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Cody Coughlin may have earned a critical win for his championship hopes in the ARCA/CRA Super Series 100 at Winchester Speedway, but he and everyone else in the field were guilty of looking ahead to October after the race.

Monday’s 100-lap feature on the high banks of Winchester served as the lone tune-up event for the Oct. 9 Winchester 400, CRA’s biggest race and one of late model racing’s crown jewel events.

The list of winners in the Winchester 400, which sits alongside a list of beloved late model races including the Snowball Derby and the All-American 400, has become a relative ‘who’s who’ in stock car racing in recent years. Now in its 45th year of competition, the race has seen NASCAR stars Erik Jones, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and David Stremme all claim victory in the last decade.

A peak further back into the race’s history also yields legendary names such as Bob Senneker, Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin among the event’s 29 previous winners.

Running in early September heat, track conditions were likely much different in the Labor Day tuneup than they’ll be at the “World’s Fastest 1/2-Mile” in a month’s time, but the race’s top finishers remain confident that they gained knowledge that will help them strive for victory in the Winchester 400.

“I feel like every time you race at a race track you get better for the next time,” Coughlin said. “(The track will) probably be a little cooler, so I don’t think the slickness is going to be quite as bad. We usually run more consecutive laps –it’s a longer race– so some degree of slickness will come in. I think we’re ready. That’s our goal: To win that.”

By virtue of his win on Monday, Coughlin will likely return to Winchester in October looking to claim championships in both the JEGS CRA All-Stars Tour and the ARCA/CRA Super Series. The two-time winner on World Stock Car Festival weekend will be among the favorites to earn his first Winchester 400 victory.

Third-place finisher Travis Braden expects his car to run strong come October after remedying some of his machine’s issues, even if the fall race brings a cooler racing surface.

“It’s most-likely going to be cooler,” Braden said. “The sun will probably be a little further down, and the track will be cooler for sure. We were running like 235 (degree) water temp. It seemed like they were pulling us on the straightaway because of that loss of power. A few things to address when we come back.

“I know we’ll be strong on the long runs. We’ll work on our short-run stuff, which wasn’t bad. It’s probably the best I’ve been here on a short run. I usually struggle a lot on restarts here. I’m happy with it, and I’m excited to come back.”

Perhaps the most confident of his odds coming back in October is Dalton Sargeant, who led 70 laps in a dominant early performance on Monday before losing the lead to Coughlin on a late restart and finishing second.

“Great job by all my guys at Bond Suss Racing bringing a great Windows 10 Toyota Camry to the track,” Sargeant said. “I don’t know how much more I could ask for. I think we’ve got a really good starting place with the car for the Winchester 400. It’s probably my favorite race of the year, so I’m really looking forward to coming back.”

Sargeant, Coughlin and the rest of the field will get their chance at the famed Winchester Rifle awarded to the winner of the Winchester 400 on Oct. 7-9.

Aaron Bearden is a contributing writer for Short Track Scene. Having grown up watching NASCAR and IndyCar, Bearden began following short track racing during his high school years before starting a blog about racing in college. A writer for Frontstretch and Motorsports Tribune, Bearden also covers NASCAR, IndyCar and other forms of open wheel racing.

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