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Winchester 400 History Part No. 3 – The Champion Racing Association

After being contested as a NASCAR All Pro Series event from 1992-1998, the Champion Racing Association (CRA) took over sanctioning in 1999


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The Winchester 400 is one of the most prestigious races in all of short track racing, going back to 1970 when the event was first run at Winchester Speedway.

Today, we look at the second of a three-part series on the history of the Winchester 400.

Part No. 3 – Champion Racing Association History at the Winchester 400

After being contested as a NASCAR All Pro Series event from 1992-1998, the Champion Racing Association (CRA) took over sanctioning in 1999 for what was at the time a one-off. What’s now called the ASA/CRA Super Series started in 1997 with eight races at Anderson, Salem, Winchester and Indianapolis Raceway Park. By 1999, the series schedule had more than doubled and expanded to other tracks in the state of Indiana.

The first CRA-sanctioned Winchester 400 took place on September 26, 1999. Defending series champion Brian Rievley dominated the race, leading 188 laps before an accident took him out of the race with 21 laps to go. The lead then went to Brian Ross, who went on to win the race over younger brother Scott Ross, who was driving the winner’s backup car after a last-second decision to run the event. It was the second time a pair of brothers finished 1-2 in the Winchester 400.

While the series made appearances at the half-mile every year from then until 2003, CRA wouldn’t sanction the Winchester 400 again until 2003. For the first time since 1980, the race wasn’t called the Winchester 400, instead being named the Car Brite 400. In one of the most competitive Winchester 400’s in history, Bobby Parsley walked off a series championship by beating Scott Hantz and winning the race. Eleven drivers led laps that afternoon, with no driver leading more than 68.

After a two-year hiatus, the Winchester 400 returned in 2006 with CRA’s sanctioning, which has continued to this day. After finishing runner-up in both the race and series championship in 2003, Hantz came back three years later and won the biggest race of his career and his second series championship in the process. Augie Grill was second, followed by that year’s points runner-up Tommy St.John. That was the last Winchester 400 that saw only the winner on the lead lap.

The 2007 race saw a southern invader in Ryan Lawler make the trek north and win the Winchester 400 in his first and only attempt in the race over Johnny VanDoorn, another driver that was making his debut in the event. Former NASCAR driver Brian Scott led 225 laps that afternoon, but his day would end with 66 to go after an accident.

Two NASCAR Cup Series drivers entered the Winchester 400 in 2008 and proceeded to steal the show. Both David Stremme and Kyle Busch missed qualifying due to their race at Charlotte Motor Speedway the previous night – Stremme started at the tail of the 36-car field while Kyle Busch started 20th after Ryan Lawler qualified his car. The two found themselves up front late, as Stremme stole the lead from Busch on pit road late and held off the future two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion over the final 75 laps to win the race.

The 2009 Winchester 400 was kicked off with Denny Hamlin’s crew chief Chris Gabehart ripping a lap of 14.935 in qualifying, a track record that stands to this day and will probably never be touched. Busch was back for retribution and found it, leading 246 laps and winning the race. However, he had to work for it late – he passed local favorite Terry Fisher Jr with 23 to go and held off him and Brian Rievley in the final laps.

History would be made in 2010 as another future NASCAR Cup Series champion picked up his first Winchester rifle. A then 16-year-old Chase Elliott took the lead with 43 laps to go to become the youngest winner in Winchester 400 history. That year’s series champion Johnny VanDoorn was runner-up for the second time, followed by Chuck Barnes Jr.

2011 series champion Derrick Griffin was on his way to his first-career Super Late Model win in that year’s Winchester 400 after leading 262 laps on the day, but a late caution changed plans with five laps to go. In the ultimate heist, Boris Jurkovic took the lead from Griffin on the final restart and ran with the rifle back to Illinois a Winchester 400 winner.

Perhaps the greatest finish in the history of the Winchester 400 took place in 2012, except that it didn’t count. 14-year-old Kyle Benjamin passed Ross Kenseth in the final corner and won the race in a photo finish. However, it would be taken away from him in post-race tech after he was disqualified for an improper rev limiter. The win would go to Kenseth is what was the only race to be decided in post-race tech.

The 2013 Winchester 400 featured 14 lead changes between seven drivers. Ten months following his breakthrough win at the Snowball Derby, Erik Jones piloted the Kyle Busch Motorsports No.51 to his first Winchester 400 win. It didn’t come without a furious challenge from 2010 winner Chase Elliott, as the two battled through lapped traffic in the final laps.

