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Short Track Weekly: Where to Find NASCAR Stars in the Grassroots World This Summer

It may not be official until June 20, but it feels like Summer is already upon us in the racing world. That means more racing for everyone, including the stars of NASCAR.

We’ve seen the inverse so far this season. Stars of the short track world have made their presence known in the NASCAR scene, with drivers like Carson Kvapil, Brenden ‘Butterbean’ Queen and Kaden Honeycutt impressing in NASCAR’s lower levels.

But what about established NASCAR competitors returning to the grassroots playground? With extra seat time as valuable as ever, many current and former NASCAR competitors will be contesting short track races over the next few months.

If you want to watch them all, we’ve got your back. Here’s a list of the current and former NASCAR stars who have plans to jump behind the wheel of a late model this summer, to help you find your favorite drivers in the short track scene.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It’s hard not to start with the man who seemingly drives the grassroots world. From helping restore North Wilkesboro Speedway to his ownership role in the zMAX CARS Tour, Earnhardt has become a key figure in the short track scene. But when will we see him back behind the wheel?

We’ve already seen Earnhardt in his Late Model Stock car twice so far in 2024 – once at Florence Motor Speedway in February for the Icebreaker, and again at New River All American Speedway for their CARS Tour event.

It has been confirmed that Earnhardt will be back behind the wheel of the famed Sun Drop No. 3 at Florence when the CARS Tour comes to town on Labor Day weekend, the same weekend as the Southern 500. That race is scheduled for Friday, August 30. The track sits just 20 minutes south of Darlington Raceway.

But we should also see Earnhardt back in the car before August, though we don’t know where. Earnhardt told Frontstretch.com that he would be behind the wheel at the end of July. All signs point towards an appearance at Langley Speedway for July 20’s annual Hampton Heat.

Kevin Harvick

From one CARS Tour owner to another. Harvick will return to the late model world this summer, jumping behind the wheel for the first time since his Cup Series retirement in 2023.

Harvick recently announced on his “Happy Hour” podcast that he would return to the drivers seat on Saturday, June 28 at Florida’s Five Flags Speedway. The event is an ASA-sanctioned Southern Super Series event, where Harvick will pilot a Busch Beer sponsored No. 62 Super Late Model.

Harvick also announced plans to return to the CARS Tour at North Wilkesboro Speedway on Saturday, August 3. He’ll pilot a Late Model Stock sponsored by Hunt Brothers Pizza.

Harvick’s lone CARS Tour start came at North Wilkesboro last year, when he finished 11th in a star-studded field.

Current Stewart-Haas Racing driver Josh Berry was originally slated to run the North Wilkesboro event back in May, but the postponement to August meant Berry was unavailable, opening the door for Harvick to jump back in.

Josh Berry

Speaking of Berry…

His Late Model plans weren’t completely destroyed by the rain at North Wilkesboro.

The Cup Series rookie has already been behind the wheel of a Kevin Harvick Inc. Super Late Model at Hickory Motor Speedway, racing the ASA STARS National Tour event on the Thursday before the Coke 600.

That isn’t all he had planned, though. Berry recently announced he will be behind the wheel of a Pro Late Model at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway on Thursday, June 27.

Berry has teamed up with Dylan Fetcho Racing to race at Nashville in the Battle of Broadway 150.

He also has another start plan. During a media session at North Wilkesboro, Berry told Frontstretch.com that he plans to run the CARS Tour event at Hickory on Saturday, July 27, driving for KHI. The event serves as the series’ throwback event and includes a $10,000 payday to the winner.

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Ross Chastain

Berry isn’t the only NASCAR star set to run at Nashville Fairgrounds. Trackhouse Racing’s Chastain will also be back behind the wheel of a Late Model when NASCAR comes to the region.

Trackhouse recently announced that Chastain would pilot a Tootsie’s-sponsored No. 1 in the event for Rackley W.A.R. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is a famous bar on lower Broadway, making the combination perfect for a race just minutes up the road.

Chastain has already been behind the wheel of a Rackley late model once this year. The Floridian drove the No. 25 at Crisp Motorsports Park back in January, finishing second in the 100-lap SpeedFest feature.

Erik Jones

Another Cup Series star with short track plans is Legacy Motor Club’s Jones. The Michigander has a long history behind the wheel of a Super Late Model, with wins in the Snowball Derby back in 2012 and 2013 that helped jump-start his NASCAR career.

Jones returns to the grassroots scene on Wednesday, June 12, for the eighth-annual Money in the Bank at Berlin Raceway. The 150-lap Super Late Model event gives out $15,000 to the winner. Jones enters as the defending winner of the event after triumphing in 2023.

Beyond Money in the Bank, nothing is confirmed for Jones. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Cup Series star back behind the wheel of a Super Late Model soon, potentially back at Berlin.

The Byron, M.I. native has been very successful at the track over the years, and this year’s Battle at Berlin 250 falls on Wednesday, August 7. Weekday races are always easier for the Cup drivers to attend, and the Battle at Berlin is a race Jones attended a year ago. Don’t be shocked if Jones is once again on the entry list.

