CLIO, Mich. — The JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Presented by Chevrolet Performance made its first ever visit to the .393-mile semi-banked uniquely-shaped paved oval of Auto City Speedway.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Brad Keselowski was in attendance and served as grand marshal for the event as the JEGS/CRA Teams went head to head with the tracks weekly LaFontaine Performance Center Super Stocks division who utilize the JEGS/CRA rulebook for their weekly competitors.
The weekly competitors turned in a valiant effort but in the end the results were the same as they’ve been for seven of the 11 JEGS/CRA races held as Kannapolis, North Carolina standout, Daniel Hemric was the driver standing in victory lane as the driver of the No. 54 Jack Link’s Beef Jerky / Scott Neal Racing / Chevrolet passed race leader Brent Downey with just five laps to go to secure the victory and extend his already healthy points lead.
“I just can’t say enough about Scott Neal and this entire team. They give me great race cars every single race. This was a tough one tonight, Brent (Downey) raced me hard, but we got the job done.” The 21-year-old relayed in his post-race interview in front of the crowd and as Keselowski, who also took part in post-race ceremonies looked on. “This is a pretty tricky track, but this whole team helped me figure it out and we were fast the whole day.” He added.
After Hemric won his fourth Boyne Machine Fast Qualifier Award of the season earlier in the day, he then drew the minimum inversion of a three “3” which placed Downey and Chad Finley on the front row for the BRAD 100 Presented by JEGS.com. Finley jumped out to the early lead when two quick cautions flew on laps two and then the following circuit bunched up the field.
On each restart, Finley used his momentum from the outside lane, not normally the preferred groove around the egg-shaped speed plant, and would pull away from Downey and the rest of the field. As the laps clicked off, Downey, who had Hemric trailing him in third, regrouped and reeled in Finley and the two drivers battled hard for the point until Downey took over the lead on lap 28 bringing Hemric and hometown favorite, David McManus with him.
The third and as it turns out, the final caution flew on lap 33 and just prior to the caution, McManus slipped by Hemric to take over second place. On the restart, McManus would beat Downey to the first corner to briefly take the lead to the roar and approval of the partisan hometown crowd on hand. Downey again regrouped however and drove back by McManus to reclaim the top spot and Hemric would also slip by McManus to again take over second.
From there, Hemric would stay glued to Downey back bumper throughout the last half of the race as Downey tried to lose him by sneaking in and out of lapped traffic, but all the while, Hemric continued to follow Downey’s tire tracks all around the Clio, Michigan speed plant. Finally with 10 laps to go, Hemric began to look inside and outside searching for a way around the Hoosier State veteran.
With the five laps to go signal given by Chief Starter Robert Tower, Hemric dove to the inside of Downey heading into turn one. Both drivers touched and both drivers did a miraculous job of saving their machines as it would be Hemric who recovered first and took the lead for the first time of the night on lap 96 and in the end, Hemric would keep Downey at a safe distance behind him to complete the sweep of the entire day.
“We were pretty fast right off the hauler. That’s all because of this team. We keep coming to new tracks and somehow find a way to get competitive in a hurry,” Hemric continued as he reflected on the entire day that saw the Tar Heel State driver claim the top spot in Practice as well as the Fast Qualifier Award before completing the sweep of the day by winning. “We’ll get ready for the last new track on the schedule at Owosso. I’ve heard a lot of good things about that place and I know this whole team is looking forward to it.”
Downey in his No. 25 Commonwealth Engineers Incorporated / Ford settled for the runner-up spot and has now taken a stranglehold on the runner-up spot in the chase for the 2012 JEGS/CRA title. “We had a really good car tonight and I really thought we’d finally be standing over there,” The Brownsburg, Indiana driver stated as he directed the attention to Hemric who was taking part in post-race ceremonies after his win. “Congratulations to him (Hemric) and we’ll move on to the next one. We were fast at Owosso last season and hopefully we’ll pick up one more spot there in a couple of weeks.” The 30-year-old ended.
Leading the contingent of Auto City Speedway regulars would be Clio, Michigan’s own, David McManus as his excitement was clearly visible as he climbed from his No. 7 Auto Body Complete / Chevrolet. “To compete against these guys like we did tonight with the small limited budget we have, this feels like a win!” The 28-year-old driver stated. “I wish we had more sponsorship dollars to run full-time with the JEGS/CRA Series. This is a great tour and I had been waiting for this race all year long and to do so well, I’m very happy for this entire team and for the sponsorship support we do have.” McManus ended.
Two more Auto City regulars finished off the top five as 19-year-old Jimmy Novak and Robbie Johnson both scored career high finishes in JEGS/CRA competition by finishing fourth and fifth respectively.
Early Race Leader Finley was sixth while Jerrod Foley, Five Star Racecar Bodies & Racing Electronics Hard-Charger Award Winner Josh Nelms, 16-year-old Cody Coughlin, and 14-year-old Anderson Bowen, the Howie Lettow Memorial Rookie of the Year Presented by Howe Racing Enterprises Points Leader wrapped up the top 10.