Special from Speed51.com – The JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour race on Winchester 400 weekend has always brought some of the country’s best Late Model talent to compete with the series regulars. On Saturday afternoon, it was a long-time CRA regular in Wes Griffith Jr. leading wire-to-wire to win his first-career JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour race at the legendary Winchester Speedway.
Griffith inherited the pole after original front row starters Billy VanMeter and Corey Deuser got together at the end of the first lap, creating a complete restart. After the restart, Griffith led all 100 laps, holding off challenges from 2017 Southern Super Series champion, Stephen Nasse and two-time ARCA/CRA Super Series champion, Travis Braden to pick up his first win.
“We have tried and tried and we’ve been leading leading races and got taken out,” the 51-year-old Griffith told Speed51.com. “We’ve junked at least five or six here and had good cars. It just finally all came together. Just persistence, that’s all it is.
“From the get-go on Friday we were really strong. We were faster in practice than we ever were in qualifying here. We didn’t get to do a mock run so we had to start fifth but as soon as it was time to go, the thing was there.”
For the majority of the race, Griffith had Nasse all over his bumper looking to take the lead. However, Griffith was able to drive away after the last restart.
“That kid (Nasse) is like a dog on a bone,” Griffith said. “I saw him right there and my spotter was telling me half back, half back, at your quarter, at your quarter, but he raced me clean though. He never touched me. I’ve got to give the kid credit. He’s always raced me clean. I know he’s had trouble in the past with other guys, but I’ve never had trouble with him.”
After hounding the leader for the majority of the race, Stephen Nasse drove to a second place finish in the Jett Concrete No. 9 normally driven by teammate Jeff Choquette.
“We were a little bit tight on the long run,” Nasse said. “I couldn’t get to the gas when I wanted to and that really hurt us. I thought I had something for the 33 (Griffith) there at the beginning, thought he was kind of holding us up. But then he just took off and me and Travis (Braden) were just left racing with each other. It was a good race for us with all the problems we had. Had a water pump go bad in practice yesterday and overcame a few obstacles. It feels good to have the car all in one piece and a top two isn’t bad.”
The championship was also decided on Saturday afternoon using a Chase-style format similar to the one used in NASCAR. In the end, it was Jack Dossey III taking home his second straight JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour championship with a third-place finish
“It’s kind of hard to explain how it feels right now,” Dossey said. “It hasn’t totally settled in, I’m still kind of pinching myself trying to get myself to wake up and be like ‘Hey, we got another one.’ This was definitely the goal in January when we announced we were running the JEGS Tour again at the banquet.
“We definitely had a good car all year. No matter where we went, we were really good. We just didn’t have the luck to pay off with our finishes, but we never gave up and we kept on striving. We got some good strides and a lot of momentum coming from (Lucas Oil) Raceway Park. I’ve got to thank all my sponsors and my family and my crew chief and everybody here for sticking with me for two years now. We’ll see you next year in the Super Series.”
While Dossey had a strong run, the other three contenders all had their share of problems. Mandy Chick was unable to start after a crash in practice on Saturday morning. Michael Clancy Jr. had a transmission go bad during the pace laps and was nearly 30 laps down when he started his race. Finally, Mason Keller had power steering issues all race long that resulted in contact with the wall and an 11th-place finish.
After seeing the issues that his competitors experienced all weekend, Dossey admitted that the thought of bad luck was heavy on his mind.
“It was in the back of my mind especially since we had such a dominant car on Labor Day,” Dossey said. “But at the same time we’ve had a lot of bad luck all year and I was hoping we could just get one clean race and we did. With about ten laps to go I knew we had some laps on (Mason) Keller and I knew we had it locked up. It’s very unfortunate for those guys. My hat goes off to their hard work. But I can’t explain how great it feels.”
An on-demand replay of Saturday’s Trackside Now coverage can be found by clicking here.
-By Koty Geyer, Speed51.com Regional Editor (Michigan & Indiana) – Twitter: @KGeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Mojo Photos