All American 400

Chicago , Ill. – Boris Jurkovic came pretty darn close to winning his second career All American 400 victory at the Music City Motorplex in Nashville , Tenn. This past Saturday. A 200-lap Champion Racing Association (CRA) Super Series event and a 200-lap ASA Racing Southeast Asphalt Tour contest made up the “400” weekend at the historic 5/8’s-mile paved track, which is located on the old Tennessee State Fairgrounds property.

Jurkovic and his Chevy Impala SS had fifth fast time among CRA entries on Friday and was among the pre-race “favorites” to score a win in Saturday’s 200-lap chase. The Joliet driver looked to be in good form to score another All American victory, his first coming in 2006 when he claimed an All American 200-his biggest career win to date.

A couple of “snafus” during pits stops and a spin around lap 143 hurt Jurkovic’s chances at scoring the win. With 50 laps to go, Jurkovic was out of the “top 15” but managed to march himself back into contention in the closing laps of the race, coming up just a bit short behind winner Chris Gabehart in what turned out to be a 213-lap affair because of a few late-race caution flags.

“Call it ‘overanxiousness’, trying hard and sometimes you try too hard,” is how Jurkovic summed up his day. “He (Gabehart) helps us with some of the setups. He’s a really good kid. If I couldn’t win it, I just wanted it to be him.”

The 27-year-old Gabehart, who hails from Indianapolis , picked up perhaps his biggest win of his career. A graduate of Indiana ‘s Purdue University , Gabehart was the 2007 CRA series champion.

“We built this ‘rocket ship’ for the end of the year, for the big races and, by God, we got us one (a win),” Gabehart said. “We’ve been coming (to Nashville ) for a few years now and always had fast cars here. It ( Nashville ) is such a historic place. So many great names have won here. I really hope it can continue on, building some interest in the thing. I hope we put on a good race so the fans start coming out. It’s really just an honor to win one of those guitars from Nashville .”

With newer left side tires, Gabehart took the lead from Oklahoma ‘s Donnie Wilson on lap 192. On the final restart for a “two-lap shootout,” Gabehart got a big jump on Jurkovic and went on to score the win with Wilson, Florida’s Scott Carlson and 2005 race winner Jason Hogan of Cleveland, Ga. Trailing Gabehart and Jurkovic at the end. Minnesota driver Jake Ryan finished sixth after winning Friday evening’s 25-lap “last chance” race.

Gabehart was making only his second start of the season, having made his first start of the year at the Winchester 400 at Indiana ‘s Winchester Speedway on October 12. Gabehart grabbed fast time honors and finished sixth in the grueling 400 lapper on the Winchester “high banks.” Gabehart has spent most of the past racing season working at Advanced Racing Suspensions and helping CRA rookie Zach Taylor.

Eddie Hoffman had nothing but bad luck at Nashville . Previously, the Chicagoland speedster was the winner of the Ron Varney’s ASA-sanctioned 200 lappers during the All American 400 weekend in 2006 and 2007. Hoffman was entered in twin-looking Lisa Thomas Salon-sponsored Ford Fusions for Saturday’s races.

On Friday, Hoffman qualified sixth fastest for the RC Cola/Moonpie ASA Southeast Tour Asphalt Tour 200 lapper, but could only “muster” 23rd fast time in CRA qualifying, putting him in “last chance” lineup. Hoffman made only one lap in the CRA 25 lapper as the engine “broke” in his Tom and Lisa Kmak-owned racer. The team elected not to replace the engine, citing a lot of “contamination” in the oil lines/sump system, which could damage a new engine.

Hoffman started second in the 36-car field ASA contest and led a bunch of laps at the start. Fastest qualifier Jonathan Eilen, out of Hampton , Minn. , began challenging Hoffman for the lead with the two having a “bumping” incident during their battle. Hoffman held the top spot, but slowed and gave up the lead during the first 50 laps, eventually pitting with his crew checking underneath the rear of the car and taking off the left rear wheel. A number of laps down, Hoffman rejoined the race, but dropped out during the halfway break.

