The fourth season of the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Presented by Chevrolet Performance is about to begin in a big way. This Sunday, May 4th at Springport Motor Speedway in Michigan, the Cabin Fever 100 Presented by JEGS.com kicks off the new season.
For the fourth year in a row, there is a guarantee of a new series champion. 2013 titlist Cody Coughlin is now racing with the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards while also making select appearances in the ARCA/CRA Super Series Powered by JEGS. His cohorts before him used their JEGS Tour championships to lead to big things in the sport. 2012 champ Daniel Hemric won the inaugural Southern Super Series title in 2013. 2011 champion Erik Jones parlayed his JEGS Tour title to two Snowball Derby victories and a win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports.
The 2014 crop of talent represents the future of motorsports mixed in with talented veterans looking to keep the ambitious younger generation at bay. When the season’s final green flag falls at Winchester Speedway in Winchester, Indiana during the 43rd running of the Winchester 400 Weekend on October 10th, only the best of the best that the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour has to offer will have positioned themselves for a shot at the 2014 Championship or the 2014 Howie Lettow Memorial Rookie of the Year title Presented by Howe Racing Enterprises, or perhaps both.
Here’s a sneak peak at who to look for in terms of title contenders, those in the hunt, the dark horses, wild cards and rookies to watch leading into the season opener this Sunday, May 4th in Springport, Michigan. A packed house is expected for a Sunday afternoon full of racing excitement that also includes the Top Speed Fabrication ICAR Modifieds Tour and four weekly divisions who will also be in action. For those fans that are unable to make it to the Central Michigan, Speed51.com will have live Trackside Now Coverage starting at 10:00a.m.
0 Josh Nelms - The 38-year-old has teamed up with perennial powerhouse, T.K. Racing, for the 2014 season. The Lockport, Illinois veteran will make a run at the title and for the first time in his career, has all the tools and the people in place, mainly Crew Chief, John Signore from T.K. Racing, to get the job done. The most successful driver in JEGS/CRA history to not have a win, Nelms will look to make that long-awaited trip to victory lane in 2014 and could visit more than once. At the end of the season, the long-time template/crate competitor from the old Varney Late Model Series may finally be able to possibly raise the trophy as champion.
5 Dominique Van Wieringen - If the last two points races of the 2013 JEGS/CRA season were any indication, Van Wieringen will have a breakout year in 2014. The Amherstburg, Ontario sophomore put on a driving clinic en route to her first career win at Lucas Oil Raceway (IN) during the 2013 CRA Fall Brawl. The 2013 Rookie of the Year runner-up nearly backed up her win in the Circle City with another dominating performance at Winchester Speedway (IN) before power steering problems relegated her to a second-place finish. She was passed coming out of turn four heading to the checkers. The 18-year-old has a world of potential that could carry her to not only more wins, but the 2014 title.
71 Corey Deuser - The 2013 Howie Lettow Memorial Rookie of the Year is hoping to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. Expect the 16-year-old to not only avoid any kind of a downfall, but to contend for the 2014 championship. The Georgetown, Indiana teenager wasn't happy with not becoming the first rookie to win a point race when Dominique Van Wieringen accomplished the feat in September 2013. So Deuser went ahead and passed Van Wieringen on the last lap out of turn four at the historic Winchester Speedway (IN) during Winchester 400 weekend to ice the Rookie title in 2013. Expect Deuser to garner more wins in 2014 and be right there in the title hunt.
12 Dan Leeck - Several missed opportunities in 2013 cost the Birch Run, Michigan driver the title. Leeck is hoping to avoid those mistakes of the past and contend for the 2014 championship. All the tools are in place for the 24-year-old to emerge as a legitimate title contender. Veteran Crew Chief Neil May is now on top of the pit box and will definitely help with Leeck who looks to avoid those issues that hindered his title hopes from a year ago. He still finished third in points last year and like Nelms, Leeck is another driver who is one of the best in the series without a trip to victory lane. Expect that to change in 2014 and when he finally earns that elusive victory, there's no telling what else he can accomplish.
In the Hunt
04 Jerrod Foley - Another driver who, stat-wise, is one of the better JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour drivers in the series' brief history without a win. The Williamsburg, Kentucky driver, who now works for Port City Racecars and resides in Muskegon, Michigan, has been in the hunt for wins and for a championship the past two seasons with his family owned team. He finished sixth in 2012 and fifth in 2013. The 22-year-old made appearances in 29 consecutive JEGS/CRA events, a series record, between 2012 and 2013. Although his plans to follow the entire tour for a third straight season are not official, expect the Blue Grass State competitor to be at every race and continue to contend for wins and possibly a title.
