BORIS JURKOVIC AN “ALL AMERICAN” By Jeremy Troiano
Side-By-Side Battle at Nashville One for the Ages
Yes. A guy named Boris Jurkovic won a race called the “All American.”
However, don’t let names fool. The Illinois driver is all American. And this is a race that he’s been wanting to win, and been close to winning, for quite some time.
Jurkovic finished 17th at the race in 2003. In 2004, he got closer by finishing fourth. Last season, he was runner-up to Jason Hogan. Earlier this year, in the CRA Super Series opener at the track, he once again finished second, this time to “Fast” Eddie Mercer.
This season, the former ASA and NASCAR Midwest Series driver pulled out all the stops. He got a brand-new Howe car. He got a fresh motor from his engine builder. It was all in hopes of winning the 2006 version of the All American 400.
Jurkovic came from the back of the pack following a round of pit stops to take the lead from Minnesota driver Jake Ryan with just three laps to go to grab the biggest win of his career, the All American 200 for the CRA Super Late Models – part of the All American 400 weekend (which also included a 200-lap event for the ASA Late Model Series).
“Last year, we came down here and I feel that I should have won and we didn’t win,” said Jurkovic. “I drove home the whole way and had chest pains because of the
Boris Jurkovic has been close before (top photo left) when he finished second in 2005. But this year, he was in the middle with the guitar (bottom). (51 Photo)
anxiety. I could care less now if I even race any more to tell you the truth. This is what I really wanted.
“I’m very proud of the guys. We’ve been working really hard to race this racetrack. It is really a track that I like. We’ve always run good here. We got a brand new Howe car for this race. This is the one I wanted to win. That is the car I wanted to take me here. We got a brand new Performance Technologies engine. It is probably the biggest race that I’ve won.”
Along with the win came the famous trophy – a hand-painted guitar.
“This is absolutely the coolest trophy you can get in motorsports or any type of sports,” said Jurkovic . “This is the thing. Everyone talks about the Nashville guitar. Now I’ve got me one. Maybe one day, I can get me one more.”
However, until with about 10-laps to go, Jurkovic was just a side note to the event. All eyes were on two other cars; Ryan and Mercer.
Mercer looked to have the car to beat once pole-sitter Chris Gabehart’s #10 fell off the pace. Once Mercer got to the lead, it looked as if it might be lights out for the rest of the competition. But Mercer still needed another round of pit stops to get some tires. When his #72 began slowing on the track because of a loose condition, it was Ryan’s race to lose.
But Mercer came into the pits to his final stop with just with just over 50 laps to go. However, he was starting at the tail of the field and would have only 50 laps to make it back to the front.
Meanwhile, Ryan began to check out. He held off challenges from Landon Cassill and several others. He appeared en route to what might be a break-out win for the driver coached by Super Late Model veteran Dan Fredrickson.
But Mercer was coming. He made it into the top-five by laps 167 and was on a charge to the front. So most eyes were watching both Ryan and Mercer to see who was going to win the race.
However, in the middle of them was Jurkovic. Jurkovic was coming just as fast, if not faster, than Mercer. With 15 laps to go, Jurkovic made his move into second around Cassill. With 10 to go, he looked like a rocket shot from a cannon. He put the pressure on Ryan. The two raced side-by-side for the eight-straight laps, with Jurkovic eventually making the pass on lap 198 when Ryan drove too deep into turn one.
“We were running really good all weekend long,” added Jurkovic. “We went in for right side tires. I knew left sides would be just as important as right sides. I figured that if we got a caution with about 100 to go, we could get our left two. It worked out because a lot of guys stayed out on the track. I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it through the field though, but we were able to work on the car a little bit and make it even better. It just worked out great.”
Ryan was able to hold onto second with a hard-charging Mercer in his mirror.
“I didn’t think we’d be racing for the lead like that,” said Ryan. “I knew we had a good piece. It just worked out well for us all day long; we stayed out of trouble and we picked up a bunch of spots in the pits.
Jake Ryan (top) and Eddie Mercer (bottom) are still looking for their first All American 400s.
“I knew I had enough to cover Landon, but I knew we were a sitting duck with the guys behind us. Mercer and Jurkovic took some tires and they came like a bat out of hell. So I started cranking rear brake into the car so I could try and get off the corner better. I ended up getting a little too high going into turn one and (Jurkovic) got by me. I was able to get another shot at him on the restart, but we didn’t have anything for him once he got by me.
“I’m kind of bummed out, but how can you be. There were 76 cars out here. I’m pissed though. I wanted that guitar.”
Jurkovic (#53) made his move late in the race.
Mercer was looking for his first guitar as well.
“The car wasn’t as good as it looked,” said Mercer. “I kept searching for a place on the track that I could run the car and it would agree with me. Finally, I figured out a way to get around here. I couldn’t get off the corner. The car was so loose.
“There was a caution at 94 and we were going to come into the pits then. We were deciding and it got too late and we weren’t able to get down and I got blocked. So I had to go 30 more laps before I could come in and get my lefts. Then, I waited another caution to come in and get my rights.
“When I went back green, I was at the tail of the field. With 45 laps to go, it just wasn’t enough time to get them.”
Time never ran out for Jurkovic though. After years of trying, he was left standing in Victory Lane, along with ASA winner Eddie Hoffman, hold his new possession, looking at a defeated field of cars on a legendary track.
“This is really a special place. I’m looking forward to next
year when they make it a true 400-lap event. It’s such good racing. It’s north and south cars. It’s the hype that goes around the race. There were 75 Super Late Models here.
“If you win here, you can win anywhere I believe.”