Another Michigan native to add to the list. Hocevar considers Berlin to be one of his home tracks, so his entry into Money in the Bank on June 12 makes perfect sense. Hocevar won his first late model feature at Berlin back in 2015, and won the Super Late Model track championship in 2017. 

Hocevar has had his fair share of success at Money in the Bank, winning the event back to back in 2020 and 2021. 

Carson Hocevar

To this point, no additional late model races have been announced for the Spire Motorsports rookie, but that could change as the summer progresses. Hocevar has frequented the Battle at Berlin and made several appearances at the Slinger Nationals in the past, both of which are midweek events. 

Cole Custer

Moving down to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, defending champion Custer is set to be in attendance at Thunder Road Speedbowl on Thursday, June 20, for the 45th annual Vermont Governor’s Cup.

The event serves as a prelude to NASCAR’s weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and is also the second leg of the track’s Squier Cup Late Model Triple Crown.

Custer will make his debut at the “Nation’s Site of Excitement” driving an Andy’s Frozen Custard sponsored car provided by Dale Shaw Racecars. Thunder Road is located in Barre, V.T., just a few hours north of Loudon, N.H.

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Sammy Smith

Another Xfinity Series regular set to take on the late model stars is JR Motorsports’ Smith. Included in the Earnhardt Sun Drop announcement was that Smith would drive a Cherry Lemon Sun Drop No. 88 during All-Star week at North Wilkesboro.

Unfortunately, mother nature rained on the CARS Tour parade and the date was rescheduled to August 3.. While that ruined plans for Berry, Smith still intends to compete in the rescheduled event in his JRM Late Model Stock car.

Smith has competed in a Super Late Model at North Wilkesboro and finished fifth in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at the track in May. The CARS Tour event will be Smith’s first at the track in a Late Model Stock car.

Brandon Jones

Much like his JR Motorsports teammate Smith, Jones also had intentions of running the rained out North Wilkesboro CARS Tour event, albeit with a different team. Rather than piloting a JRM Late Model like Smith, Jones was behind the wheel of a Hawk McCall Motorsports No. 9.

Jones will be in action for the Hawk McCall team at both Hickory on July 27 and the rescheduled North Wilkesboro on August 3 in the CARS Tour.

The pairing has already run one CARS Tour event so far in 2024. Jones competed at Ace Speedway back on May 9, rallying from a 21st-place start to come home 13th at night’s end.

Ty Majeski

Onto the Truck Series. A pair of ThorSport Racing teammates have late model races on their summer schedules.

First up – Majeski. The Wisconsinite is a well-renowned short track racer and makes it a point to revisit the discipline throughout every season.

Majeski is slated to compete in the ASA STARS National Tour double header coming up on June 14 and June 16. The first event -The Capital 200 – takes place at Madison International Speedway, while the Father’s Day 100 is set to be contested at the Milwaukee Mile.

Beyond that, Majeski also intends to compete in the 45th annual Slinger Nationals at Slinger Speedway. The crown jewel Super Late Model event is scheduled for Tuesday, July 9.

Majeski already has three wins behind the wheel of a Super Late Model in 2024.

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Jake Garcia

Moving over to the other ThorSport driver, Garcia has his own Super Late Model plans in place for the summer. Like Majeski, they’re already in action, too. Garcia has already made multiple Super Late Model starts in 2024 for FR8 Racing.

Garcia plans to run both ASA STARS events at Madison and Milwaukee in for FR8 Racing in the No. 35.

The two races take place as a Wisconsin double header for ASA, with the two tracks separated by just under an hour and a half.

Chase Elliott

The final driver on this list is Garcia’s FR8 Racing teammate, Elliott. The Georgian comes in as the last driver on this list for one reason – nothing is confirmed yet.

The 2020 Cup Series champion has been behind the wheel of the FR8 Racing No. 9 twice in 2024, finishing sixth at New Smyrna back in February and blowing a motor while running second at Hickory in May.

To this point, Elliott and FR8 have confirmed no such plans to race this summer, but the teams schedule on their website may say otherwise.

Both the Slinger Nationals on July 9 and the Battle at Berlin on August 7 are listed on the team’s schedule with driver TBA. In contrast, Garcia’s schedule is filled out well down to November.

With both events running on weekdays, both are possible for Elliott to attend should he have no midweek obligations. The Hendrick Motorsports ace was in attendance for the Battle at Berlin in 2023, so it won’t be a shock if he fills those schedule holes soon on the FR8 website.

About the author

Chase_folsom_ROVAL_2022

Chase began working with Frontstretch in the spring of 2023 as a news writer, while also helping fill in for other columns as needed. Chase is now the main writer and reporter for Frontstretch.com's CARS Tour coverage, a role which began late in 2023.ย  Aside from racing, some of Chase's other hobbies include time in the outdoors hunting and fishing, and keeping up with all things Philadelphia sports related.

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