47 Dakota Stroup - Somewhat of a surprise entry into the fold for the 2014 racing season, Stroup will take the route paved by Foley and make the trip from Owensboro, Kentucky to compete for the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Championship. The 2012 Florida Speedweeks Pro Late Model Champion is well traveled down south having competed at most every facility south of the Blue Grass State. But on the JEGS Tour, just about every track will be new to the 23-year-old. Stroup was impressive in his lone JEGS/CRA appearance, a third at Lucas Oil Raceway (IN), last July and if he can get off to a fast start, Stroup could very well surprise everyone with title contention.
13 Hunter Baize - With three-time CRA Championship winning Crew Chief Butch VanDoorn calling the shots on top of the pit box and three-time ARCA/CRA Super Series Champion Johnny VanDoorn as his driver coach and spotter, the 16-year-old will be a force to be reckoned with in JEGS/CRA. The third straight Kentucky based driver in the 'in the hunt' category, the Bremen, Kentucky teenager has a wealth of knowledge and resources as VanDoorn Racing Development's first driver within their stables. If Baize merely listens and does what the VanDoorns tell him to do and is a sponge when it comes to learning from them, Baize could pull off some wins and even contend for the championship.
4 Dalton Armstrong - The newest driver in the Scott Neal Racing stable has already been racing quite a bit as he has two starts in the ARCA/CRA Super Series where he is also gunning for CRA's top division's freshman title. The season will be a long one for the 19-year-old open-wheeled graduate from New Castle, Indiana as he goes through the wear and tear of competing in two different touring series. If that begins to drain on the full-bodied stock car rookie, Scott Neal, the 2012 Championship winning Car Owner and Crew Chief with Daniel Hemric, will be right there to keep him motivated.
61 Tracy Schuler - The Plainfield, Illinois veteran has been racing longer than the majority of the drivers he'll be competing against have been alive. The 55-year-old is a major surprise entry into the JEGS/CRA wars and has indicated he will be running the full schedule of events. He is also one of only a handful of drivers still competing who raced in the old ARTGO Challenge Series, his first race there was in 1982 and his only win in ARTGO was in the 1996 World Cup 300 at the now closed I-70 Speedway (MO). The Prairie State veteran has made three JEGS/CRA appearances with a high finish of fifth at Illiana Motor Speedway (IN) in 2011. He will rely heavily on his experience and that could pay huge dividends.
97 Jaxson Jacobs - One of the two racing Jacobs brothers, the youngest of the two London, Ontario siblings showed signs of life with solid finishes towards the end of his rookie year. An impressive career high fourth place finish in the final points race of the year at the legendary high-banks of Winchester Speedway (IN) during Winchester 400 weekend certainly opened a lot of eyes. Earlier in the year he finished sixth at another historic high-banks, Salem Speedway (IN). If the 16-year-old can keep that momentum going from his career high JEGS/CRA finish beginning with the opener at Springport, Jacobs could surprise a lot of people with consistent top 10s, which leads into top fives and eventually, wins.
8 Marc Jacobs - The oldest of the 'Brothers Jacobs' racing family, the 21-year-old showed more consistency than his younger brother towards the end of their rookie years. But Marc couldn't garner the better finishes and that resulted in him finishing four points back of Jaxson in the final 2013 points standings. He did register three top 10s in 2013 with a career high seventh place at the tricky Auto City Speedway (MI). Also like his brother, the London, Ontario driver had a knack for doing well at the big high-banked facilities with a pair of eighth place finishes at Salem Speedway (IN) and Winchester Speedway (IN). If his consistency continues to improve, better finishes will come and so will title contention.
11 Keith Sterkowitz - A two-time CRA Late Model Sportsman Series Champion, Sterkowitz is a conundrum of sorts when it comes to JEGS/CRA racing. The Cedar Lake, Indiana native is at or near the top of every statistical category in CRA LMS history. He has 10 career wins in CRA's feeder tour to JEGS/CRA, second all-time, yet that success has come nowhere close to duplicating itself in JEGS/CRA. The 42-year-old needs to change that around in a hurry and there's no better place for doing that then at Springport during the 2014 season opener. His career high finish in JEGS/CRA is only a 12th. That has to change soon for Sterkowitz to have any hopes of being a contender for wins, let alone a championship.
88 Trent Snyder - Percentage wise, Snyder is the most successful drivers in JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour history of those who have made more than one career appearance. In 12 career starts, he already has four victories. Those are very good numbers for the Glen Ellyn, Illinois competitor. Although he hasn't ran for any type of a series championship since winning the 2007 title in the old Varney Late Model Series Northern Division, the 30-year-old standout is always in contention for a win when he does show up. If he were to decide to make a full run at the JEGS/CRA championship, he would immediately surge up the list as the number-one contender for the title.
