NASCAR came back to the Mid-South over the weekend with its only visit to the region at the Memphis International Raceway in Millington, Tenn.
Never having ever seen a NASCAR race of any kind before, I decided to go up there and check out what NASCAR automobile racing is all about.
It was the K&N Pro Series East Memphis 150, held on the .75 mile track north of Millington. The K&N Pro Series East is the competitive schedule of 13 races held primarily in the eastern part of the United States but does go out to the Iowa Speedway near Des Moines, Iowa for the Casey’s General Stores 150 race on that track.
Saturday’s running was the fifth race in the season series. There is a similar series of NASCAR races run in the western half of the country.
Fourteen drivers took off from the starting line Saturday night, including last year’s champion and a favorite with many of the fans who came out, Ruben Garcia Jr.
Garcia entered the race ninth in the points standings with 139 points, behind leader Derek Kraus with 168 points.
But it was Chase Cabre who took the checkered flag. Cabre, from Tampa, Fla., started the race in the 10th position and using opportunities throughout the race to move up, took the lead late and went on to take the title.
Cabre said it had been awhile since his Honda Generators/E3 Spark Plugs Toyota outran the competition.
“It feels awesome, I’m so pumped up,” Cabre said after the race. “It’s been a long time coming, three years and we were finally able to get the job done. We’ve had a streak of seconds and I’m glad to break that streak and come home with a win. Hopefully it’s the start of some solid momentum.”
Coming up second was Charlotte, N.C. driver Ty Gibbs, the 16-year-old grandson of legendary Super Bowl-winning football coach and NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs. The younger Gibbs is also a contender for Sunoco Rookie of the Year.
Cabre credited patience toward his victory, explaining, “It was just a matter of being patient all during the race and playing it smart, making the right moves when I needed to make them and we came home on top.”
As far as Memphis is concerned, Cabre said he enjoys racing on the track.
“This track is awesome and I’m not saying that because I won here,” Cabre said. “This is a really cool place, the asphalt worn out really nice and bumpy and I hope they never repave this place. I’d love to see a Cup race here.”
Of the 14 drivers who ran at the Memphis race Saturday, the average age is a youthful 18.6 years old. The youngest drivers were Sam Mayer and Parker Retzlaff, both age 15. The “old man” you might say, was Garcia, at age 23.
The drivers also had a female contingent of one in Brittany Zamora, who runs the West Series full time and the East Series on a part time basis. Zamora, driving the number 99 Toyota Camry, did not finish in the top five, however and struggled to move up from the number 14 position she started the race.
The K&N Series of NASCAR is meant to develop the “young guns” of auto racing and Saturday was a fun night of action in the intimate setting of Memphis, compared to places like Daytona or Talladega.
If you weren’t able to make it out Saturday, you still have an opportunity to watch the race Tuesday, June 5 at 5 p.m. on the NBCSN cable network.
BEDNAREK EARNS MVP HONORS: DeSoto Central fastpitch softball standout Kaitlyn Bednarek powered her way to the Most Valuable Player award for the North team after the Class 4A/5A/6A All-Star series this weekend at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville.
Bednarek crushed three home runs in the two-game set against the South. She hit one in the series opening loss to the South Friday, followed by a pair of homers in Saturday’s bounce-back victory.
In addition to Bednarek, DeSoto Central was represented by Raegan Stafford in the All-Star event along with KeKe O’Bryant of Southaven. Lee Buse and Chris Summers of Saltillo were the North coaches for 4A/5A/6A this year.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.