The sixth stop on the 2023 Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour schedule at Tri-County Motor Speedway will be a weekend of celebration for the series.
Not only does Tri-County host the $30,000-to-win Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort Old North State Nationals for the first time on Memorial Day weekend, but the CARS Tour will also commemorate the 100th overall race for the Late Model Stock division, which ran its first event at Southern National Motorsports Park back in 2015.
A lot has changed for the CARS Tour since Todd Gilliland took home that first checkered flag. Along with expanding to new venues that include the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway, the CARS Tour is now overseen by an ownership group that includes Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and Justin Marks.
With momentum growing for the CARS Tour in its ninth season, a full weekend of festivities is planned for Saturday’s Old North State Nationals to properly honor the history of the series. The schedule not only includes features for the LMSC Tour and Pro Late Model division, but also a 75-lap Street Stock race on Friday night that will pay $2,000 to the winner.
All eyes will be on the CARS Tour Saturday evening. Once the PLM Tour drivers conclude their chase for $5,000, many of the best Late Model Stock competitors battle it out for a shot at claiming the prestigious $30,000 race-winning paycheck while also adding to the brief, but proud history of the series.
Track: Tri-County Motor Speedway
Location: Hudson, North Carolina
Length: .400 mile
Laps: LMSC (200) / 75 (PLM) / 75 (SS)
CARS LMSC Tour races: 6
CARS PLM Tour races: 2
LMSC Tri-County winners: Josh Berry (2), Brayton Haws (1), Bobby McCarty (1), Mini Tyrrell (1), Conner Jones (1)
PLM Tri-County winners: William Sawalich (1), Jake Garcia (1)
LMSC Entry List (36 cars): #03 Brenden Queen, #04 Ronnie Bassett Jr., #08 Deac McCaskill, #0 Landon Pembelton, #1 Andrew Grady, #2 Brandon Pierce, #4 Dylon Wilson, #5B Bryant Barnhill, #6 Bobby McCarty, #7 Dylan Ward, #8 Carson Kvapil, #8B Chase Burrow, #10 Kaden Honeycutt, #11 Corey Heim, #14 Jared Fryar, #15 Ryan Millington, #16 Chad McCumbee, #20 Joshua Dickens, #22 Landon Huffman, #23 Kade Brown, #24 Mason Diaz, #29 D.J. Canipe, #36 Kenny Wallace, #42 Carson Brown, #43 William Sawalich, #44 Conner Jones, #45 Jonathan Findley, #55 Isabella Robusto, #57 Daniel Webster, #67 Cameron Bolin, #77 Connor Hall, #81 Mini Tyrrell, #87 Tate Fogleman, #87L Mike Looney, #95 Jacob Heafner, #99 Layne Riggs
PLM Entry List (23 cars): #03 Kyle Campbell, #2 Hudson Canipe, #5 Zac Fowler, #6 George Phillips, #7 Tristan McKee, #8 Rusty Skewes, #9 Ashton Higgins, #13 Austin MacDonald, #15 Brett Suggs, #15H Mike Hopkins, #24 Gio Ruggiero, #25 Gavan Boschele, #26 Dawson Sutton, #27 Lee Tissot, #28 William Sawalich, #43 Nick Loden, #43H Joshua Horniman, #49 Luke Morey, #53 Cole Butcher, #75 Mamba Smith, #77 Logan Jones, #81 Katie Hettinger, #96 Caden Kvapil
Carson Kvapil ready to defend Old North State Nationals win
The second visit to North Wilkesboro Speedway for Carson Kvapil was an uncharacteristic outing by his and JR Motorsports’ efficient standards.
After dominating the CARS LMSC Tour’s first visit to the iconic facility last August, Kvapil gradually fell out of contention as the night progressed in the Window World 125 and ultimately settled for a ninth-place run; a performance that still has Kvapil confused nearly a week after the fact.
“Drawing my own conclusions, I think I just went a little too hard during the first 30 laps,” Kvapil said. “All the leaders were running the same speed and I thought it’d be more beneficial to just control the race. After the red flag, my car was super loose. I thought we were fine, but we’re going to move on to Tri-County and chase that $30,000.”
Kvapil entered North Wilkesboro riding a three-race win streak and a comfortable 32-point advantage over Connor Hall and Brenden Queen. With a full notebook to rely on, Kvapil anticipated he would have a strong chance of earning an unprecedented fourth consecutive victory on Wednesday night.
The disappointment from North Wilkesboro is still fresh on Kvapil’s mind, but he is now focused on earning his second straight triumph in the Old North State Nationals. His victory in the event last year was the first time he took a checkered flag in the LMSC Tour, which helped him build confidence towards securing the series title.