A regular on the Tim Olson/Steve Einhaus ASA Midwest Tour, Eilen seemed to be on his way to victory until Wisconsin’s Chris Wimmer and Jason Hogan had their ideas of winning, but Brian Campbell came roaring around the outside of both Wimmer and Hogan to score the eventual victory.

Campbell , the second generation driver from Wyoming , Mich. Picked up his first Nashville win after scoring some impressive ASA Challenge Series victories this year on the high banks of the Bristol ( Tenn. ) Motor Speedway and at the “Milwaukee Mile.”

Eilen’s fast time efforts got him a couple of complimentary tickets for Sunday’s Tennessee Titans/Green Bay Packers football game. Piloting a Pathfinder Chassis, Eilen gave the tickets to Pathfinder owners Jason Schuler and Joe Wood, both Wisconsin residents and Packers fans.

Jurkovic also competed in the ASA 200-lap “leg” Saturday but got tangled up with another Chicago area driver, Weston Griffith, Jr., and ended up with a wrecked race car, finishing 33rd. Griffith and his Fusion finished in 12th place. Griffith ‘s racing efforts this past season have been “wrenched” by long time Chicago area late model front runner, Dave Weltmeyer. Weltmeyer has told people that he is pretty much done racing and hopes to put his son, DJ, in a car next year.

A lot of talent was on hand at Nashville with CRA and ASA each having 41 entries for their races. Besides Jurkovic, Jason Hogan and Florida ‘s Ryan Crane were the only drivers to compete in both 200 lap chases on Saturday. 2008 ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour titlist Jay Middleton was not entered, along with several other top ASA Southeast competitors. Rick Turner, CRA rookie of the year Aaron Pierce, Jason Dietsch, Terry Fisher, Jr. Jason Shively and J.R. Roahrig were among top CRA drivers that were not on hand.

Young Mitch Cobb set a new qualifying track record during Friday’s time trials for Saturday’s CRA race. The Edwards, Col. Driver wheeled his Ford Fusion around the Nashville oval in 17.962 seconds to break Chris Gabehart’s one-year old record. The 18-year-old Cobb is a member of the Bill Elliott Driver Development Program.

Retired NBA basketball star Derek Strong competed in the ASA portion of Saturday’s doubleheader and finished 22nd. At 6’8″ tall, Strong was the tallest competitor in Saturday’s lineups with 14-year-old Logan Ruffin being the shortest. Ruffin, who finished 20th in the CRA contest, recently signed with Motorsports Management International, which has a number of NASCAR ‘Cup stars as clients.

The Old Days

Saturday’s crowd was nothing compared to the ones in the “early years” of the All American 400. Those first races were something special. The late Butch Lindley defeated Mark Martin, Dick Trickle and the late Joe Shear in the first 400 lapper at Nashville in 1981. The big, old roller coaster was still present, looming back in the parking lot well off of turn four.

Bob Senneker, the Dorr, Mich. Star, won the event in 1982 ahead of fellow Michigan driver Butch Miller, Freddy Fryar, Jim Sauter and Mike Eddy. Sauter won in 1983, defeating Trickle, Senneker, Gary “Hot Shoes” Balough and Miller. Balough came back and won in 1984 over Jody Ridley, Martin, Mike Alexander and Miller. Rusty Wallace captured the 1985 race, defeating Balough, Trickle, Miller and Alan Kulwicki. Those were the days!

Looking through the Crystal Ball

The future, at least the immediate future, of Nashville ‘s Music City Motorplex, which celebrated 50 years of asphalt racing this past July, looks good. The Fair Board recently voted to extend promoter Joe Mattioli III’s lease for the 2009 season, ensuring at least another year of racing.

Whatever the future is for the Music City Motorplex and the All American 400, paved short track stock car racing needs a “key” event. The race that, year after year, all competitors and fans talk about and want to attend. The money and the status needs to be there to attract the star drivers from all over the country. Fans have to look at it as “we can’t miss that one.” Asphalt racing needs that “big shot in the arm” and all the prestige that would go with it. It needs an event likes dirt racing’s World 100. Where’s the doctor?

The address for news and comments is 9618 Cypress Ave. , Munster , Ind. 46321-3418 or e-mail to

Share Button