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Short Track U.S. Nationals can be springboard for drivers

By Jeff Birchfield • May 30, 2019 at 10:38 PM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Beyond the thrill of victory, a win in the Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway has been a springboard to the higher levels of NASCAR.

The first two winners in the Super Late Model portion of the Short Track U.S. Nationals have gone on to secure rides in NASCAR’s national series.

Bubba Wallace, the winner of the inaugural race, now drives the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Raphael Lessard, last year’s winner, is in the No. 46 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. Stewart Freisen, who finished runner-up to Lessard in the 2018 Short Track U.S. Nationals, currently ranks second in the truck series points.

Several drivers will look to be next on the list to make that jump. Among them is former Xfinity Series driver Steven Wallace, son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace.

Now streamlined, the Short Track U.S. Nationals is a two-day event with racing scheduled to begin Saturday. Friday is a practice day for four classes of cars: Super Late Models, Pro Late Models, Street Stock and Compact. Practice starts at noon and runs until 7:15 p.m.

The on-track activity starts Saturday with practice at 11 a.m. Qualifying for the Pro Late Model division is at 2:15 p.m. and the Super Late Models qualify at 3:15 p.m. Heat races for the Compact and Street Stock divisions start at 5 p.m.

All that leads up to a 50-lap Street Stock feature, a 100-lap Pro Late Model feature, a 50-lap Compact feature and a 100-lap Super Late Model feature.

DIFFERENT DIVISIONS

Super Late Models are considered the top of the line for asphalt short track racing. The cars feature over 600-plus horsepower motors and custom-built chassis. They race in some of the other biggest short track events in the country, such as the Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Florida, the Winchester 400 in Indiana and the All-American 400 in Nashville.

There is plenty of talent in the Pro Late Model race as well, highlighted by former truck series champion Mike Skinner, who was pulling away in last year’s race before getting caught up in an accident. That left the door open for local driver Josh Reeves, who is back to defend his title.

The Pro Late Models are similar to Super Late Models, but they utilize a factory crate engine from manufacturers like General Motors and Ford. They’re closer to the cars that run locally at Kingsport Speedway.

With the Street Stock races, there’s sure to be some fender-bumping, fist-pumping action. The cars can be 1960-2017 models of rear-wheel-drive street cars and must remain stock appearing. They are equipped with eight-cylinder motors and weigh about 3,200 pounds.

Compacts, some of the most popular cars racing on the short tracks today, are four- and six-cylinder, front-wheel-drive compact cars. Nearly 90 cars are on the entry list for this division, meaning the heat races to get into the event could offer some of the most intense racing all year.

WATCHING THE RACES

Grandstands are closed for Friday practice, but pit passes are available for $45.

General admission tickets are $15 for Saturday and $5 for kids 12 and younger. A weekend grandstand seat/pit pass combo starts at $80. A pay-per-view webcast of the event is available for $19.99 on the Speed51.com website.

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