Last year, Ray Cook made the decision to expand his race promotion enterprise. Capitalizing on the already successful mid-summer Southern Nationals Series, the North Carolina-based racer/promoter started a new mini-tour dubbed the Spring Nationals.
Steve Casebolt was the first to be crowned champion and will look to defend his title as the series is set to begin its 2014 campaign this weekend(March 14 & 15) at the Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn. The Spring Nationals has garnered sponsorship from Old Man’s Garage as a result of the success it experienced in its initial outing.
Chris Tilley has worked closely with Cook since 2008, serving in the capacities of series announcer and press release writer for the Southern Nationals as well as the newly formed Spring Nationals.
“We just really hit it off with Ray and with the Masters family,” Tilley explained of his relationship with Cook and his partners in the Southern Nationals, Keith and Tader Masters.
As was the case last year, the ‘Spring Thaw’ at the Volunteer Speedway will host back-to-back races that will serve as the opening for the series. Friday night’s feature event will pay $4,000 to the winner while Saturday’s weekend finale will offer a hefty $10,000 first prize.
“We can’t say enough about Joe and Phyllis Loven up there for stepping up and making that a two night deal,” Tilley said of the track owners of the Bulls Gap facility. “The Spring Thaw had always been a one day deal before, but they’ve really done a lot with it.
“And you noticed last year just how good the racing was,” Tilley continued. “It really was an exciting weekend. Dale McDowell won on Friday and John Blankenship won on Saturday. That served as a kick start for Blankenship as he went on to do big things with the Lucas Series and the World 100 last year, but it all started right there at Bulls Gap. We all talked about it after the race that he was going to do some things in 2013, and sure enough he did.”
The second weekend of the Spring Nationals will come on March 28 & 29 with visits to Cook’s own Tri-County Race Track in Brasstown, NC then a return to east Tennessee at the Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville.
“That is one of the best tracks in the country that people don’t know a lot about,” Tilley declared of the Tri-County facility. “It truly is a hidden gem.”
The ownership at Smoky Mountain Speedway immediately took a liking to the series last year and played a significant role in helping Cook realize a significant goal he set when forming the tour.
“They’re not afraid to step up and pay to get the drivers and fans into that place,” Tilley said of the SMS management team. “The goal for this series is to have $10,000 weekends, and last year Smoky Mountain was one of the first tracks, along with the Dixie Speedway, to offer $6,000-to-win in this series.”
The series leaves the east Tennessee region to run three consecutive nights in Kentucky at the 201 Speedway, Ponderosa Speedway and Florence Speedway on April 17, 18 and 19. Then, the final leg swings back through the Volunteer State with runs at Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel and the Boyd’s Speedway just outside of Chattanooga before finishing at Georgia’s Dixie Speedway.
“Duck River has quickly become a new favorite of mine. I just love the remarkable job Bob Harris has done with that place,” Tilley remarked of the track that will host the series on May 8.
Boyd’s Speedway will be under new management in 2014 as the ownership team of David Duplissey and Dale McDowell gear up for their first season at the helm of the Ringgold, GA track. Their turn with the Spring Nationals will come on May 9.
“That’s a track where you never know who’s going to win,” Tilley explained of the track located literally on the Tennessee/Georgia state line. “When you go to Boyd’s there’s two things you don’t know, who’s going show up and who’s going to win. That’s what Boyd’s is famous for. And, it’s a great facility that’s very fan friendly.”
The Spring Nationals will conclude at the Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, GA with a $6,000-to-win event on May 10.