Following a two-year hiatus, one of the most iconic Super Late Models has returned to the grid this weekend for the All-American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.
The Carswell Motorsports No. 98 will take the green flag on Sunday for 400 laps with veteran Nashville racer Cole Williams behind the wheel.
The car is notable because it carries the iconic colors of the Jody Ridley No. 98 that dominated southern short tracks during the 60s, 70s and 80s. Car owners Jake and Deanna Carswell bought their first Super Late Model from Ridley and instilled the Hall of Famer as their crew chief in the early 2000s.
The car has remained competitive over the years, winning the World Crown 300 at Gresham Motorsports Park with Justin Wakefield in 2010 and countless races and championships with Daniel Hemric driving for much of the past decade.
With Hemric moving onto the NASCAR ranks, the Carswells limited their racing schedule to focus on operating their super-successful Winter Jam concert series and sold their car. However, they started working on a new car in 2017, something that was largely forgotten about until Williams filed an entry last month under the Carswell 98 banner.
“I’ve been itching to get back for a while,” Carswell told Short Track Scene on Saturday. “We just kept looking for the right time to do it and finally decided we just had to jump in and did it this weekend.”
Since this is a new car and not the one the Carswells established such a deep notebook with alongside Hemric, they needed a veteran driver with a considerable amount of experience at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.
Enter Williams, a two-time speedway champion in the local Pro Late Model division.
“They took a few years off, but Jake called me a few months ago and told that he was ready to get back into it and they wanted me in their car and we built on that,” Williams said. “We finally went to the shop, met and got everything ready to go. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
“They are a great family and great group of people and I’m excited to see what this could become.”
It’s a new car with a lot of bugs to work out and Williams was only able to qualify 22nd in the 31 car field with it. But that was expected and everyone went into this race knowing they needed more time and laps to get the car as fast as Wakefield and Hemric made the previous car.
“We just need laps man,” Williams said. “That’s the only way to figure out what a car needs and this one hasn’t told us what it needs yet. We’ll figure it out. It might take all weekend and 400 laps but we’ll figure it out and see what happens.”
Hemric and Carswell previously struggled with a new car in 2014, eventually selling that car and returning to the old reliable Port City. Carswell said this new car is also a Port City and built to the same specs as their previous car.
He expects himself and Williams to get a handle on it by the end of the weekend.
And while both sides don’t know if they will continue racing together beyond this weekend, Carswell was adamant it wouldn’t be another two years until we see the iconic No. 98.
“We’ve missed it for sure,” Carswell said. “We’ve kept busy. Our daughter got married and we’ve been working on this new car when our concert schedule allowed. So it hasn’t been a lack of interest. We’ve tried to support Daniel with his NASCAR schedule as often as possible.
“It’s been good for us to take a step back. But we are back. It’s not going to be two years lord willing. I’m excited to get after it.”