Special from Racing America – Stephen Nasse was lost and confused on Friday, certain he wouldn’t even make it to the finish, and now he’s won the All-American 400.
There was a point in practice that Nasse rolled off pit road, felt something off, only to realize he had broken another rear-end. It’s been a theme over the past couple of years. But really, Nasse was slow prior to that, and still felt sluggish even after thinking replacing the rear end would solve the problems.
As a result, Nasse went into Race Day having no idea if their setup would even work, because they hadn’t turned a single lap with it before qualifying as a result of their wholesale changes. There was very little confidence that it would be this kind of night.
It took some luck, of course.
Nasse was running fifth when the leaders all crashed in Turn 1 after taking the white flag. Then, on a green-white-checkered, Nasse needed to outduel Luke Fenhaus and did so to claim his second Winchester 400 and All-American in a span of three weeks.
“These kind of wins don’t come all the time, they don’t come often and they’re not easy to get,” Nasse said in Victory Lane. “It was a hard fight today. We couldn’t get a handle on the car. I felt like all the adjustments we were making were the wrong things. We’re going the opposite direction and felt like we were going in circles.
“That last adjustment was the best and felt like were fighting another rear end issue at the end too, but I really have to thank Luke for running me clean. I was just waiting for it in Turn 3 because I saw him in the mirror and said, ‘Oh he’s going to drive through me,’ and didn’t.”
But again, Nasse and Fenhaus were only in this opportunity to begin with due to what happened at the originally scheduled white flag.
Cole Butcher in third took leaders Matthew Craig and Austin Nason three-wide at the stripe and none of them effectively made it to the end … nor did previous leader William Sawalich. It’s also worth noting that Sawalich was driving away to a win before a caution with three laps to go cost him the win too.
Butcher and Nason connected at corner entry and it sent both cars hard into the wall. Nason even caught air before hitting the inside retaining wall. Sawalich was involved when Butcher came back onto the track and destroyed both Donnie Wilson Motorsports cars.
At least in the moments after the crash, Butcher felt like he earned the position.
“I was under (Nason) and (Craig) came down,” Butcher said. “I was there. Wrecked race car No. 3 for the year but hopefully we can come back stronger for the Snowball Derby. I’m sore and I’m sure I will feel it in the morning but I’m okay.”
For his part, Nason was extremely frustrated that Butcher forced them three-wide into Turn 1 and said it’s time for team owner Donnie Wilson to have a conversation with the Oxford 250 winner.
“Me and Craig were battling, and I had the short run speed and he had the long run speed,” Nason said. “He had the long run speed before that caution. I knew I was going to fire off good. I got that run to the inside of him and was going to race him clean. We kind of hit off 4 and that got (Butcher) momentum but I can’t think of why you would even think about going three-wide here.
“There isn’t enough room and 1) he wasn’t even at my bumper cover and turned right. I’ve seen the replay. Donnie has to do something about it. You can’t have a guy wrecking people the entire race. I don’t know how many times he went to the back for doing something, but Donnie has to have a conversation with him.”
To that point, Butcher was involved in a Lap 4 crash racing for fourth that ended the day for Nashville veteran Willie Allen and resulted in a scuffle between Wilson and the Rackley WAR crew over what transpired.
Butcher also apologized for what happened with Allen — noting that it does little to fix their destroyed race car.
Meanwhile, Craig was sent to the rear of the lead lap as Race Control determined that his move left approaching corner entry contributed to the incident.
“I was told I came off the wall and wrecked two cars underneath me on the white flag lap, and we’re racing hard,” Craig said. “We’re spinning tires and door banging. I didn’t even see nobody. We’re going down the straightaway. I start to arc my car into the corner and I’m going to run a protective line because it’s the white flag lap and hold the inside guy down.
“Next thing I know, I get a huge hit in the left rear, nearly spun out and the caution comes out. I didn’t agree with the call. It’s racing. There is going to be trading paint and door banging if you want to call it that.
“I’m in the lead. I don’t know how I wrecked someone behind me, but apparently that’s what happened.”
And then there was Sawalich, who was going to drive away to an impressive win as a rookie if not for the caution for a spin by Cody Dempster. Two laps later he’s hard in the wall and needing a trip back to his hauler in the ambulance.
He checked out okay but disappointed, mostly in himself for spinning the tires on the restart where he lost the lead.
“Made a huge mistake,” Sawalich said.
At the same time, Sawalich didn’t lament the timing of the caution.
“That’s going to happen sometimes, but really I just feel bummed because we could have won here.”
That left Nasse to continue the momentum of the autumn season with three straight wins at Pensacola, Winchester and Nashville. It’s a good time to start getting hot, even if some of it comes down to a little bit of luck.
He lost crew chief Chris Cater earlier in the summer and begin doing everything in house with his dad, Jeff. At the same time, they changed shops and begin working with Jett Motorsports again so there has been a lot of moving parts to overcome to get to the winning streak.
“Thankfully we’ve had good people want to come and help, do some testing and that’s brought our program to the next level but I can’t believe the season has come to this point with all the crew chief changes and struggles,” Nasse said. “We’re finally settled into our own shop at St. Pete and it just feels good to go in that shop every day and do it with people I love being around.
“It’s all starting to pay off.”
Scored second at the finish, Fenhaus was disqualified in post-race technical inspection for an improper ignition box.
38th All American 400
Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway
October 29 2022
1. Stephen Nasse
2. Gio Ruggiero
3. Kyle Crump
4. Casey Johnson
5. Derek Thorn
6. Dylan Fetcho
7. Conner Jones
8. Gabe Sommers
9. Matt Craig
10. Michael House
11. Jordon Riddick
12. Daniel Dye
13. Austin Nason
14. Cole Butcher
15. William Sawalich
16. Jake Finch
17. Brad Keith
18. Buddy Shepherd
19. Cody Dempster
20. Albert Francis
21. Casey Roderick
22. John Coffman
23. Carson Kvapil
24. Hunter Robbins
25. Carson Hocevar
26. Kodie Conner
27. Jackson Boone
28. Jace Hansen
29. Bubba Pollard
30. Rich Clouser
31. Michael Bilderback
32. Jack Smith
33. Augie Grill
34. Michael Hinde
35. Logan Bearden
36. Willie Allen
DQ. Luke Fenhaus