NASHVILLE -- Coming off a second-place finish in his ARCA Racing Series debut at Mobile International Speedway, 15-year-old prospect Kyle Benjamin is returning to his roots this weekend and setting his sights on a victory in the debut event of the Southern Super Series at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.
Benjamin has to be one of the favorites this weekend as well. His most recent experience at the legendary half-mile was in October for the All-American 400 where he set the fastest time in qualifying but was ultimately wiped-out in a crash while working through lap traffic.
He went on to finish that race in 35th, a result that is still lingering in the back of his mind. Benjamin and crew chief Freddie Query clearly have a proper set-up for the former Cup Series venue but just have to close out a top finish on Saturday night.
"We definitely had some bad luck in our first showing at the Fairgrounds," Benjamin told SB Nation on Thursday night. "It was just an unfortunate thing and I still feel like it's a pretty good track for us. We're looking forward to getting down there and hope to have a shot at the win."
Benjamin does not expect to run the full Southern Super Series schedule as a result of his ARCA commitments but he's excited to see the five member tracks band together for the common goal of strengthening short track Super Late Model racing.
It's an added bonus that the Series is offering $10,000 to the season champion and hosts three of the four major Super Late Model races on the schedule in the World Crown 300, All-American 400 and Snowball Derby.
"I think the tracks coming together and forming a series is a great thing," Benjamin said. "The CRA has a pretty successful touring series up north but there hasn't been a lot of touring options down south until now... I think it will increase our car counts at all the tracks too."
The Sunoco Southern Super Series 250 starts at 8:30 p.m. EST on Saturday night. Live play-by-play of the race will be provided by Speed 51. Exclusive photography and editorials can be found on this blog throughout the weekend.
VanderLey declares for full schedule
DJ VanderLey has decided to focus entirely on Super Late Model competition this season after making a name for himself in the Pro Late Model scene during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. VanderLey expanded his schedule to both Pro and Super Late Models last season but was held out of victory lane running the two divisions.
As a result, VanderLey sold the Pro Late Model engine and has placed his full attention on the Super Late Model, deciding to chase the Southern Super Series championship in 2013.
The Mobile, Ala.-native is hoping to recapture the success he first tasted during the 2011 Snowball Derby when he just narrowly lost that race to Chase Elliott. A few victories and perhaps the inaugural Southern Super Series championship would reestablish the Auburn University senior's role as an emerging top prospect.
For VanderLey, that starts at Nashville.