Special from Speed51.com – For the second year in a row, the Champion Racing Association (CRA) is utilizing a “Chase” format similar to the playoff system used to crown a champion in NASCAR’s national touring series. The ARCA/CRA Super Series championship four was decided on Saturday night at Toledo Speedway (OH) in their portion of the Glass City 200.
Josh Brock, Austin Kunert, Hunter Jack, and Jon Beach earned their spots in the championship race with their performances at Kalamazoo Speedway (MI), Winchester Speedway (IN) and Toledo. The highest finishing driver between the four in the season-ending Winchester 400 will be crowned the 2018 ARCA/CRA Super Series champion.
Corbin, Kentucky’s Josh Brock was the first driver to lock himself into the chase when he picked up his first-career series win at Anderson Speedway (IN) in May. After a cancer diagnosis ended his 2017 season prematurely, he is looking to complete his comeback season with a championship.
“That was our goal at the very beginning of the year before we even took the green flag at Nashville,” Brock told Speed51.com. “It all started there and we knew we were going to fight hard all year long with what happened to us last year. That’s what you got to do. You got to keep fighting and do what you can.
For Brock, it will be his first start in the Winchester 400. He discussed the challenges of running a 400-lap race with championship implications.
“You’ve got to be smart,” he said. “Everybody can be smart and everybody can run their own pace and be super cautious. But when it gets to race time, people don’t go with their game plan. You just got to stick with your game plan and just ride. Even if you’re a non-point guy going for the win, you still got to ride.”
Batavia, Illinois driver Austin Kunert was the only other driver to lock himself into the chase via a win, his first-career win at Kil-Kare Speedway (OH). The ARCA/CRA Super Series rookie will roll into Winchester looking for a championship for the second year in a row, as he was in the championship four with the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour one year ago.
“We’re going into Winchester next so we’ll see how it goes,” Kunert said. I’m pretty upset about how it went at Toledo. It didn’t go how I would’ve liked it to but we’re in the Chase. Four hundred laps doesn’t phase me that much because I already go to the gym everyday to keep myself in shape. It’s just surviving on the track and hoping everything holds up.”
Auburn, Indiana’s Hunter Jack was the only driver left out of the ARCA/CRA Super Series championship four one year ago. This year, he will enter Winchester 400 weekend as one of the four contenders going after the championship.
“It feels really good,” Jack said. “I can’t wait to get to Winchester and hopefully we can just ride and see what we can do and hopefully we can get the championship. We’re going to go through the car really good and put some new parts on it and check everything over. We’ll have to really work on our long run speed when we get there and get a good spot in qualifying and ride for three hundred laps, and go after it in the last hundred.”
Perhaps the biggest underdog of the championship four is Watervilet, Michigan’s Jon Beach. The series rookie has entered the last two ARCA/CRA Super Series races with borrowed motors after blowing his only motor in practice at the World Stock Car Festival. His biggest challenge, he says, is finding people to help his three-man crew for the Winchester 400.
“It feels pretty cool, especially going into one of my favorite tracks at Winchester,” Beach said. “Hopefully we can have a strong run there. We had a pretty good car last time there outside the motor problems. I’m looking forward to it really.
“My biggest thing is we’re just a small three-man crew. I drive it, my best friend spots and my dad is in the pits, so we’re going to really have to find somebody to help us out to be able to do pit stops and put a few buddies to do this thing and go after a championship.”
Two drivers were left out of the championship four after the checkered flag fell at Toledo. One of the drivers is defending ARCA/CRA Super Series champion Logan Runyon. After a year he would like to forget, he will not defend his championship at the Winchester 400.
“It is what it is, it’s just part of racing,” Runyon stated. “It’s kind of how this year’s been, just mechanical failures and not being able to finish races. You have to clear that stuff up to compete for a championship. That’s what we drove off of last year to get there. But it is what it is, we’ll regroup and try to go back out next year.”
The other driver to not make it into the championship four is rookie Greg Van Alst. The former CRA Late Model Sportsman champion brought out a new race car for the 2018 season and struggled to dial it in.
“I’m not really disappointed. We didn’t have a great year,” Van Alst admitted. “If we would’ve made it, it would’ve been by pure luck and bad luck on somebody else’s end. We’re right where we thought we’d be leaving (Toledo). We’re not down on it; just still trying to figure out this race car.
The Winchester 400 will take place on Sunday, October 14. Josh Brock, Austin Kunert, Hunter Jack and Jon Beach will compete for the ARCA/CRA Super Series championship in one of the biggest short track races in the country, which will be shown at a later date on Speed51’s Short Track America on MAVTV.
-Story by Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI)
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos