By: Eric Huenefeld
As the Big 8 Late Model Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet closes out it’s tenth anniversary season, both its Championship and Rookie of the Year point battles are coming down to the wire. This fact, coupled with the unpredictable nature of each Big 8 Series event at Rockford Speedway, means no point lead is safe as the series takes to the track during Rockford Speedway’s 49th Annual National Short Track Championship.
Coming into Rockford, 2013 Big 8 Series champion Casey Johnson is in position to ‘repeat the feat.’ The Edgerton Wisconsin native has won three Big 8 Series events in 2014, including the season opener at Columbus (WI) 151 Speedway. Johnson also captured both 65 lap feature events at Jefferson (WI) Speedway two weeks ago, pocketing his first Wisconsin State Championship in the process. Johnson’s weekend at Jefferson was a great start to a stretch of ‘four races in four weeks’ to determine the 2014 Big 8 Series champion, with his weekend sweep extending what was a four point lead to a thirty-seven point lead.
While Johnson leads the points, teenager Austin Nason is his nearest competition. The Roscoe resident Nason is also the most recent winner on the Big 8 tour, pocketing the check at Elko (MN) Speedway last weekend, outrunning Johnson to the checkered flag en route to the win. Earlier in 2014, Nason earned his first ever Big 8 win, conquering the ‘World’s Fastest Quarter Mile’ at Slinger (WI) Super Speedway. Nason is a former Sportsman division champion at Rockford and also the former NASCAR Late Model Rookie of the Year. A win at Rockford could be just what the doctor ordered for Nason as the series heads towards the finish line.
Big 8 competitors have learned through the years to never count out ‘Driver X’ Jon Reynolds Jr at Rockford Speedway. Reynolds has been the man to beat in recent series trips to Rockford Speedway, winning four of the last six 108 lap features at National Short Track Championships. Reynolds currently sits third in Big 8 Series point standings and has won three Big 8 Late Model Series races in 2014 (at Madison, Dells Raceway and State Park Speedway) and also collected his first ever Rockford Speedway track championship this summer.
The Big 8 Rookie of the Year battle is also coming down to the wire, with Wisconsin’s Tom Jasinski leading Minnesota teen Collin Olson by just two points with just two races remaining. Olson held a slim lead in the Rookie of the Year chase going into last weekend at Elko and appeared poised to extend the lead on Jasinski, but a late race spin ruined Olson’s hopes and put Jasinski back in the Rookie of the Year drivers seat.
The 2014 Big 8 Late Model Series Championship and Rookie of the Year will be determined next Saturday October 4 at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem Wisconsin as part of the Oktoberfest Racing Weekend.