7 Kyle Crump - A driver who showed signs of the potential during his rookie season of 2013. Plenty of anticipation was awaiting him as he came from Front Wheel Drive Compacts class. The Brighton, Michigan driver spent a year competing on the weekly level at Auto City Speedway (MI) in 2012 before traveling with JEGS/CRA. The 18-year-old was impressive at the places where no one gets it the first time there. A fourth place finish at Berlin Raceway (MI) and a podium finish of a third at Winchester Speedway (IN) opened plenty of eyes. The team is burning the midnight oil trying to get ready for Springport and even if he does make it to the opener, there's a chance he may not run the entire schedule.
7 David McManus - It's very simple for the 30-year-old from Clio, Michigan; good finishes will lead to more races and that's the top priority. On one of the tighter budgets in the series, McManus has proven that he can do more with less than just about any driver anywhere. If he were with a top tiered team with more financial resources, the now Eaton Rapids, Michigan resident would be a title contender and would be visiting victory lane more than once. As it stands now, it's just McManus and his small team making the short trip to Springport. A solid finish, or more importantly, a top five showing would go a long way towards proving to those on the outside, with large checkbooks, that he belongs.
1 Trevor Berry - There's nothing more the 21-year-old can do in the open-wheeled world. So with that in mind, it's about time for the Clio, Michigan driver to take on fendered racing. The son of arguably one of the most successful Late Model competitors in the Midwest, Dennis Berry, the younger Berry comes to the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour with an impressive pedigree in the Sprint Car and Modified ranks. If that success carries over to the Late Models and Berry leaves Springport with a strong finish, it's possible that he would abandon his remaining open-wheeled plans and go full-time in JEGS/CRA. If that happens, a contender for the rookie title would emerge and the overall title would also be within reach.
Howie Lettow Memorial Rookie of the Year Title Contenders
99 J.J. Haley - Haley is one of a handful of drivers to completely utilize the complete CRA feeder system. He started in the CRA Street Stocks Series then moved up to the CRA Late Model Sportsman Series before heading to one of the two Late Model tours within CRA. The 15-year-old was impressive in the 2014 non-points opener, SpeedFest 2014 at Watermelon Capital Speedway (GA), where he collected a fourth-place finish. The Winamac, Indiana teenager will benefit greatly from the expert tutelage of Crew Chief Bobby Blount and will improve each and every time out. Will he follow the path of Cody Coughlin, Anderson Bowen and Corey Deuser laid before him and win the rookie title?
24 Chris Hacker - Another driver who graduated from the CRA Late Model Sportsman Series, the 2013 Rookie of the Year there will go for his second rookie title in a row, this time with JEGS/CRA. The 14-year-old will benefit from guidance by 2012 Championship winning Crew Chief Scott Neal who consults with the Noblesville, Indiana driver from time to time. Hacker's 2014 season is already off to a good start as in an effort to shake the rust off before running in JEGS/CRA full-time, the Hoosier State teenager won the 2014 CRA Late Model Sportsman Series season opener at his home track of Anderson Speedway (IN). If he can adapt quickly to the new tracks, to him, on the schedule, he'll be one to watch.
20 Cole Rouse - A product of the weekly wars at Lebanon I-44 Speedway (MO), the 16-year-old will make the long haul from Fort Smith, Arkansas to compete for the Rookie title. He'll rely heavily on the guidance of the 'Y-Town Hustler' Rick Turner and his Rick Turner Racing Team who have taken him in. They will house his entries during the year while Rouse travels back and forth following the 2014 JEGS/CRA tour. At Lebanon I-44 in 2013, his first year in a Late Model, he finished ninth in track points with two top fives and he did travel towards the end of the year and at the beginning of 2014. Like Hacker, if he can adapt to new facilities, and he should under Turner, he could surprise everyone.
24 Amber Slagle - One advantage that the 17-year-old may have over the rest of her fellow Howie Lettow Memorial Rookie of the Year title contenders is that the 2014 season opener is at the same track, Springport, where she finished fourth in points in the tracks Late Model Sportsman division. Slagle will look to get a jump start on her competition utilizing her track experience. Her Crew Chief is Chuck Hoffmeyer, who guided Dominique Van Wieringen to the 2012 Outlaw Super Late Model track title at Springport. So everything about the season opener plays into the Waterford, Michigan teenagers hands. If she can capitalize on that, it'll give her a nice head start going into the rest of the year.
81 Tristan Van Wieringen - A bit of a mystery when it comes to the crop of Howie Lettow Memorial Rookie of the Year title contenders. The younger brother of 2013 Rookie runner up Dominique Van Wieringen, the 16-year-old has only one year of experience in a full-sized machine after spending the majority of his young life racing in AMA Motocross. His motocross career ended after a near fatal accident. His first season in a car was in 2013 where he competed in the open-wheeled Modifieds division primarily at Springport where he did score one feature win. Something he has going for him is the season opener at Springport, a track he's familiar with. Time will tell what the younger Van Wieringen can do.