The All-American 400 is just 300 laps in 2020, but most teams don’t seem to mind the difference.
As detailed by first-year event promoter Bob Sargent on Wednesday, the decision was made to shorten the race after consultation with teams and some degree of polling from fans who attended races throughout the summer.
“We had a lot of teams ask us, saying 400 laps is a lot, it’s expensive and too many tires,” Sargent told Short Track Scene on Tuesday. “Fans have told us that 400 laps can be boring.
“The sanctioning bodies collectively suggested it, and it wasn’t originally my idea, it’s been done before. It works for the teams coming off the Winchester 400. The sanctioning bodies suggested that 300 laps made the most sense for the purse we were looking to pay.”
The All-American 300 will pay $15,000 to win, and $1,200 to start, and be contested as a 10-tire race. The race will be co-sanctioned by the Southern Super Series, CRA Super Series, CARS Tour and Midwest Tour with each of the promoters agreeing with Sargent that the payout, lap count and tire allotment met the prestige of the event.
The All-American 400 was conceived in 1981 by All Pro Super Series president Bob Harmon as a showdown at a centralized location for top drivers across the country. The length was established at 400 laps to make it the longest race for pavement Late Models and was just 20 laps short of the track’s Winston Cup race.
The concept worked as southern superstar Butch Lindley won the inaugural race over ASA and NASCAR regulars Mark Martin and Dick Trickle.
Based on the 35 entries for Sunday’s race, the shorter distance hasn’t discouraged anyone from coming, with the four regional promoters working to ensure representation from every corner of the country in true Civil War on Wheels fashion.
But is it the All-American 400 if it’s the All-American 300?
“It don’t really matter to me,” Stephen Nasse said on Saturday. “The distance, the extra 100 helps me in terms of experience, but 300 laps is still a long way here.
“It should be a good show.”
Conversely, 2017 winner Donnie Wilson says he was never asked about the change, and his first preference would be a 400-lap true to the history of the event.
“It doesn’t affect me if it’s a 300 lap or 400 lap race, but I like the 400 lap race just from a tradition standpoint,” Wilson said. “I like the longer races, like Winchester, but at the same time, 300 is still a long way.
“Like Winchester, there can be attrition, so they key is to make it to final 50 and race it out, no matter how long it is.”
Chandler Smith has been coming to Nashville for over six years and will make his fifth All-American start on Sunday.
He has strong feelings about the length of the race.
“It’s the All-American 400, not the All-American 300,” Smith said. “It’s the longest Super Late Model race of the year and that’s where they need to get back to next year. It’s the best way to showcase the toughest cars and the best drivers, 400 laps.”
Southern Super Series points leader and 20 year veteran Jeremy Pate also considers himself a traditionalist, but doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other.
“To me, 400 would be preferable due to the tradition,” Pate said. “But that’s above my pay grade on those decisions. We’ll be here regardless because we want to race against the best, but as a traditionalist, I do wish it would be the full 400 laps.”
Casey Roderick spent much of the past decade driving either the Graham Trucking Racing No. 7 or Ronnie Sanders Racing No. 18, but will enter the 2020 All-American driving his own equipment.
He says 100 less laps, two less tires and the fuel counts to something.
“It’s still money,” Roderick said.
Derek Thorn is the four-time Southwest Tour champion and two-time NASCAR K&N champion who attends all the marquee races from his California home. He’s in the ‘doesn’t care’ camp.’
“The Pros at 100 laps and the Supers at 100 laps is a fine distance,” Thorn said. “Less tires. 300 laps is a fine distance.”
Carson Hocevar, winner of the Redbud 400, Winchester 400 and Money in the Bank, perhaps had the most honest take of them all.
“I’ll care more if I’m not leading at lap 300 tomorrow,” Hocevar said. “Then I’ll wish it were 400 laps. If it were the All-American 280, I’d want to lead that lap.
“400 laps is really long here. From a fan standpoint, that might get drug out a little bit, but there’s also the history too.
“It’s probably a little cheesy to call it the All-American 400 if it’s just the All-American 300.”