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.”