LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Derek Hagar came to the consensus during Thursday night’s Test ‘n Tune session for the 31st annual Short Track Nationals at I-30 Speedway that he’s won “just about” every prestigious sprint car race in the Mid-South.
The only glaring hole on his resume is a Short Track Nationals title, and that’s something Hagar is desperately hoping to change this weekend.
Hagar, a former United Sprint Car Series champion and a two-time winner of the sister Rock ‘n Roll 50 at nearby Riverside Int’l Speedway, enters this year’s $10,041-to-win STN program as one of the local favorites. If he can win the Saturday finale, he would become the 18th different winner of the event.
“This race has been around forever. When I made my first start here in 2006 and made the show, I think we had 120 cars trying to qualify,” Hagar recalled. “Unless you’re Kyle Larson or Christopher Bell, you don’t make shows like this on your first attempt … so to be one of the few was a pretty big moment for me.
“Over the last several years, the car count has died down a little bit, but it’s still really tough competition,” Hagar continued. “I’ve done everything, it feels like, here but visit victory lane and I’d really like to change that this year. It’s such a special race and means so much to win.
“Hopefully this can be our time to shine.”
– Seth Bergman wasn’t even on the preliminary entry list for this year’s Short Track Nationals, but he was parked in the pit area anyways for Thursday night’s open practice at the quarter-mile dirt bullring.
“We like to keep everyone on their toes,” Bergman joked.
Even though this year’s Short Track Nationals aren’t an ASCS National Tour points-paying weekend, Bergman tipped that the allure of a $10,041 top prize for winning the weekend finale was more than enough to bring his familiar white-and-red No. 23 sprinter to the race track.
“This is a prestigious event. Everyone knows what the Short Track Nationals is,” noted Bergman. “It’s historic and something that you want to put your name on, but the purse is a big part of it too.
“To be able to come catch a race like this that pays really well on both nights, it was an easy decision for us.”
– One of the original Outlaws from Ted Johnson’s inaugural brood in 1978, Terry Gray didn’t even roll his No. 10 entry out of his trailer on Thursday night.
He kept his equipment nestled safely inside, telling SPEED SPORT that “if I haven’t figured out how to run this place by now, I might as well not even be here!”
Perhaps veteran experience does have a little something to do with it.
– Speaking of veteran experience, young Howard Moore will have longtime crew chief and car owner Mike Ward in his ear throughout the weekend, as Moore looks to guide his No. 40 to victory lane.
“Mike sure knows what he’s doing around these parts, and I’m glad to have him to lean on,” said Moore. “We’re hoping for a solid weekend. If we get a chance at (the win) … we’ll take whatever we can get.”
Moore had to rush out of the track after practice Thursday night because he had college classes before his planned arrival on Friday. He’s carrying a 4.0 GPA and was a member of the Dean’s List in his most recent semester, according to Ward.
– With the cancellation of Friday and Saturday night’s AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series events in the Great Plains, at least one notable name from that field redirected to Little Rock to compete.
Brady Bacon, driving his familiar No. 99, will be among those vying for the top prize this weekend.
– This weekend’s racing action will be dedicated to the two notable names in sprint car racing that have been lost in tragic accidents this year.
Friday night’s feature will be a 27-lap affair paying $2,527 to win, in honor of PA Posse veteran Greg Hodnett, while Saturday’s championship event will honor 2006 STN winner Jason Johnson with a 41-lap, $10,041-to-win main event.
Johnson’s widow Bobbi and son Jaxx are expected to be in attendance all weekend long.