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There won’t be a playoff berth available in the CRA season-opening Speedfest 200, but a group of entrants ranging from NASCAR young guns to Late Model elites promise to provide 200 laps of hard racing for fans making their way to Cordele, Georgia this weekend.

Entries have yet to be finalized but 27 drivers have already announced an intent to compete at the Watermelon Capital Speedway’s signature event. Previous big name winners Chase Elliott and John Hunter Nemechek haven’t filed an entry for the race but there is no shortage of notables to capture the big trophy on Sunday night.

Defending winner Bubba Pollard is set to defend his crown and arrives to central Georgia rife with momentum after a season-opener victory in the Red Eye 100 on January 9 at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida.

NASCAR fans can expect a pair of Jones to attend as both Cup Series rookie Erik Jones and Xfinity Series regular Brandon Jones will be amongst the favorites.

For Erik, who intends to run a handful of 2017 races, competing in Speedfest offers a chance to add another marquee victory to an impressive short-track resume that includes victories in both the Snowball Derby and Winchester 400.

For Brandon, Sunday’s race offers a chance to return to his roots. A native of nearby Atlanta, Ga., the Richard Childress Racing youngster will drive an Super Late provided by Fury Race Cars, with former Camping World Truck Series driver Cale Gale assuming crew chief duties.

Others entered for Sunday’s race include NASCAR prospects Spencer Gallagher and Harrison Burton, CARS Tour champion Raphael Lessard, Brandon Setzer and Stephen Nasse, who’s coming off of a third-place run in the Red Eye 100.

However, while there are many talented drivers in the field, all eyes will be on one driver going into the weekend: Christian Eckes.

Eckes, 16, is set to make his first start of 2017 after a breakout end to 2016. After a relatively quiet season, Eckes burst into the limelight at the end of the year, tallying victories in the Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park (NC), the Myrtle Beach 400, and, most notably, the Snowball Derby.

Eckes, who finished sixth in last season’s Speedfest 200, will return to Cordele with Fury Race Cars. With a $7,000 purse on the line, the race is expected to be tightly contested by the many drivers with a chance at a victory.

Last season’s edition of the event infamously was decided by a late-race penalty as leaders Nemechek and William Byron collided. Nemechek fell out of contention after the crash. Byron survived the contact but was sent to the tail-end of the field by CRA officials which gave Pollard the lead — and ultimately — the victory.

Whether Sunday’s 13th Speedfest 200 will live up to the hype of the previous year’s event remains to be seen, but with some of the nation’s best drivers wedged into a 3/8-mile oval, the feature should prove worth watching.
For those interested in watching the event, Speed51 will carry the race on Pay-Per-View for $24.99.

 The complete Super Late Model entry list can be viewed below.
  • 01 Derek Scott
  • 4 Jay Fogleman
  • 4M Kyle McCallum
  • 5 Jerry Artuso
  • 6 Brandon Setzer
  • 7 Casey Roderick
  • 8 Jordan Pruitt
  • 8F Tate Fogleman
  • 9 Chris Dilbeck
  • 10 Steve Dorer
  • 12 Harrison Burton
  • 14 Connor Okzesik
  • 15 Chritian Eckes
  • 20 Erik Jones
  • 23 Eddie VanMeter
  • 23G Spencer Gallagher
  • 26 Bubba Pollard
  • 26S Chandler Smith
  • 29 Spencer Davis
  • 33 Brandon Jones
  • 41 Hunter Jack
  • 51Stephen Nasse
  • 77 Zane Smith
  • 81 Antohy Campi
  • 83 Scotty Ellis
  • 97P Chase Purdy
  • 98 Justin Ashburn
  • 99 Raphael Lessard

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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