The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Sports Columns

January 28, 2014

Ken de la Bastide: Young stars rise to the top

For the past few years I have had the privilege of watching two up-and-coming stars in the super late model ranks who are going to make noise in NASCAR.

The two drivers scored victories this past weekend at the Champion Racing Association’s annual SpeedFest at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Georgia.

John Hunter Nemechek dominated the first of the two races in the Chevrolet Performance 125 for crate late models.

Nemechek took the lead on a restart from Hunter Robbins on Lap 29 and went on to record his first CRA career victory. He was followed to the checkers by Spencer Davis, Korey Ruble, J.J. Haley and veteran Dwayne Buggay.

Nemechek’s victory was marred by the score of late cautions during the 125-lap event, including five attempts at a green-white-checker finish.

“I thought it would never end,” Nemechek said following his victory. It was a sentiment echoed around the race track.

The CRA JEGS All-Stars is a crate late model series that has traditionally had a good mix of veterans and younger drivers.

The problem is that at Watermelon Capital Speedway, a demanding oval, the field was filled with drivers under the age of 16 with little or no experience. Most of the caution flags waved for competitors driving into the corners too hard and taking out the car in front of them.

Driving a race car is not like playing baseball at a young age. If you can hit a curve ball at the age of 13 years of age, you can play with the bigger boys.

Just because your family has the financial resources to purchase a late model race car, doesn’t mean at 13 you can drive one in competition.

There are drivers in their teens who have worked their way up the ranks and can handle a late model in a race with seasoned competitors. Nemechek is one and the other is Chase Elliott.

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