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OBSERVATIONS: Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 at Salem Speedway

Although there were certainly some people enjoying the rain at Salem Speedway on Sunday, it wasn’t a sight that the majority could smile about.

Just past the halfway mark, the ARCA Menards Racing Series Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 was called as a result of weather, handing Michael Self his second straight victory. The Venturini Motorsports driver didn’t just luck into the win, though, as he was dominant through the first 100 laps. Taking the lead from Carson Hocevar on Lap 27, he didn’t look back en route to extending his gap over the field. The speed of his Toyota shined through when he was able to lap up to third-place before the caution came out.

It could be argued through the past couple seasons that Self has been lost in the Venturini shuffle. While many focused on the likes of Harrison Burton, Christian Eckes, Natalie Decker, the driver of the No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota has been a constant solid fixture. Prior to this season, he had won three races with 10 top-five’s in 16 series starts. Though running a partial schedule with connection to a development program lacked the focus.

This year, the story is different as Self will run the full schedule for Venturini Motorsports and contend for the championship. With back-to-back victories, he has moved himself up to fourth in the standings despite wrecking out of the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. With Venturini’s success in the series, don’t expect for him to slow down, either.

The championship fight this year has been debatable, given questions surrounding how many drivers are truly going to run the full schedule and how the teams will stack up. Unfortunately, Eckes is going to be out of the equation after missing Sunday’s race due to fighting flu-like symptoms – and that’s a big blow as he entered Salem as the points leader and was able to win three races last year. Hopefully he can get feeling better as soon as possible.

Perhaps the officials could’ve waited longer before calling the race, but there was more rain expected to fall and the grounds were wet given the amount of participation before the event. 

It would have been interesting to see Sunday’s race play out without the weather, given the level of talent at the front of the field. Pole sitter and eventual third-place finisher Hocevar stated post-race that he was focused on saving tires for the second half of the race, while NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Bristol race winner Sam Mayer was in the runner-up spot intrigued to see if the adjustments would’ve been enough. 

Instead, we are forced to focus forward as big drama lies ahead with Talladega Superspeedway next on the schedule.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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News

Carson Hocevar Grabs Attention with Strong Runner-up at Jukasa

HAGERSVILLE, Ontario — It’s always a challenge to figure out who will be the next big star to emerge. One of the current hopefuls is Carson Hocevar.

Competing at the Late Model level, he has been scoring solid finishes across the board, including a championship at Berlin Raceway last season and becoming the youngest winner of a CRA/JEGS Late Model history.

Most recently, he caught the attention of Canadian race fans with his runner-up performance in the Canadian Short Track Nationals at Jukasa Motor Speedway.

“KBR Development definitely gave me a good car on the long run, but it definitely seemed like the story of today was short runs and we didn’t have the fire off speed,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “Bubba (Pollard) would get out there, and we would start to reel him back in after eight or 10, but we just didn’t have the eight or 10 laps we needed.”

While he started the 200-lap event on pole, he wouldn’t remain up front as he would be sent to the tail of the field at Lap 41 following contract on the track.

“My guys kept me calm,” he said. “I knew we had a lot of laps to go. It takes the wind out of your sail a little bit, but you have to do the best you can to motor on forward and that’s what we were able to do tonight.”

Hocevar quickly made his way back to the front, going from 30th to sixth in 30 laps, moving up into third with on a restart at Lap 103. Through the back half of the event, he battled for positions inside of the top-two, including a lengthy side-by-side battle with teammate Raphael Lessard, before crossing the finish line in second.

For his first trip to the 5/8-mile in Ontario, he complemented the staff for their dedication and hard work in putting the inaugural event together.

“They definitely put their time and money into this place and devoted a lot of hours getting this place going,” he said. “Excited to see what they’re going for the future – bigger payout, better grandstands. There’s obviously some things they can do better, but all in all for the first time for this Canadian deal with US guys coming and 40-something cars, they did a great job. Race Control was definitely on-point. There are some things they can work on for sure, but you’ll always have that with the first event.”

The big announcement, though, was the fact the purse will increase over the next three years. Next season, the best pro late model drivers will vie for a purse worth $300,000, followed by $500,000 in 2020. If that wasn’t enough, the dollar value will be set to $1 million in 2021. 

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “I’m excited to see what they can get for car count. I’m excited to get back here, and I definitely think we could get the win next year for sure.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

OBSERVATIONS: Canadian Stock Car Nationals at Jukasa Motor Speedway

HAGERSVILLE, Ontario — When Alex Nagy took the position of Track Position at Jukasa Motor Speedway alongside track owners Kenny Hill and Jerry Montour, the goal was to return the famed track back to being Canada’s crown jewel once again. They’re only in their second season, but the goal has been succeeded.

