After qualifying Saturday afternoon, the talk around Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville was about the young guns. But at the end of 400 Laps Sunday afternoon, it was veteran Donnie Wilson taking the checkered flag and winning the 33rd Annual All American 400. The 2016 Southern Super Series champion took the lead on Lap 340 after pitting and held off a late charge from Spencer Davis to take the biggest win of his career so far.
“We’ve always wanted to win here; it’s a dream come true,” Wilson told Speed51.com powered by JEGS, “We always work hard to win one of these races and I marked this one on the calendar when we first started. I got third here in 2008, and it’s always been a race I’ve wanted to win. We had a game plan going into this week. Had a good long run car, and it paid off. Took four tires. It got loose with about ten to go and Spencer (Davis) was coming, I knew he was coming. I’m just glad we’re in victory lane.
Runner-up Spencer Davis came up just a little bit short, but was overall satisfied with his result.
“We definitely had a good car all day today and all day Friday and Saturday. Our qualifying speed didn’t show our speed but our long run car definitely did, we could pick off cars at any given time. It just took a lot of tire and not being in the wrong place and keeping all four fenders on the car. We were just a car length short more or less, just needed a car length after 400 laps. A little more grip and I’d say we could’ve had Donnie.”
Chandler Smith and defending Snowball Derby champion Christian Eckes led the field to the green flag. Eckes would lead the first 23 laps before Smith would take the lead from him. From there, he would lead up to the lap 100 competition yellow. Spencer Davis would lead at the restart, but Casey Roderick, coming off a win in the Pro Late Model feature before, would quickly move his way from fourth to the lead on lap 124, then put on a clinic throughout the next 50 laps. By the lap 173 competition yellow, he had built over a ten-second lead and lapped the field through ninth.
At the lap 180 restart, Davis would retake the lead with fresh tires, and hold on to the top spot until lap 262, when Wilson would take the lead for the first time. The next caution came out after Steve Wallace spun and hit the inside retaining wall going into turn three. Wilson would continue to lead until lap 300, when Mason Mingus would take the top spot. Casey Roderick, who had dominated in the early stages, fell a lap down and was unable to get it back, finishing in the ninth position.
The last restart took place on lap 338, as Wilson used his fresh tires to quickly get by Matt Craig to take the lead off the restart. He would continue to slowly spread out his lead until with 15 to go, when Wilson got into lapped traffic. Davis began reeling in Wilson, and Wilson’s lead had been shrunk to just a couple car lengths with five laps to go. With one to go, Davis was able to get to the bumper of Wilson, but that was as close as he could get, as Wilson took the checkered flag and the famed Guitar.
Pole-sitter Chandler Smith ran inside the top five most of the day before motor problems ended his day 60 laps early, finishing in 15th. Despite the early ending, Smith was still able to find some positives out of the day.
“Our engine decided to blow up. We were running really hot there toward the end of the last run before the last controlled caution. I definitely feel like we had the car to beat there toward the end, our car really hooked up. I just really hope the luck plays out on our side, we’ve just had really bad luck the past few races. The cars have been there, just the luck hasn’t.”
Cole Rouse would rebound from going a lap down to come home fourth, while local driver Mason Mingus rounded out the top five. Other notable finishers include defending All American 400 winner Bubba Pollard with a seventh-place finish, Dixieland 250 winner Casey Johnson in 17th, 2016 CARS Tour champion Raphael Lessard in 19th, and this year’s Southern Super Series champion Stephen Nasse, who finished in 22nd.
For an on-demand replay of Sunday’s Trackside Now coverage presented by Team Construction and PFC Brakes, click here.
Speed51.com will have more from the All American 400, including video highlights, still to come on the Speed51 Video Network.
-By Koty Guyer, Speed51.com Midwest Correspondent
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Bruce Nuttleman