Surprise! Kodie Conner Nabs
Kodie Conner was all smiles following All American 400 qualifying Saturday night. (Jason Reasin photo)

Surprise! Kodie Conner Nabs All American 400 Pole

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Kodie Conner told SPEED SPORT following super late model qualifying Saturday night at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville that he “expected to be seventh.”

In reality, Conner’s effort was far better than his expectations.

The North Carolina owner-driver secured the pole position for the 36th All American 400 with the fastest qualifying lap among 34 super late model drivers in attendance at the .596-mile paved oval.

Conner’s familiar “Tiger Stripes” paint scheme took a bite out of the competition with a lap of 18.432 seconds, good enough for an average speed of 116.406 mph in the No. 45 entry.

It puts Conner out front for Sunday afternoon’s 300-lap main event, as he chases after his first crown jewel super late model victory.

“I pretty much was surprised,” said Conner of the speed he found in his run. “That was pretty much my first time putting sticker tires on the car, so I didn’t really have a good idea of what the car was going to be like from practice. I didn’t know what the tires were going to do, but once we got the tires on there, I went out for the first lap, drove up to the wall and I was thinking I didn’t really get enough heat in (the tires).

“That second lap, though, I thought to myself, ‘Oh, I guess I’ve got a pretty good piece here.'”

Kodie Conner in action Saturday at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. (Jason Reasin photo)

Conner’s performance Saturday night was one of the true underdog success stories of the season, given that his team runs on a shoestring budget and he doesn’t have any full-time personnel working on his race cars besides his father Shannon and other family members.

“A lot of my quarter-midget guys from back in the day, they’re from around here, so they came out to help me this weekend and I can’t thank everyone enough,” Conner noted. “I’ve got an all-volunteer crew; I don’t pay anyone aside from paying their way in … and they help me out.

“To be able to come here for the very first time, having never seen the place before, and qualify on pole is a very good confidence-booster for me. I’m really excited for Sunday.”

Carson Hocevar led time trials for most of the session after being the seventh driver out on track, but was bumped off the pole by Conner, who was the 24th car to take time.

Hocevar missed the top spot by .024 seconds and will roll off second on Sunday as he chases his third crown jewel super late model win of the season.

The Portage, Mich., teenager previously won the Redbud 400 at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway and the Winchester 400 at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway over the summer and hopes to add Sunday’s All American 400 to his growing list of career accomplishments.

“I feel really good coming in here,” said Hocevar. “I was expecting to be 12th to 15th, in all honesty, even though it seems like we qualify around third to fifth every race. I thought we had the pole there, for a minute, but Kodie just got us. We just flat out got beat there.

“I think our race trim is really good … and I think where we’re at now is a testament to the fact that we can be a legitimate contender at each and every race we go to now.”

Chandler Smith, who led late in the 2019 edition of the All American 400 and finished a heartbreaking second in that race, will start his redemption quest from third.

West Coast ace Derek Thorn and Willie Allen filled out the top five in qualifying.

Sixth through 10th were Bubba Pollard, Casey Roderick, Hunter Robbins, Jake Garcia and Brandon Oakley.

Twenty of the 34 super late models in attendance this weekend locked into the field by their qualifying times Saturday. Austin Nason was the last of the group to secure their starting spot on speed, edging out 21st-place Jeremy Pate by .006 seconds.

The remaining 14 drivers who didn’t lock in on speed were relegated to a 20-lap showdown feature, or last chance qualifier, to set their positions. That race was won by Daniel Dye.

Sunday’s All American 400 is scheduled to get the green flag at approximately 3 p.m. CT.

QUALIFYING RESULTS: ARCA/CRA Super Series; Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville; Oct. 31, 2020

  1. #45-Kodie Connor, 18.432
  2. #14H-Carson Hocevar, 18.456
  3. #26S-Chandler Smith, 18.518
  4. #43T-Derek Thorn, 18.541
  5. #26A-Willie Allen, 18.570
  6. #26P-Bubba Pollard, 18.592
  7. #25R-Casey Roderick, 18.610
  8. #18-Hunter Robbins, 18.621
  9. #35G-Jake Garcia, 18.629
  10. #22O-Brandon Oakley, 18.639
  11. #53-Boris Jurkovic, 18.662
  12. #51S-Sammy Smith, 18.679
  13. #54-Matt Craig, 18.680
  14. #15S-Gabe Sommers, 18.686
  15. #78-Corey Heim, 18.687
  16. #81-Jett Noland, 18.697
  17. #2-Donnie Wilson, 18.711
  18. #51N-Stephen Nasse, 18.720
  19. #71N-Kyle Neveau, 18.725
  20. #14N-Austin Nason, 18.726
  21. #21-Jeremy Pate, 18.732
  22. #25-Jeff Storm, 18.741
  23. #43D-Daniel Dye, 18.772
  24. #35K-Carson Kvapil, 18.772
  25. #14O-Connor Okrzesik, 18.780
  26. #29-Mason Keller, 18.782
  27. #35V-Greg VanAlst, 18.851
  28. #10-Brittney Zamora, 18.857
  29. #33-Albert Francis, 18.863
  30. #90-Trevor Cristiani, 18.871
  31. #24-Cody Dempster, 18.911
  32. #9-Hudon Halder, 19.029
  33. #71B-Johnny Brazier, 19.075
  34. #88-Trevor McCoy, 19.184