NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rookie Jake Garcia has taken a liking to the Winchester 400 recently, having given himself a chance to win the marquee Super Late Model event each of the last two years. However, he still searches for his first rifle after two near-misses.
Coming to a green-white-checkers finish in 2021, The Georgia driver made contact with the turn one wall while leading. The contact relegated him to a fourth place finish in the 50th Winchester 400. Last year, Garcia led 77 laps but was passed for the lead by Stephen Nasse with 34 to go and would finish fourth yet again.
As he makes his ASA STARS National Tour debut on Sunday, October 15, he hopes the third time will be the charm.
“I feel like we’ve been pretty close to winning that one the past couple years. It takes a lot to have it all come together in that race because it’s so long,” said Garcia. “I’m excited for it; it’s one of my favorite racetracks and I’m looking forward to being back in the Late Model.”
Garcia’s focus has been on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, where he has a pair of top-five finishes in his rookie year with McAnally-Hilgemann Racing. He’s only made three starts in a Super Late Model in 2023, but he’s made the best of each opportunity – finishing third at CRA SpeedFest at Crisp Motorsports Park before winning the North/South Super Late Model Challenge at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and a Southern Super Series race at Crisp.
While he is satisfied with the direction his Super Late Model program is heading, he admits that very little of it can transfer to 400 laps around Winchester Speedway.
“In terms of Late Model racing, the year’s gone very well. We’ve ran three races total and finished third at SpeedFest and two wins. We’ve made a lot of steps in the right direction with our program and hopefully we can continue to improve on it but Winchester’s a lot different than most other tracks we go to. I’m not sure if Nashville or Cordele will be a very good indication of how our car will be at Winchester but it’s given us the confidence to go in and hopefully continue the streak.”
While he hasn’t spent much time behind the wheel of a Late Model, he’s still been very involved with the team and crew chief Ricky Turner when 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott has competed in various Super Late Model events. His family team has also fielded a car for fellow Georgia driver Seth Christensen for Pro Late Model races around the Southeast, winning the Alabama 200 at Montgomery Motor Speedway in just the teenager’s second start in a full-sized car.
“Helping out Seth (Christensen) has been great. He’s been learning every race and has been getting better. I’ve been really happy to work with Seth and help him get his feet wet in Late Models. It’s good to have different drivers in our cars because they all give different feedback and it’s all helpful to Ricky in improving our cars.”
As his attention turns towards the Winchester 400 and the remainder of “big race season” on the Super Late Model side, Garcia looks to keep his winning streak going in a race that has eluded him the past two years.
“It’s one of the crown jewels of Late Model racing so it would definitely be a big win. We’ve been so close and showed so much speed over the past couple years, I’m just excited to have a better shot at it.”
The ASA STARS National Tour heads to Winchester Speedway on Sunday, October 15 for the Winchester 400 Presented by Vore’s Welding and Steel. The race will also serve as the season finale for the ASA/CRA Super Series. Tickets can be purchased by calling the track office at (765)584-9701 during office hours.
The ASA STARS National Tour opened the ten race, six-state schedule at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL on March 11. Jesse Love is the most recent winner, claiming the victory in Glass City 200 on September 16.
For the full ASA STARS National Tour schedule, please visit the series website at starsnationaltour.com. Be sure to follow the series on social media (Facebook: STARS National Series | Twitter: @racewithstars | IG: @starsnational).
ASA STARS PR