The prestigious All-American 400 will take place this weekend at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway but contested under a different format than previous seasons.
Super Late Models remain the main event, but that race has been reduced by 100 laps, becoming a $15,000-to-win 300 lapper co-sanctioned by the CRA Super Series, Southern Super Series, CARS Tour and Midwest Tour. Race Day will begin with a 100 lap Pro Late Model race.
Combined, that is the 2020 All-American 400.
One of the most prominent racers in the discipline, Ty Majeski, is not amongst the 35 drivers entered into the field. Majeski also recently raised the question if the 2020 version of the event was befitting of its 39-year-old history and prestige as the ultimate Super Late Model endurance race.
Bob, would you still consider the AA400 a Crown Jewel with the laps being cut 25% and the pay being cut almost 40% from last year?
— Ty Majeski (@TyMajeski) October 20, 2020
The Super Late Model feature will pay $15,000-to-win and $1,200-to-start and it’s worth mentioning that Track Enterprises — in its first year as leaseholders for the city-owned facility — is good for the payout after teams frequently went unpaid in the final years that Formosa Productions operated in Music City.
Track Enterprises president Bob Sargent has made the most of his first year as promoter — conducting a biweeklyish racing program in the midst of COVID-19 with the inherent challenges of operating a racetrack in the middle of a downtown neighborhood and each of the restrictions that come with it.
Sargent says the decision to cut 100 laps was collectively made by himself and the four regional promoters that co-sanctioned the event: Tim Bryant from the Southern Super Series, Gregg McKarns from the Midwest Tour, Jack McNelly from CARS Tour and the CRA’s Glenn Luckett and RJ Scott.
He believes $15,000 for a 10-tire, 300 lap race is befitting of the All-American 400 legacy.
“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.”
Sargent says industry feedback will be the most important factor in determining if the 300 lap number sticks in the future or if it returns to 400 for 2021 and beyond.
“Remember that this is our first year doing this,” Sargent said. “But we’ve done our homework, and we’ve run the idea by drivers and team owners, and it seems to be well-received. So we went with 300. That’s how it happened.
“Was there some discussion about tradition and 400 laps? Yes. But we did our homework, and this side won out, with the caveat that we’re going to keep an open mind for next year. We’re going to circle back with drivers, teams and fans after the race. Sponsors too. We’ll get feedback to determine what works best for the future.”
Collaboration has been the model for Track Enterprises’ success for nearly three years promoting NASCAR, ARCA, USAC, World of Outlaws and Late Model events across the East Coast. It’s also why the group was selected to pick up the lease when it became available over the winter.
As for the All-American itself — the race most recently was 300 laps in 2012 when it was promoted by the Pro All-Stars Series. That race was scheduled for 300 laps but stopped after 220 laps due to rain with Ross Kenseth picking up the famed Music City guitar. Chase Elliott won the race in 2013 when it returned to 400 laps under Southern Super Series sanctioning.
The race continued at 400 laps with Pro Late Models under Formosa Productions in 2014 and 2015.
The race was contested several times in the 2000s as a split 200 lap/200 lap Pro Late Model/Super Late Model doubleheader under various sanctioning bodies — including the CRA and ASA. That’s to say tradition is a loose concept for the All-American 400.
The underlying reality is that a 400 lap Super Late Model race on a .596-mile track is expensive and promoters are constantly trying to strike the perfect balance between history, prestige, purse and cost.
Sargent is no different.
“I have an open mind towards all of it,” Sargent said. “I want the best experience for everyone — teams, sponsors and fans. I don’t know that I have a preference so it makes my job easier to poll the community and figure out what works best for them.”
The All-American is scheduled for Sunday and will be contested in front of a 20 percent capacity crowd due to pandemic regulations. It will air live via a Speed51TV PPV stream.