With this year’s Old North State Nationals being at Tri-County Motor Speedway instead of Caraway Speedway, Kvapil expects more aggressive racing from everyone in the LMSC Tour field but said re-establishing the consistency he and JR Motorsports had before North Wilkesboro will be imperative on Saturday and through the summer.
“It’s going to be about focusing on not making any mistakes,” Kvapil said. “At [North] Wilkesboro, I felt like I burned my stuff up a little bit, but that’s not a big worry at Tri-County. Saving still matters, but we need to have a consistent run without getting into any trouble. I think Brian [Shaffer] and all the guys will give me a good car, so it’ll be up to me.”
Ryan Millington confident after second place at North Wilkesboro
Despite receiving early damage at North Wilkesboro Speedway, Ryan Millington utilized pit strategy to bring home his third Top 5 finish on the 2023 season.
Currently in the middle of his first full-time campaign in the CARS LMSC Tour, Millington believes his small operation is getting better with every week, adding that their ability to overcome adversity at North Wilkesboro highlights that progress.
“We had a really good day at [North] Wilkesboro,” Millington said. “Qualifying 24th was obviously not what we were looking for, but I knew we had a good long run car, and I knew that race was going to be about being there at the end and not the beginning. The car got torn up, but we patched her up the best we could and kept on digging.”
Although Millington is a two-time track champion at Hickory Motor Speedway, he compared racing at North Wilkesboro to the defunct Myrtle Beach Speedway. With two Top 5s in the Myrtle Beach 400 to his name, Millington used notes from that race to prepare a strong setup for North Wilkesboro’s abrasive track conditions.
Millington believes Saturday’s Old North State Nationals will see the LMSC Tour go from one extreme to another. The recently paved turns at Tri-County are expected to provide tremendous grip, which is why Millington expects drivers to get overly aggressive as they pursue $30,000.
Despite this, Millington remains focused on keeping his car out of trouble so he can be up at the front of the pack during the closing stages. He added a $30,000 race-winning paycheck would be crucial towards having his team catch up to major operations like JR Motorsports and Chad Bryant Racing.
“It’s almost close to impossible to pass somebody [at Tri-County] without moving them,” Millington said. “Everybody is lined up on the top and the bottom just isn’t as fast. It’s going to be interesting, and it’d be huge for our team to win $30,000. We could use that money.”
Old North State Nationals a homecoming for Ashton Higgins
Tri-County Motor Speedway is the closest Ashton Higgins has to a home track.
A native of Weaverville, North Carolina, Higgins has logged plenty of laps at Tri-County in Limited Late Models and the Southeast Super Trucks division, which is why he believes Saturday’s Old North State Nationals is his best opportunity to break through for his first CARS Tour victory.
“This is going to be a drivability race,” Higgins said. “Tri-County isn’t super aggressive on tires but if you get them hot and mad, you’re going to fall back. You’ll need a good handling race car, and since it’s a multi-groove track, you have to pass wherever other cars aren’t.”
Higgins has run five races between the two CARS Tour divisions this year, including a full slate in the PLM Tour. Two Top 10 finishes at Southern National Motorsports Park and Hickory Motor Speedway have helped Higgins climb his way to sixth in the PLM Tour standings, where he is 33 points behind leader Mike Hopkins.
Despite this, Higgins said the finishes he has accumulated in the PLM Tour do not reflect the speed he has shown in the series so far. Qualifying has been a strength for Higgins, but admitted he is still trying to find sustainable long run speed.
With a big weekend coming up at Tri-County, Higgins and his small crew are working diligently to prepare a race-winning car for the Old North State Nationals. Higgins is confident his familiarity with Tri-County will give him a small advantage in his quest to obtain the most prestigious win of his career so far.
“It would be huge [to win at Tri-County],” Higgins said. “I love Tri-County so much and it’s my favorite track compared to anywhere else. I’m all about racing wherever you want to race, and [the track] being multiple grooves makes it so much fun.”
There will be two qualifiers on Friday to determine the starting grid for the PLM Tour event. Following those races will be the 75-lap Street Stock feature.
On Saturday, the PLM Tour will kick off the evening’s on-track activity with their own 75-lap feature. Once that race concludes, 200 laps are set to decide the fifth running of the Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort Old North State Nationals, with the winner taking home $30,000.
FloRacing has coverage of all the action at Tri-County Motor Speedway.
For more information on the CARS Late Model Stock Tour and the CARS Pro Late Model Tour, visit www.carsracingtour.com. Be sure to stay active and social with the tour by liking “CARS Tour” on Facebook, following @CARSTour on Twitter and scrolling through photos on Instagram cars_tour.
Additional series information can be obtained by calling the CARS Tour series office, located in Mooresville, NC, at 704.662.9212.
-CARS Tour Release
-Photo credit: Will Bellamy/Racing America