Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 29, 2014

de la Bastide: Young stars shine in Georgia

Nemechek, Elliott pick up big wins over the weekend.

Kokomo Tribune

---- — For the past few years I have had the privilege of watching two up and coming stars in the super late model ranks that are going to make noise in NASCAR.

The two drivers scored victories this past weekend at the Champion Racing Association’s annual SpeedFest at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Georgia.

John Hunter Nemechek dominated the first of the two races in the Chevrolet Performance 125 for crate late models.

Nemechek took the lead on a restart from Hunter Robbins on lap 29 and went on to record his first CRA career victory. He was followed to the checkers by Spencer Davis, Korey Ruble, J.J. Haley and veteran Dwayne Buggay.

Nemechek’s victory was marred by the score of late cautions during the 125-lap event, including five attempts at a green-white-checker finish.

“I thought it would never end,” Nemechek said following his victory. It was a sentiment echoed around the race track.

The CRA JEGS All-Stars is a crate late model series that has traditionally had a good mix of veterans and younger drivers.

The problem is that at Watermelon Capital Speedway, a demanding oval, the field was filled with drivers under the age of 16 with little or no experience. Most of the caution flags waved for competitors driving into

the corners too hard and taking out the car in front of them.

Driving a race car is not like placing baseball at a young age. If you can hit a curve ball at the age of 13 years of age, you can play with the bigger boys.

Just because your family has the financial resources to purchase a late model race car, doesn’t mean at 13 you can drive one in competition?

There are drivers in their teens that have worked their way up the ranks and can handle a late model in a race with seasoned competitors. Nemechek is one and the other is Chase Elliott.

Elliott won the Super Late Model portion of SpeedFest following a good battle for 83 laps with veteran Johnny Sauter.

Elliott and Sauter raced side by side for close to 20 laps with the younger driver using the low line and Sauter running the higher groove.

Eventually Sauter spun coming off the fourth corner on lap 184. Once Sauter parked his car there was no driver with the mount capable of challenging Elliott for the win. Daniel Hemric finished second followed by

Austin Theriault, David Ragan and Jeff Cannon.

Cannon, an Indiana veteran from the Chicago area, finished eighth in the Pro Late Model feature and fifth in the Super Late Model 200-lap race.

I’m hoping that Cannon will make the trip to central Indiana in 2014 to compete with the CRA series on a regular basis.

In other racing news

Yorktown’s Rick Turner has signed a deal with Arkansas driver Cole Rouse to prepare a JEGS All-Stars car for the entire season. Rouse finished 11th in Georgia.

With the agreement in place Turner expects to return to competition on a full-time basis with the Super Series this year.

Ken de la Bastide may be reached at ken.delabastide@heraldbulletin.com.