The facility looks amazing, from a perfectly paved 5/8 mile, to a beautiful tower with sponsor suites. The campground is even laid out nicely to where you can find your spot via reciting the street name that you’re on, named after Canadian greats. Beyond that, they’re also putting their money where their mouths are.

While the first annual Canadian Stock Car Nationals had a purse of $174,000 with $50,000 going to the winner, that is set to increase over the next three years. Next season, the best pro late model drivers will vie for a purse worth $300,000, followed by $500,000 in 2020. If that wasn’t enough, the dollar value will be set to $1 million in 2021. As Bubba Pollard said, there’s no way he’s missing the event in the years to come.

The speedway also announced over the weekend that they will building a bridge over the backstretch for easier access to the infield, as well as improving the grandstands for easier viewing. 

Their hard work paid off across the board as 44 drivers from across North America attempted to qualify for the 40-car field on Sunday night, along with 39 competitors taking part in the Super Stock Saugeen Shores Transmission 50 beforehand. In a season where we’ve only seen fields reach mid-20’s, you have to be doing something right.

The amount of competition produced great racing across both days of Labor Day weekend, with the cream rising to the top in each of the events. There was also no shortage of action, with late-race battles in all the races as both Late Model race winners never just ran away and dominated.

Certainly, it’s not perfect yet as there were some delays with technical inspection that caused them to go slightly off schedule on Sunday. There were also longer cautions than fans would like to clean up wrecks, an issue that was fought during both previous events at the facility. But for a second year open, they’re catching everyone’s attention.

After taking some time to reflect about the action, here are some observations from the action….

– Bubba Pollard has made a name for himself in Late Model competition across the United States, and that has now grown to Canada in being the inaugural race winner. If you were watching during practice, though, you wouldn’t had believed that he had the car to win, stuck in the 30s all day. However, he told POPULAR SPEED post-race that the team was fighting brake issues, and he normally doesn’t run a lot of practice laps anyway. When you have hundreds of races under your belt across the country, it’s easy to see why.

– Carson Hocevar could be the next driver to watch if you’re looking to see what talent is headed for NASCAR. The 15-year-old impressed everybody in the crowd on Sunday night with his charge through the field. He would start on pole after setting the quick time in qualifying, but a problem on Lap 43 relegated him to the back. He immediately made his way through the traffic, back up to sixth shortly after the halfway break, en route to a runner-up finish. 

– Canadian Brandon Watson showed he could run right up front with the best from the United States, leading several laps before fading back to a sixth-place finish. It should be no surprise as he has ran CRA Super Series events in the past, and won the APC Auto Parts United Late Models of Ontario Tour Championship last season. Oh, and he won the APC race the night before at Jukasa.

– J.R. Fitzpatrick was the highest finishing Canadian in fifth, as he played his cards right throughout the event, running solidly in the top-seven as he just worked at conserving his equipment. He has experience with long races, though, given his success in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series.

For the record, it would’ve been interesting to see no points on the line on Saturday night for him in the APC Series as the battle between him and Watson was just heating up. However, having an advantage on the field with one race to go, not pushing the envelope was the smart move.

– Taylor Holdaway is worthy of a shout-out after driving from 39th starting spot to a top-10 finish.

– The Canadians to watch when it comes to the next generation have to be Treyten Lapcevich and Jake Sheridan. 

Although everybody knows Cayden Lapcevich, his little brother has made the climb through the ranks even quicker, scoring victories in Mighty Mini and Super Stock competition at Sunset Speedway before making the jump up to Late Models. He finished fifth in the APC race the night before, and was running up in the top-10 on Sunday before a power steering issue saw him fade back to 12th. 

Meanwhile, Sheridan is impressing everybody in his first year of Pro Late Model competition, currently ranked fourth in the APC standings following his six straight top-eight finish with a fourth on Saturday night at Jukasa Motor Speedway. 

– Speaking of Cayden Lapcevich, he showed a lot of speed in the Outlaw Super Late Model event the day before, setting the quick time in qualifying. If not for the engine blowing up, the battle between Tyler Roahrig and him for the win would’ve been entertaining.

– Tyler Roahrig may have gotten his second straight Outlaw Super Late Model victory at Jukasa, but this one didn’t come easy. While he dominated in 2017, this year saw him make a pit stop at Lap 17 for adjustments. He would then make his way back through the field, taking the lead with 15 laps to go to score the win. 

Coming down pit road while running fourth may not had been a decision that many would make, but Roahrig told POPULAR SPEED that his team comes to win races, and he didn’t have a car at that point to score the victory.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.