By Ken De La Bastide
— With 10 laps remaining in the ARCA/CRA Speedfest at Watermelon Capital Speedway, it appeared that three drivers under the age of 19 were going to take the top three positions.
Chase Elliott was leading and being chased by Erik Jones and John Hunter Nemechek, but through a number of cautions over the final circuits none of the young guns would record a podium finish.
Elliott and Jones tangled on a restart which ended Jones’ day and dropped Elliott to third and gave the lead to Nemechek.
Elliott reclaimed the top spot following a restart and then suffered a flat tire while tangling with David Ragan. Elliott’s car was forced to the pits for extensive repairs and Nemechek ran out of fuel with two laps remaining.
Veteran Jeff Choquette — driving without power steering — went on to record his second Speedfest victory, claiming the $8,000 prize followed by David Odell and Scott Heckert. Elliott finished ninth and Nemechek was credited with a 14th place finish.
The 200-lap feature, which took almost four hours to complete, was plagued by caution flags, nine over the final 15 laps.
There is an old saying in racing that goes: “In order to win, you first have to finish.”
It’s a saying that Elliott and Jones should become familiar with. Both drivers showed a lack of patience over the final laps on the challenging, three-eighths-mile oval.
Bubba Pollard, who finished fifth, said he just sat back and watched the carnage.
Elliott will be competing this year in a few Camping World Truck Series and ARCA races and Jones is also likely to be competing with ARCA in 2013.
With victory on the line, it is understandable for drivers to race hard for the win, but there has to be a time when patience takes over and you drive to finish the best you can. Of the 31 cars that took the green flag at the start, there were only 13 running at the end, most with some form of damage.
All three of the young guns have promising futures ahead of them, but as their careers advance they have to learn some patience.
Elliott did capture his third Speedfest win in the Pro Late Model 100-lap feature earlier in the day, showing patience in that race as he worked his way to the front.
It was my first visit to Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, GA. and I really liked the track. It clearly had two grooves and at times the cars were able to run three-wide with no lack of racing room. The track has no back straight wall, just a large grassy area off of the first and third corners and along the back straight. Several drivers throughout the day took excursions through the grass, some getting close to a creek bed to the north of the speedway.
It was unfortunate that numerous caution flags waved in both the 100 and 200 lap features because there had been good racing at the front of the pack.
In other racing news: The Chip Ganassi Racing team had a great weekend at the Rolex 24 at Daytona with the car driven by Juan Pablo Montoya, Charlie Kimball, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas winning the event by completing 907 laps, the only car on the lead lap. The other Ganassi car driven by Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon finished 11th in the Daytona Prototype class.
- Ken de la Bastide is the Kokomo Tribune enterprise editor. He can be reached at 765- 454-8580 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org