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World Crown 300 returns to Jefferson track
Short-track event expects 5,000 fans for Fourth of July event
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Slack Auto Parts World Crown 300

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Gresham Motorsports Park, 500 Lyle Field, Jefferson

Tickets: $30 for general admission, $25 for seniors (55 and up) and military, $15 for students and teachers with ID, children 12 and under free

When Lanier National Speedway ceased weekly events in 2011, racing fans were left with sparse days on the calendar to get a glimpse of the sport’s future stars on a local short track.

Thursday is an exception, as Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson kicks off the Fourth of July weekend with its World Crown 300, one of the half-mile track’s headline races it holds each season.

The race, which dates back 30 years, is part of the Southern Super Series, a popular short track circuit that races in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. Many short track alumni have moved on to NASCAR, and the series’ current lineup features what could possibly be the next installment of Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series drivers.

“You have quite a number of talented drivers that, since Lanier closed down, you don’t get to see anymore expect for on this track,” said Dan Elliott, General Manager of Gresham Motorsports Park. “Obviously it’s not Atlanta Motor Speedway or anything like that, but on the local level it makes it a big event, because you have a lot of notable drivers.”

Elliott says the ever-popular race should attract more than 5,000 spectators, one of the bigger crowds the Southern Super Series experiences throughout the season. It also doesn’t hurt to have one of the sport’s most promising prospects making an appearance, either.

Chase Elliott, Dan Elliott’s nephew and the son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott, is entered to compete.

The 17-year old Dawsonville native has quickly risen through the racing ranks, becoming the youngest Automobile Racing Club of America winner earlier this month while rattling off a pair of top-5 finishes in three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts this season.

He’s back on the short track Thursday, about an hour away from his hometown, driving the No. 9 car like his father did as a Sprint Cup champion in 1988.
“You have quite a number of drivers that I think fans want to come out and see — local drivers from the area,” Dan Elliott said. “All of them bring something to the table, but obviously when someone like Chase (is racing) it’s going to bring a lot of people.”

Other local drivers currently entered are Flowery Branch residents Dalton Grindle and Rodney Benefield, as well as Dawsonville’s Spencer Davis. The race currently has 11 Georgia drivers entered and 22 total.

The event’s storied history dates back to 1983, when the late Dick Trickle won the first installment six years before his NASCAR debut. Chase Elliott won last year’s race, and can become just the third back-to-back winner in the event’s history with another victory this year.

But as one of the Southern Super Series’ longest races, winning it is no cakewalk.

“You have 300 laps and live pit stops,” Elliott said. “It’s a 12-tire (race), with the four you have on the car and the eight tires in the pits that you can take at any time. You have to have good pit crews, you’ll have to have fuel for this event, and it pays $20,000 to win. That in itself makes it one of the biggest events in the series.”

A fireworks show is scheduled to follow the race, and is free to the public.

Other event amenities include a racing simulator for kids, and 500 free tickets for active and non-active military attendees. Tailgating before the race at the track parking lot is permitted.

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