What to Watch For in the Alabama 200

Montgomery plays host to one of the most venerable events in short trackin'

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The Alabama 200.

It’s one of the oldest stock car races in North America with a heritage dating back to 1968 that includes the NASCAR Grand National, All Pro Super Series and Southern Super Series. Regardless of Cup, Super Late Model or Pro Late Model, it’s a race everyone wants to add to their resume.

While it’s no longer associated with a national or regional tour, it has become the perfect icebreaker for the Montgomery Motor Speedway Late Model Division, named the Show Me The Money Series. It’s one of the healthiest Late Model programs in the country, a testament to track promoter Stan Narrison, and his work with Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and Pensacola Five Flags to strengthen the Pro Late Model scene in the Gulf South region.

As a result, there are no shortage of potential storylines from year-to-year, in what has become known as the Hunt for the Bear.

A sampling of those storylines can be found below:

GRILL LOOKS TO EXTEND HISTORY

Already the winningest driver in the history of the race, two-time Snowball Derby winner Augie Grill is also seeking his sixth win in the Alabama 200 following triumphs 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2019. And it’s arguable that this wouldn’t have been a plausible storyline entering the season if not for what happened in January at Speedfest in Watermelon Capital Speedway when he won in the Pro Late Model portion of the event in a car owned by Jeff South but prepared by GARC -- the iconic chassis manufacturer owned by the Grills and operated out of Hayden Alabama. It was the first time Grill had won a Late Model race since 2019, also at Montgomery, and was the product of a lot of work behind the scenes. Crew chief Chris Mitchell has brought some revolutionary ideas that he believes could get them back to Victory Lane with greater regularity.

How about on Saturday?

"I'm not going to say I expect to be in Victory Lane a lot more," Grill said. "I expect to run better a lot more, which in turn, will make more victories. That win was the culmination of what we had been working on for months. Finally got on the right side of it and now it's learning more about what to do and not to do."

BRINGING THE RACKLEY WAR TO BAMA’S DOOR


The two-pronged effort from Rackley WAR Racing of Dawson Sutton and Carson Brown showed flashes of brilliance during the World Series of Asphalt and now turn their attention to bear hunting on Saturday at Montgomery Motor Speedway. Willie Allen Racing has a lot of experience at Montgomery and its experience he and his team intend to impart on Sutton and Brown.

Brown is an experienced Dirt Late Model youngster making his initial forays into pavement with a New Smyrna win already on the resume but Sutton, is completely new into racing in general. The son of team backer Curtis Sutton got into motorsports via iRacing and only started watching NASCAR when his dad linked up with Allen. The combination was enough to make him want to pursue it too.

The Rackley WAR crew say he’s been very diligent, taking a keen interest in onboard camera and dartfish-style data to quickly figure out where he can improve. The cars are good and Sutton knows it’s up to him to bridge the gap.

And after six races in seven days at New Smyrna last month, Sutton says that gap is a lot smaller.

"It was awesome," Sutton said. "Seven days or whatever it turned out to be racing, you learn so much with the seat time in general. The more you’re in the seat, the better you’re going to be. The guys that win all the time, they’re the best because of their experience. They’ve learned so much. Some people only run seven races in a year and we did that in a week. For me, right now, that was huge."

TIGHT FIELD EXPECTED

With the ASA National Tour race scheduled for next weekend at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, the Hunt for the Bear doesn’t include teams that would typically travel across the country year after year, leaving a group of dedicated Pro Late Model teams and drivers chasing Alabama 200 glory. That also means that it could be a wide-open race.

STRATEGY MATTERS


The Alabama 200 was won by Hunter Robbins and Ronnie Sanders Racing last year but not on straight-up speed. Robbins was one of the drivers that decided not to pit on Lap 109 last year and it cost him a lap to leader Stephen Nasse until a fortuitous caution with 38 laps to go that awarded him the free pass. That gave he and John Bolen the freshest tires in the field and they finished 1-2 with them. That’s to say luck and strategy will determine the Alabama 200 on Saturday night too.

"You need raw run speed," Bolen said. "You need to be able to keep pace on old tires, especially if everyone else has already pitted. In the history of this race, that’s going to be the way to go and I think our car has that balance."

Mobile area native Dustin Smith, a winner at the Irvington half-mile, agree but says qualifying matters as does realizing what the cars ahead of him might do.

"We want to be in the top-10," Smith said. "That gives us the option to not be in a place to lose a lap and we might follow them down pit road or we might not."

Dylan Fetcho says they’ll be thinking about what to do during that first half as well.

"I know strategy is a big part of this race, and it’s not something we’re used to in Pro Late Model racing but we’ll try our best to land on the right one and hopefully go get that bear."

A full look at the entry list can be seen below.

Ruggiero won two races at Montgomery last year en route to the Show Me the Money Pro Late Model Series championship at Montgomery, with Jake Garcia also going to victory lane.

The 2023 edition will be the 59th running of the Alabama 200, with the event's history dating back to 1960. Past winners of the event include Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Red Farmer, Neil Bonnett, Donnie Allison and Chase Elliott.

Along with the Pro Late Models, this year's Alabama 200 includes the Hunt for the Bear 59 for the Modifieds of Mayhem as well as a feature for Montgomery's Shelby Concrete Street Stocks. For more information, visit montgomerymotorspeedway.org.

59TH ALABAMA 200 PRE-ENTRY LIST

08 – Spencer Bragg
1 – Gage Rodgers
2 – John Bolen
11 - Stacey Crain
11 – JoJo Wilkinson
12 – Bryson Shaffer
12 – Christopher Tullis
14 – Chris Davidson
20 – Chase Johnson
25 – Carson Brown
26 – Dawson Sutton
33 – Dustin Smith
35 – Seth Christensen
58 – Johnny Aramendia
67 – Zack Dixon
67 – Frankie Martin
70 – Gavin Graham
84 – Steven Chunn
88 – Boston Oliver
89 – Dylan Fetcho
89 – Chase Spradlin
91 – Jim Wall
112 – Augie Grill
116 – Zach Johnson

Montgomery motor speedway

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