Who Will Wear The Crown In Tonight’s World Crown 300?

Paul Kelley, seen here in victory lane in 2007, is the only four time winner of the World Crown. No other driver has won more than two of the Georgia short track classics. Photo by Brandon Reed

The field for tonight’s 29th annual World Crown 300 at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, GA may be one of the deepest talent wise that the North Georgia speed plant has seen since the opening years of the famed “King of the Short Tracks” event.

Fans are already picking favorites, with opinions varied as to who may have the measure of the speedway and the field.  But one thing all the railbirds are agreeing on is that the event is sure to be a battle between youth and exuberance and treachery and old age.

One of the main names fans are looking towards to create excitement is young phenom Chase Elliott.  The Dawsonville, GA speedster has dominated both Late Model events held at GMP this year.  He’s on a roll this year, winning his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series event earlier this year at Iowa.  He’s also picked up Late Model wins at Mobile International Speedway, and 5 Flags Speedway.  As the defending winner of the famed Snowball Derby in 5 Flags back in December, he will absolutely be one to watch on the Jefferson high banks.

Also on a roll coming into the World Crown is Senoia, GA racer Bubba Pollard.  Pollard is hot off a sweep of the recent Gulf Coast Super Late Model weekend, with back-to-back wins at 5 Flags and Mobile in the same weekend.  Pollard has seen his success in Super Late Models at Gresham Motorsports Park, but has seemed snake bit several times in the World Crown.  But a win earlier this year in the Rattler 250 has signaled Pollard’s luck in the longer races may have turned.  Look for Pollard to have a say in the final laps of the 300.

Then there’s the NASCAR contingent that will be competing for the first time in many years in the World Crown.  The list is topped by Unadilla, GA’s David Ragan, who scored the July Sprint Cup event at Daytona International Speedway last year.  Ragan, who competed earlier this year at SpeedFest at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, GA, will be making his first start in competition on the GMP layout, which was implemented in 2009.  Camping World Truck Series competitor Max Gresham will also be doing battle, driving a Super Late Model owned by long time North Georgia racer Jason Hogan.  Fellow CWTS driver Cale Gale, a long time GMP competitor, will also be in the field.  NASCAR Nationwide stand out Ryan Blaney, who has come close to victory several times at GMP in a variety of cars, may have one of his best shots at victory, as he’ll be piloting the blue No. 98 Carswell Motorsports entry that won the World Crown in 2010 with Justin Wakefield at the keyboard.

But when you come to the World Crown 300, there’s one driver you have to look at as a favorite, no matter who the competition is, is Paul Kelley.  Kelley, known as the “King of the World Crown”, has won a record four World Crowns, with those coming in 2001, 2006, 2007, and 2009.

No other driver has won more than two World Crowns.

Kelley has won the event several different ways.  In one instance, pit strategy put Kelley in position to challenge Matt Hawkins for the win.  Hawkins had dominated the event, only to have Kelley muscle his way past with two laps to go to take the lead and record the win.

In 2009, Kelley was flagged as the third place finisher, but inherited the win after the first and second place cars failed post-race tech.

This year, Kelley will be piloting a car owned by R.S. Senter.  Earlier this year, he drove his way through the field to come home third in a 100-lap late model event, trailing only Chase Elliott and Bubba Pollard at the end.

Mike Garvey has won several races over the years on the Jefferson high banks, but has bee snake bit in the World Crown.  In fact, it seems he found almost every way to lose the famed event.  But he’s still a threat to win, and with the strong run he and his team are on coming into tonight’s event, he could finally be the one to wear the crown.

Other drivers to watch tonight include youngster Spencer David, Dalton Grindle (who will have 1998 World Crown champion Jimmy Garmon on his pit box as crew chief), T.J. Reaid (who will pilot a team car to Chase Elliott), Kenzie Ruston, Kyle Benjamin, Stephen Nasse, Brady Boswell, Clay Alexander and Casey Smith.

Action gets underway with practice at noon, World Crown qualifying at 4:45 pm, Opening Ceremonies at 5:25, followed by 35 lap features for the Truck and Outlaw Late Model divisions, with the World Crown 300 slated to roll off afterwards.

For more information, visit www.racegmp.com.

Check back at Raceweek Illustrated for updates from track side throughout the day.

Gresham Motorsports Park – Jefferson, GA
World Crown 300 Entries (as of July 3, 2012)

Number Driver Location
29 Spencer Davis Dawsonville, GA
26 Johnny Henderson Conyers, GA
9 Chase Elliott Dawsonville, GA
36 Rodney Benefield Flowery Branch, GA
23 Dalton Grindle Flowery Branch, GA
41 T. J. Reaid Acworth, GA
92 Max Gresham Griffin, GA
10 Paul Kelley Pendergrass, GA
39 Kenzie Ruston Mooresville, NC
71 Kyle Benjamin Easley, SC
51 Stephen Nasse Pinellas Park, FL
33 Brandon Jones Atlanta, GA
98 Ryan Blaney Woodstock, GA
2 Donnie Wilson Okalhoma City, OK
77 David Ragan Unadilla, GA
83 Cale Gale Mobile, AL
AK47 Allen Karnes Sharpsburg, GA
2 Brady Boswell Watkinsville, GA
4 Erik Jones Byron, MI
84 Clay Alexander Franklin, TN
1 Mike Garvey Pensacola, FL
75 David Odell Winder, GA
26 Bubba Pollard Senoia, GA
99 Casey Smith Austin, TX
89 Matt Tifft Hinckley, OH
29 Austin Theriault Mooresville, NC
55 Mason Mitchell West Des Moines, IA


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