The LEGACY MOTOR CLUB driver became the first driver to win the Winchester 400 three years in a row since Mike Cope from 1993-1995. Jones had to hold off another challenge in final laps of the 2014 race, this time from that year’s series champion Travis Braden. The 2015 race didn’t feature nearly as exciting of a finish, beating Cody Coughlin to the line by 1.67 seconds for a third-straight triumph in the event.

With zero former winners in the 2016 race, a first-time Winchester 400 was guaranteed. Travis Braden led just one lap – the final one. The West Virginia driver took the lead from Eddie VanMeter in turns one and two of the final lap and went on to win the race. VanMeter let his displeasure with Braden over how he was raced known with a love tap while the winner was doing victory burnouts.

The 2017 race saw future NASCAR stars aplenty competing on the high banks. It was two of said stars – Noah Gragson and Chandler Smith – battling it out late before a third future star - Harrison Burton – stole the lead from both of them on a restart with 24 to go. However, the wheel studs broke on Burton’s machine with seven to go, allowing Gragson to go by and take the win for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Smith found himself on the short end of a late battle again in 2018. This time, it was to Florida driver Jeff Choquette, who was making just his second Winchester 400 start and first since 2012. The two battled it out side-by-side over the final 30-plus laps, with Choquette getting the edge at the line by just over a tenth.

The most dominating run in Winchester 400 history took place in 2019. Stephen Nasse took the lead from Travis Braden on lap eight and proceeded to lead the rest of the race. His 392 laps led is a single-race record for the Winchester 400, and second-most in a single Super Late Model race all-time.

From one dominating performance in 2019 to another one in 2020; this time it was Carson Hocevar winning the Winchester 400 in just his second try at 17 years old. The Michigan native led 342 laps for the win ahead of fellow Wolverine State driver Kyle Crump and 2019 winner Nasse.

The final laps of the 2021 race was filled with late-race drama. Ohio veteran Jack Smith held the lead late on pit strategy when the field was bunched up for a late restart. Smith and Wilson Motorsports driver Sammy Smith were racing for the win on the final lap when contact between the two sent Jack Smith into the wall in three and four. Sammy Smith was forced to the tail of the lead lap (which had him in fourth), but he took the lead on the ensuing green-white-checkered after Jake Garcia hit the wall in one and the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver went on to win anyway after leading 154 laps.

Stephen Nasse won his second Winchester 400 last year, with this one coming under vastly different circumstances than his first in 2019. Despite leading the most laps with 133, Nasse recovered from two flat tires and spin, made up a lap, and passed Garcia with 35 to go for his second win.

The ASA STARS National Tour heads to Winchester Speedway on Sunday, October 15 for the Winchester 400 Presented by Vore’s Welding and Steel. The race will also serve as the season finale for the ASA/CRA Super Series. Tickets can be purchased by calling the track office at (765)584-9701 during office hours.

The ASA STARS National Tour opened the ten race, six-state schedule at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL on March 11. Jesse Love is the most recent winner, claiming the victory in Glass City 200 on September 16.

For the full ASA STARS National Tour schedule, plus Super Late Model rules and other information, please visit the series website at starsnationaltour.com, or be sure to follow the series on social media (Facebook: STARS National Series | Twitter: @racewithstars | IG: @starsnational).

ASA STARS National Tour
The ASA STARS National Tour debuted in March 2023 for Super Late Model racing in America. Announced in October 2022, many of the best drivers in America will compete in the ten-race national tour with a minimum $100,000 point fund. The championship team will be guaranteed $25,000.

The ASA STARS National Tour is made up of three races from each of the regional pavement Super Late Model Series under the Track Enterprises banner – the ASA/CRA Super Series, the ASA Midwest Tour and the ASA Southern Super Series.

The Team Construction Winner’s Circle program has been announced as a part of the ASA STARS National Tour for licensed drivers/teams with perfect attendance. The program provides additional financial incentives to those teams who support the series.

Track Enterprises, a racing promotions company based in Illinois, will operate the ASA STARS National Tour. It announced the acquisition of Champion Racing Association (CRA) in January 2022 and followed that up with the purchase of the Midwest Tour in July. In October, Track Enterprises President Bob Sargent announced a partnership with the Southern Super Series, which set the table for the formation of the ASA STARS National Tour.

-ASA STARS National Tour Release

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