LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – With the 25th Annual COMP Cams Short Track Nationals presented by Hoosier Tires little more than two weeks away, the stack of completed entry forms are starting to pile up on the desk in the I-30 Speedway track office.
Among those early entries for the October 25-27 worth $15,000 to win and $2,500 to start is reigning NASCAR Nationwide champion Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., as well as a trio of past champions.
A native of Olive Brach, Miss., Stenhouse will take advantage of an idle weekend for the NASCAR Nationwide Series to make a return to the Short Track Nationals after missing out on last year’s edition. Stenhouse captured last year’s Nationwide title and is locked in a tight battle for the top spot this year.
Stenhouse made the cut for his first STN championship finale as a 16-year-old in 2003 and then made three consecutive main events from 2005 to 2007, finishing among the top 10 all three years with a career-best STN finish of fifth in 2005.
Stenhouse will be teamed with 2006 STN champion Jason Johnson out of the Stenhouse/JJR stable.
Jason Johnson is one of three past event winners among the early entries. “The Ragin’ Cajun” has made six STN championship feature starts, though the two-time ASCS National champion hasn’t finished among the top ten since a fourth-place run in 2007.
Johnson, a native of Eunice, La., is currently locked in a tight battle for another National championship with Oklahoma City’s Wayne Johnson, who earned his STN crown in 1997. Vying for his 15th career STN championship feature start, W. Johnson’s only STN top-10 since 2003 was a runner-up finish three years ago in 2009.
Rounding out the current trio of past winners already entered is Liberal, Kan., shoe Tony Bruce, Jr., who snared back-to-back STN crowns in 2008 and 2009. One of just three drivers to claim back-to-back event wins along with Steve Kinser and Gary Wright, Bruce, Jr., will try to race his way back into the Saturday night finale after missing the cut each of the past two years.
Others that have made the cut for a STN championship feature event among the early round of entries include the likes of A.G. Rains, Matt Covington, Travis Rilat, Johnny Herrera, Dale Howard and Claud Estes.