CRA Super Series officials released the entry list for the six drivers that will compete in the inaugural Super Late Model Chase for the Championship over the next two months.
When the format was announced back in December, the four-race playoff was supposed to feature eight drivers. So while Travis Braden and Brian Campbell won five of the 10 regular season events, they were not eligible for the Chase since they did not meet the 75 percent participation requirement.
Thus, the CRA welcomed six drivers instead of eight:
Josh Brock, Hunter Jack, Logan Runyon, Dalton Armstrong, Johnny VanDoorn and Wes Griffith will spent the next three races trying to be the four drivers eligible for the Championship Race at the Winchester 400 on October 8.
The three-race elimination round begins on Saturday August 26 for the Battle at Berlin 251 at Berlin Raceway. It continues on Monday September 4 for the Winchester World Stock Car Festival 100 and concludes with the Toledo Speedway 100 on Saturday, September 16.
“We were hoping to see more people compete for more races throughout the season and compete for a championship — that is exactly what we got,” CRA Managing Partner R.J. Scott said in a statement. “In the Super Series alone we doubled the number of cars over last year that were seriously competing for a championship and we have seen similar improvement across all of our divisions.
“It’s new, it’s change and some people might struggle with going from the old ways to new ways, but at the end of the day the tracks and fans have benefitted from more cars competing for the championship, and a real sense of excitement coming down the stretch.”
As for Braden, a two-time CRA champion, and Campbell, the driver with the second most wins in CRA history, Scott told Short Track Scene that their inclusion would have been a breach of fairness.
“We never thought about including them unless they met the 75 percent requirement,” Scott said. “It would not have been fair to those who did meet the previously announced guidelines. We would have loved for them to be competing for the championship. Absolutely. But they knew the guidelines and did not choose to pursue the Championship.
“The Chase has done what we had hoped it would by increasing the number of cars competing for a Championship…in all divisions. For the supers we went from 3 last year to 6 this year, so we are moving in the right direction.”
As for those who did make the cut, Brock led the standings for much of the summer, but almost by default as some of the heavy hitters failed to meet the 75 percent requirement.
“We’re going to fight strong, do a lot more testing,” Brock said. “We’re going to buckle down and race hard. We’re going to have to get a win this year. Right now there’s only one thing we can do – go fast and do something.”
The favorite has to be three-time champion Johnny VanDoorn. He’s been a proponent of the playoff format since it was first announced and has been the most efficient about it too, winning at Anderson and Baer Field while staying above the 75 percent threshold.
“I think this has been a good thing,” VanDoorn said. “There’s just too many races on the schedule now. People can’t afford to run them now, and it’s just not drawing people. I mean I’ve missed a race and I think I’m fifth in points. I think there’s only five or six guys that have run all of the races.
“People just don’t run all of the races anymore. So them taking a step in a direction of adding incentive to come back after you’ve missed a race is good. It’s going to make for an exciting night at Winchester too. ”
So how does VanDoorn expect to get there and challenge for a record-setting fourth CRA title?
“I’ll just take it how I run every race,” VanDoorn said. “Just hammer down and try to win everything. If I’m on the track I want to be first.
“I feel like whenever I’m conserving or trying to race smart I always end up wrecking or doing something stupid, so I’m going to race it just like I race every race.”
Hunter Jack is only 10 points behind Brock for the regular season championship lead and he believes that consistency will be the key to winning the championship next month too.
“We sat down and talked about it the other day,” Jack said. “We said we need to have really smooth finishes, don’t wreck out and stay on the lead lap. If we can, we need to go for a win. That’s our game plan.”