By Lonnie Wheatley
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (September 7, 2022) – I-30 Speedway’s 35th Annual COMP Cams Short Track Nationals presented by Hoosier Tires may still be another three weekends away.
But a starting position in the $15,041-to-win, $1,100-to-start event will be secured this Saturday night.
I-30 Speedway hosts the ASCS Mid-South sanctioned 15th Annual “Ralph Henson Tribute” this Saturday atop the high-banked, ¼-mile clay oval. And while the final STN tune-up event offers a healthy chunk of change worth $5,646 to the winner, the event will also determine the 2022 track champion.
The driver that earns that track title earns an automatic bid into the October 1 STN finale, as the 21st starting position is reserved for said champion if necessary. While the ultimate champion would prefer to race his way into a better starting position, the $1,100 guaranteed starting position is even more motivation going into this Saturday’s card.
Marion, Arkansas’ shoe Derek Hagar holds the current edge. But a very slight edge it is at just three points over Cody Gardner with defending track champ Howard Moore and Blake Jenkins lurking in the weeds as well with an outside shot of stealing the track crown.
With three points per feature position on the line as well as 3-2-1 in heats, each position all night will be critical for Hagar and Gardner. And should something happen to them, Moore could conceivably make up a 27-point deficit while longer odds await Jenkins at 40 points back.
Hagar, Gardner and Moore are all familiar with STN finales while the younger Jenkins aims for his first start in the championship event.
Hagar has raced his way into eight previous STN championship events, scoring back-to-back prelim wins in 2019 and 2020 before locking in with a runner-up finish in the first of last year’s Friday night Twin 20’s.
Hagar has finished among the top eight in five of the last six STN finales with a runner-up finish in 2020 his best to date. Hagar finished out last year’s event in fifth.
With 12 preliminary feature starts to his credit, Gardner started on the pole in his seventh career STN finale last year and finished out the night with a career-best STN finish of seventh after a ninth-place showing in 2018.
Moore has raced his way into five consecutive STN finales with a high-water mark of third in 2018 the best of two top-ten finishes. Moore finished out last year’s event in 15th.
After this Saturday’s “Ralph Henson Tribute”, the 35th Annual COMP Cams Short Track Nationals presented by Hoosier Tires fires to life with a Test ‘N Tune on Thursday, September 29, followed by Friday’s (September 30) preliminary action that culminates with “Twin 20” features and then the October 1 STN championship finale.
With the added start money for Saturday night, the total feature payout for the two nights is at a minimum of $64,591 pending the need for the provisional starter on Saturday night.
Entries for the event have already began to flow into the I-30 Speedway track office. Pre-entries submitted by Tuesday, September 27, are $100 and include a free two-day driver pit pass. Entries after September 27 are $100 with no pit pass included. The entry form is available at https://www.i-30speedway.com/downloads/get.aspx?i=760397.
In addition to Big Show Productions that boosted start pay to a minimum of $1,100, the STN winner’s share was previously increased to $15,041 courtesy of MPV with Buckaroo Hatters and Mike Moore making the initial boost to the back portion of the field.
Reigning Lucas Oil ASCS National Tour champion Blake Hahn of Sapulpa, OK, has found the high-banked, ¼-mile I-30 Speedway clay oval to his liking in recent years by topping three of the last four renditions of the Short Track Nationals.
After going back-to-back in 2018 and 2019, Hahn made a lap 39 move past Jordon Mallett and then beat defending STN champ Sam Hafertepe, Jr., to the stripe for his third STN crown.
The triumph matched Steve Kinser’s three STN titles in the early years of the event while Hall of Famers Sammy Swindell and Gary Wright lead the way with five and four victories, respectively.
Other drivers with multiple STN wins include Paul McMahan and Tony Bruce, Jr., with single wins posted by the likes of Hafertepe, Jr., NASCAR star Christopher Bell, reigning World of Outlaws champion Brad Sweet, Jason Meyers, Jason Johnson, Tim Montgomery, Jason Sides, Mike Ward, Tim Crawley, Wayne Johnson, Pete Butler, Terry Gray and John Gerloff.
The 35th Annual COMP Cams Short Track Nationals presented by Hoosier Tires kicks off with a Test ‘N Tune on Thursday, September 29 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The Pertinent Info:
The What: 35th Annual COMP Cams Short Track Nationals presented by Hoosier Tires.
The Where: I-30 Speedway (Little Rock, AR). I-30 Speedway is located seven miles southwest of Little Rock off I-30 Exit 126 (Alexander Road).
The When: September 29 through October 1, 2022. (Test ‘N Tune on Thursday, September 29, followed by two full cards of racing action on September 30 and October 1).
The Format: Friday’s preliminary event will be contested under a derivative of the All Star Circuit of Champions format, with group qualifying establishing heat race lineups with an invert of four in each heat race. The Friday preliminary will conclude with “Twin 20’s”, a pair of $1,500-to-win 20-lap “A” Main events.
The top two from each of the “Twin 20’s” will be locked into Saturday night’s “Dash for Cash” and the championship main event.
Friday events points accumulated will be carried over to Saturday night, with another set of heats utilizing passing points added to the Friday total to set the championship feature lineups. The top two in combined points from Friday night and the Saturday heat races with join Friday’s four lock-ins in the Pack Building Materials “Dash for Cash”. The next eight in points will occupy STN championship feature positions 7-14 with the balance of the field in “B” and “C” Mains. Three will transfer from both “B” Mains to set the 20-car feature field. The 21st position is reserved for this year’s I-30 Speedway track champion if necessary.
The Past Winners:
2020–Sam Hafertepe, Jr.
2009-Tony Bruce, Jr.
2008-Tony Bruce, Jr.
The Tickets: Advance two-day tickets are $45.
Day of show prices are $20 on Friday and $30 on Saturday.
Children under 12 are admitted free on both nights courtesy of Dairy Queen.
To order tickets or for more information, check online at https://i-30speedway.com/short-track-nationals/ or call the track at 501-455-4567.
Pit passes are $40 on both Friday and Saturday. Driver pit pass for Friday and Saturday is included in the $100 entry fee if submitted by the deadline.
The Broadcast: If you can’t make it to the STN to catch all the breathtaking action in person, no need to fret as you can catch it all live online at www.floracing.com.
For more information regarding I-30 Speedway’s Short Track Nationals, check at www.i-30speedway.com or call the track at 501-455-4567.