to race. We went up there with the Pro car earlier in the year for the Masters of the Pros and finished second after a good run. So, I’m still excited to go. Especially with the way everything’s been this year. It’s been a challenge, having to cram in so many races into just the last couple of weeks. Been tough, but we’ve been able to make it work, and we can finish off the season strong in the points. What better place than Nashville; the last time we were in a points race there was 2013, and we lost it in the closing laps. A little redemption would be nice.”
Fans unable to make it to Nashville this weekend can find out who will claim the All American 400 trophy and Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco championship this weekend live on Speed51.TV. Buy your pay-per-view ticket by clicking here.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51