UPDATE: 6:00 p.m. EST 1/24/2014 -- Chase Elliott files late entry and will compete in the Super Late Model portion of CRA Speedfest.
The annual Super Late Model race in January at Watermelon Capital Speedway has served as a cure for the off-season blues over the past few seasons -- a trend that will continue this weekend in Cordele, Ga.
Kyle Busch is a former winner of the event back in 2012 and the 2014 event will see participation from current NASCAR drivers David Ragan and Johnny Sauter. Jeff Burton and Joe Nemechek are also scheduled to attend, not as drivers, but as technical support for their driving sons, Harrison Burton and John Hunter Nemechek.
The venue is owned and promoted by Ragan's uncle, Marvin Ragan but the Sprint Cup driver has yet to visit Victory Lane at Speedfest since the event was moved from Lanier Speedway to Watermelon Capital in 2012.
The spring Talladega winner came close last year, tangling with Chase Elliott in the final laps before finishing seventh. Despite his excitement for the upcoming Sprint Cup Series season, Ragan is completely focused on scoring a major hometown victory just before Daytona Speedweeks.
"It's always fun to race in my home state and this is always a good event with a lot of good competition," Ragan told SB Nation on Wednesday. "Last year, Chase and I were battling it out for the win and we both wound up wrecking. We go down there for fun but we also go to win, and this time will be no different."
Ragan is no stranger to Super Late Model competition and is coming off a disappointing 28th-place finish in the Snowball Derby after suffering a variety of mechanical issues, namely on the car's right front hub.
"These races are always fun to do four or five times a year," Ragan said. "We enjoyed some downtime with the holidays and now it's time to go knock off the rust and get some laps in before we head to Daytona in a few weeks."
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series contender Johnny Sauter has also been competing at Speedfest since it was moved to Cordele. Like Ragan, he has had fast cars, winning the pole in 2013 but just hasn't been able to get to Victory Lane at the tough 3/8-mile bullring.
"We set fast time there last year," Sauter said. "My nephew (Travis Sauter) was down from Wisconsin and we swapped the lead for the first 100 laps or so -- it looked like it was going to be a Sauter show.
"I pulled in at the halfway break, made some adjustments, pulled out of the pits and no one was home -- the clutch was gone. It was my own fault but nevertheless, I was out of the race by lap 100."
Sauter says he loves competing in the Super Late Model ranks and that this style of racing "just works." But merely contending is not enough for the ThorSport driver and he hopes to get back to Victory Lane in the short track ranks with the regularity that he has in NASCAR competition.
"I've been to five races with this car, set fast time in four of them, led three of and led a few of them with 20 laps to go," Sauter said. "But we have nothing to show for it. In 2009 and 2010, winning Late Model races was easy but it hasn't come that easy lately.
"We need to change that."
The current entry list contains 29 teams, including one spearheaded by Richie Wauters and his Truck Series driver John Wes Townley.
The CRA Speedfest Super Late Model race will run for 200 laps, featuring a halfway break at lap 100, and will count yellow flag laps up to lap 175. A 125 lap Pro Late Model event is also on the card and will be a four-tire race that will count yellow flag laps up to lap 100.
"It's always great to go down to Watermelon Capital Speedway for SpeedFest each January," remarked Glenn Luckett, Director and Managing Partner of CRA. "Marvin Ragan and his entire staff do a great job with getting the facility ready for us each year.
"The hospitality shown to our racers by the track and the community is just awesome. This event always attracts a great group of racers from the North and the South, it's just a great way to start each race season!"
The entry list for the Super Late Model race can be found below.
- Chase Elliott
- Daniel Hemric
- Brady Boswell
- Clay Rogers
- Donnie Wilson
- Johnny Sauter
- Joe Boyd
- John Wes Townley
- Spencer Wauters
- John Hunter Nemechek
- Garrett Campbell
- Hunter Robbins
- Dalton Grindle
- Bubba Pollard
- Anderson Bowen
- Jeff Cannon
- Brandon Jones
- T.J. Reaid
- Dwayne Buggay
- Brandon Oakley
- Austin Theriault
- John Coffman
- Lee Tissot
- Preston Peltier
- David Ragan
- Kyle Bryant
- Scotty Ellis
- Russell Fleeman
- Casey Smith
- Spencer Davis