The proud heritage of the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour is set to be honored this weekend with the series’ annual throwback event at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Teams from both the Late Model Stock Car and Pro Late Model Tour will adorn tribute schemes that honor many of the best drivers that competed in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series such as Bobby Gill, Shane Huffman, Clay Rogers, Woody Howard, Mardy Lindley and many more.
Created in 1997 by late Hooters owner Robert Brooks, the USAR Pro Cup Series became a premier short track division during the 2000s as it travelled to different tracks across the southeastern United States. Brooks’ passing in 2006 eventually led to the USAR Pro Cup Series’ demise, but its spirit lives on through the CARS Tour.
Motorsports fans will have one more opportunity to witness the USAR Pro Cup Series in its prime as the CARS Tour celebrates those who laid the foundation for what the series is today while simultaneously continuing to build towards a prosperous future.
Track: Hickory Motor Speedway
Location: Hickory, North Carolina
Laps: 125 (LMSC) / 100 (PLM)
CARS LMSC Tour races: 18
CARS PLM Tour races: 3
Hickory LMSC winners: Josh Berry (4), Bobby McCarty (3), Anthony Alfredo (2), Brayton Haws (1), Deac McCaskill (1), Justin Carroll (1), Taylor Gray (1), Ryan Repko (1), Corey Heim (1), Chad McCumbee (1), Connor Hall (1), Carson Kvapil (1)
Hickory PLM winners: William Sawalich (2), Mike Hopkins (1)
LMSC Entry List (29 cars): #00 Chad McCumbee, #04 Ronnie Bassett Jr., #08 Deac McCaskill, #09 Riley Gentry, #0 Landon Pembelton, #4 Connor Hall, #4W Dylon Wilson, #5 Andrew Grady, #6 Bobby McCarty, #12 Austin McDaniel, #15 Ryan Millington, #15C Logan Clark, #16 Jacob Heafner, #20 Joshua Dickens, #22 Landon Huffman, #29 D.J. Canipe, #32 Zack Miracle, #41 Chase Burrow, #42 Carson Kvapil, #44B Kade Brown, #45 Kaden Honeycutt, #52S Mason Diaz, #55S Brenden Queen, #62 Layne Riggs, #67 Cameron Bolin, #81 Mini Tyrrell, #88S Brandon Pierce, #92 Bryant Barnhill, #98 Connor Zilisch
PLM Entry List (20 cars): #03 Kyle Campbell, #4 Matt Caprara, #5 Zac Fowler, #6 George Phillips, #7 Tristan McKee, #7C Justin Crider, #7T Tyler Church, #8 Rusty Skewes, #9 Ashton Higgins, #13 Austin MacDonald, #25 Connor Zilisch, #28 Cole Butcher, #37 Brett Suggs, #43 Nick Loden, #43H Joshua Horniman, #49 Jeff Batten, #53 Logan Jones, #81 Katie Hettinger, #88 T.J. DeCaire, #96 Caden Kvapil,
LMSC Point Standings:
- Carson Kvapil
- Brenden Queen -19
- Connor Hall -36
- Kaden Honeycutt -78
- Chad McCumbee -80
- Ryan Millington -84
- Bobby McCarty -86
- Mason Diaz -91
- Jacob Heafner -106
- Brandon Pierce -106
PLM Point Standings:
- Katie Hettinger
- Caden Kvapil -11
- Ashton Higgins -53
- Tristan McKee -71
- Logan Jones -74
- Austin MacDonald -79
- Kyle Campbell -82
- George Phillips -89
- Brett Suggs -97
- Connor Zilisch -105
Andrew Grady honoring Bobby Gill at Hickory
No driver has earned more USAR Pro Cup Series wins at Hickory Motor Speedway than four-time national champion Bobby Gill.
Andrew Grady is looking to recapture some of the magic Gill possessed at Hickory in a car that resembles the iconic black No. 5 that Gill piloted to numerous victories as the USAR Pro Cup Series developed its identity during the early 2000s.
“Bobby is a legend,” Grady said. “When you think Hooters Pro Cup, you think Bobby Gill. The man has won the most races in series history and as soon as the CARS Tour announced what the topic was going to be for the throwback, I immediately messaged them and said I was doing Bobby Gill.”
Grady has heard countless stories from people who claimed Gill was the best driver they had ever seen get behind the wheel. Gill would dominate USAR Pro Cup Series events on a regular basis, which included a stellar year in 2002 that saw him win 11 of 14 races and a title in the tour’s Southern Division.
Although Gill bucked a long-standing motorsports superstition by finding success with a green number, Grady admittedly has reservations about wrapping his own car with any green but said the decision to use Gill’s most iconic paint scheme in the USAR Pro Cup Series was an easy one to make.
