NASCAR: John Hunter Nemechek, XFINITY champ Chase Elliott win at SpeedFest

6 Comments

Rico Abreu made his stock car debut Saturday night at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway, but that wasn’t the only place NASCAR’s future was on display this weekend.

Four hours or so to the northwest in Cordele, Georgia, a group of NASCAR drivers that included XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott, Sprint Cup veteran David Ragan, and Camping World Truck Series competitor John Hunter Nemechek took part in SpeedFest at Watermelon Capital Speedway.

Sunday was the event’s big day, featuring a late model doubleheader on the 3/8-mile oval – a 125-lap Pro Late Model race followed by a 200-lap Super Late Model race. And Nemechek (pictured) almost won them both.

In the PLM feature, the 17-year-old son of former Sprint Cup driver Joe Nemechek passed Harrison Burton (son of another former Cup driver and current NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton) for the lead just before the 60-lap mark.

Nemechek would cede the lead to Bubba Pollard later on, but off a restart with 15 laps to go, he reclaimed the top spot and went on to win over Pollard, Burton, Chris Dilbeck, and Korey Ruble.

A short break then led to the 200-lap SLM event, with Elliott and Ragan joining in. Elliott, Pollard, and Nemechek emerged as the main contenders but with just a handful of laps left, things got hairy.

Following a restart with eight laps to go, Pollard and Nemechek dueled for the lead with four laps left when contact between the two sent Pollard around.

With Pollard’s bid for victory now finished, officials from the CRA sanctioning body did the same to Nemechek’s when it sent him to the rear for causing the caution.

That put Elliott in the lead with four to go, and he would not give it up. Elliott out-hustled Kyle Grissom to the stripe, with both followed by Ragan in third, Burton in fourth, and Scotty Ellis in fifth. Pollard and Nemechek recovered for ninth and 10th, respectively.

While Elliott celebrated, Pollard and Nemechek were left to talk it out regarding their costly tangle. Popular Speed.com’s Matt Weaver has the pics:

Elliott told Speed51.com that he had to replace a right front tire after the intermission at the halfway point, which put him and his crew in a tough spot.

“We only had one set of tires, and we had a lot of laps on the practice tires we needed to strap on [to replace the flat],” he explained. “So we swapped the good fresh tire onto the right front and put the old one on the right rear.”

Elliott added that while he would have preferred to win “straight up,” he didn’t think he’d catch Pollard and Nemechek without their incident.

“I found something there in the last few laps, but they were still getting away a little,” he said. “I would have liked to have it go green the whole way so I didn’t have to have an excuse, but we’ll take it.”

Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

NHRA
Leave a comment

Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

Follow @JerryBonkowski