(LEBANON, MO.) - The entries continue stockpiling for what is shaping up to be one of the biggest Midwest pro late model showcases of the 2013 season. Lebanon I-44 Speedway track officials were excited to announce Tuesday that 17-year-old Chase Elliott, son of 1988 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner Bill Elliott, has committed to race in the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Mercy 'Masters of the Pros' 144 on Saturday, May 18. The touring series visits Missouri's only asphalt oval for an incredible minimum $8,000 to win, $600 to start late model showcase highlighted by the winner receiving a signature green jacket similar to the one donned by the champion of golf's The Masters event held in the home state of the Elliott clan.
"I think excited would be an understatement right now," Lebanon I-44 Speedway promoter Kevin Greven said. "This event is going to push the 2013 Lebanon I-44 Speedway season into new heights, and adding a driver of Chase's caliber only serves to further the significance of this inaugural showcase. He just came off of a huge pro late model win last weekend at the Larry Fleeman Memorial 198. Fans can watch Chase make his debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this weekend and any time that a Hendrick Motorsports development driver with the pedigree and heritage of a Chase Elliott joins the field, it adds a lot of excitement and prestige surrounding that event."
Chase Elliott made the decision to follow his father's racing footsteps at six-years-old, watching his father score an historic triumph in the 2002 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Hendrick Motorsports developmental star steps into the big leagues on April 6 at Martinsville Speedway when he pilots a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series machine in his NASCAR debut. Elliott is also running an ARCA car this season in addition to his regular short track racing schedule.
The teenager has come a long way in a short period of time on the track.
Elliott successfully transitioned from go-karts to late models in 2009, starting 31 races around the nation and notching four wins. The second-generation driver had become a full-fledged star within short track racing by the next year, recording 13 wins in 42 starts and becoming the youngest driver in history to win the Blizzard Series at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., the Miller Lite Series at Mobile (Ala) International Speedway, and the overall Sunoco Gulf Coast championships. The then 14-year-old also scored victories in the prestigious Winchester 400 and at the re-opened North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway.
As a reward for his rapid growth, Elliott earned a multi-year development contract with Hendrick Motorsports at the start of 2011, and followed that up by becoming the youngest driver in history to prevail in the renowned Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. Elliott found his way into the winner's circle eight times en route to a CRA National Super Late Model championship in November of that year.
Elliott continued his short track dominance last season with 10 wins, including his first NASCAR triumph in the K&N Pro Series East/West Showdown at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. He also won the prestigious Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., before reaching victory lane with a win in the World Crown 300 at Gresham Motorsports Park.
Off the track, Elliott has been honored for his rise through the racing ranks, garnering honors from Sports Illustrated as their High School Player of the Week in 2011 before being voted by fans as ESPN Magazine's "NEXT" racer, which highlights up-and-coming athletes that are considered on the cusp of stardom.
"It goes without saying that the Elliott name has cachet and commands respect within racing," Greven said. "Combined with Ross Kenseth's commitment and a couple of other developments in the works, the entry list for the inaugural Mercy 'Masters of the Pros' 144 is quickly becoming one of the strongest pro late model fields in the Midwest during the 2013 season."
The rules package that the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour employs is close to ours so our local late model drivers will be able to enter the event and defend our home track with only a few changes. Around 35-40 cars, including 20 or so series regulars, are expected for the super late model showcase.
Mercy is the sixth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and includes 32 hospitals, 300 outpatient facilities, 38,000 co-workers and 1,900 integrated physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Health care in Lebanon, Missouri and surrounding communities has always been built upon a cornerstone of serving the needs of the area residents. The Mercy Health Foundation Lebanon continues this same commitment of providing for the medical needs of the community members. Mercy Health Foundation Lebanon is led by a volunteer board of community leaders and served by an active group of committee volunteers. Since 2004, the Foundation has continued to grow because of a need for more medical services and the generous spirit of the people of this community.
Champion Racing Association (CRA) sanctions four different nationally and regionally recognized short track racing tours. Founded in 1997, CRA tours include the ARCA/CRA Super Series for Super Late Models, the JEGS/CRA All Stars Tour presented by Chevrolet Performance for Pro Late Models, the Top Speed Fabrication/CRA Late Model Sportsman, and Stealth Trailers/CRA Street Stocks. For more information on the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour or CRA Racing, visit their site at www.cra-racing.com. Fans and teams can find even more news and discussion on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CRARacing or on Twitter at @CRARACING.
Lebanon I-44 Speedway is located four miles east of the Lebanon city limits on Historic Route 66 and Missouri's only NASCAR sanctioned facility. Patrons using Interstate 44 may take Exit 135 and then drive approximately one mile east on Route 66 to the track's main entrance. Additional information about this event, including a full schedule of events, the rules being enforced, and a purse distribution, will be released on the facility's official website, www.i44speedway.net in the coming weeks. Keep up with news about Lebanon I-44 Speedway on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Lebanon-I-44-Speedway, and on Twitter (@i44Speedway).