Grady hopes that Gill’s scheme enables him to keep making progress after he scored his first Top 10 of the year at Caraway Speedway last month. He knows his first CARS LMSC Tour win is an attainable goal but reaching that milestone on Saturday would be emotional for Grady in many ways.
“I’d cry if I won any CARS Tour race, but [the USAR Pro Cup Throwback 225] would be even cooler, especially with Bobby there,” Grady said. “It’d mean a lot to me, and I definitely think it’d mean a lot to Bobby if I got this done for him.”
Kade Brown looks to break through in Clay Rogers throwback scheme
The most recent CARS LMSC Tour race at Hickory Motor Speedway saw young Kade Brown make a strong impression by leading laps from the outside pole.
An engine failure ended Brown’s night after just 43 laps, but the second-place driver in the Hickory Late Model Stock point standings returns to the CARS Tour with confidence on his side and a paint scheme that will honor five-time USAR Pro Cup Series national champion Clay Rogers.
“Damon Lusk has done a lot for me this year, and he was the one who suggested we throw back to Clay Rogers,” Brown said. “We went through some of the old schemes, and he had a lot of success in the No. 44, so we went with that one.”
The No. 44 white and orange Ford driven by Rogers was one of the most iconic paint schemes in the USAR Pro Cup Series during the mid-2000s. Rogers’ most efficient year with the No. 44 was in 2006 when he tallied seven wins across the USAR Pro Cup Series platform, along with titles in the Southern Division and National Championship.
Of Rogers’ 30 career USAR Pro Cup Series wins, two of those came at Hickory in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Brown is looking to emulate the success Rogers once showed in the USAR Pro Cup Series and believes he can do so with the cars prepared by Matt Piercy Racing.
Brown has grown comfortable around Hickory’s abrasive surface with six wins to his name in the track’s weekly division. He was frustrated to not complete all 150 laps in his debut CARS Tour outing at Hickory but plans to use the knowledge obtained from that weekend to pursue his first major Late Model Stock triumph.
“I’m thinking [Saturday] will be about the same [as the Spring], maybe a little hotter,” Brown said. “With the way everyone runs Hickory, I’m thinking the pace will be very similar. It would mean more than anything to get my first CARS Tour win in a Clay Rogers scheme.”
Highlands Motorsports bringing back green and white colors for Wade Day
The influence of Wade Day on the growth of Highlands Motorsports into a top short track organization is still prevalent today.
Highlands Motorsports crew chief Josh Reeves surprised team owner Wade Lopez with a throwback scheme to Day’s iconic green and white No. 96 he ran in the USAR Pro Cup Series. Reeves hopes to park that scheme in victory lane once again on Saturday at Hickory Motor Speedway with Caden Kvapil behind the wheel.
“A lot has changed since Wade Day left, but the impact he left on Wade Lopez is tremendous,” Reeves said. “I still try to incorporate Wade Day as much as I can. I like him a lot and I think he’s very smart, especially with these types of cars. We try to utilize [that knowledge] any way we see fit.”
Highlands Motorsports has used Day’s familiar colors several times over the past several years. One of the more notable occasions saw Reeves take home a checkered flag in the U.S. Short Track Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2018, which remains a career highlight for Reeves to this day.
Reeves eventually came to fully understand the significance of that victory for Highlands Motorsports with those colors. Although he does not race much anymore, Reeves is honored to continue building upon the legacy started by Lopez and Day as a crew chief for the next generation of drivers like Kvapil and defending PLM Tour champion Luke Fenhaus.
Despite his success as a driver, Day only won once in the USAR Pro Cup Series back in 2012 at Kingsport Speedway. With Day expected to be in attendance for Saturday’s event at Hickory, Reeves and everyone at Highlands Motorsports have extra motivation to earn their second win of the 2023 PLM Tour season with Kvapil behind the wheel.
“[Winning the USAR Pro Cup Throwback 225] would rank pretty high, especially with everybody being there,” Reeves said. “We’ve missed victory lane so many times the past couple of seasons, so to win with that scheme would be pretty special for myself, Wade [Lopez], Wade Day and everyone involved.”
Race fans are welcome to join the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour at the Hooters located at 1211 13th Avenue Drive in Hickory on Friday evening from 7-9 p.m. ET for a chance to hear stories from USAR Pro Cup Series legends and kick off the weekend the best way we know how.
A full day of festivities are planned for the USAR Pro Cup Throwback 225 on Saturday, which will include special guest appearances from many drivers who once called the series home. The first green flag of the night flies at 7 p.m. ET for the 100-lap Pro Late Model Tour race, followed by the 125-lap Late Model Stock Car feature.
FloRacing will provide live flag-to-flag coverage of all the on-track action for the USAR Pro Cup Throwback 225.
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 Press Release
-Photo credit: Will Bellamy/Racing America