CARS Late Model Stock Tour
Josh Berry Serving as Crew Chief for Dale Jr at Wilkesboro
Aug 30, 2022
It’s the biggest race in CARS Tour history on Wednesday night at North Wilkesboro Speedway and that means a massive audience, both in person and on Racing America, potentially tuning in to a Late Model Stock race for the first time.
With that in mind, here is a primer for what to expect out of the Window World 125, the pavement final to the inaugural Racetrack Revival.
WHAT IS THE CAR?
The Late Model Stock car is fundamentally a different machine than the Super Late Models and Pro Late Models more commonly raced across the country in events like the Snowball Derby, All American 400 and Slinger Nationals.
A Late Model Stock chassis is based off a traditional NASCAR national touring car before the advent of the Next Gen with a steering box, center link and truck arm. They weigh anywhere from 3,050 lbs. to 3,100 lbs. Like a NASCAR Xfinity Series car, LMSC run a truck arm suspension based off a 1964 Chevy pickup. These cars also have a higher roll cage than their Super Late counterpart.
Meanwhile, a Super Late Model is a super lightweight aluminum interior car that weighs 2,800 lbs with a rack and pinion, three-link suspension. These cars use trailing arms to connect the rear end to the frame. The trailing arms can have different lengths to help the car turn. The third link drives the car down onto the ground and they are all mounted on heim joints.
As for the rails, think of it like this:
If you run a line down the middle of a car, the perimeter rail Late Model Stock will have the same distance from the center line to the outside of the frame rails on both sides of the car.
In a straight rail Super Late Model, the right-side frame rail runs in a straight line, from front to back. Meanwhile, the driver compartment rail sticks out from the center line where the driver is sitting. The right side runs perfect straight from the nose to the tail, thus straight rail. These cars are sometimes called ‘offset chassis’ cars due to the rules that allow the right-side suspension to be up to three inches longer.
WHAT IS CARS TOUR?
The Late Model Stock Car is a regional specific car based in the Carolinas, Virginias and Tennessee. It is Division I car of choice for most NASCAR sanctioned weekly tracks in this region. Meanwhile, CARS Tour is a traveling series that runs all the tracks for a combined championship with purses generally higher than weekly shows with a higher profile due to who participates in it.
JR Motorsports is the most prominent team in terms of NASCAR stature, having launched the carees of Josh Berry, Anthony Alfredo and Sam Mayer amongst others, and this Late Model Stock team is the pride and joy of Dale Earnhardt Jr. himself having come from this discipline in the 90s before graduating to the NASCAR Busch Series.
But ARCA team owner Chad Bryant also fields entries in the series, as does Nelson Motorsports, who has claimed three championships with Bobby McCarty over the past half-decade.
The series owes much of its identity to the tracks it competes on, which itself reads like a schedule for the old NASCAR Late Model Sportsman division, which is the spiritual successor to the Late Model Stock Car.
It runs at Hickory, South Boston, Tri-County, Orange County, Ace, New Dominion and Greenville Pickens Speedways.
WHAT’S HAPPENED THIS YEAR?
The 2022 campaign has largely featured a championship battle between JR Motorsports’ Carson Kvapil and Chad Bryant Racing’s Connor Hall, although Kvapil has really pulled away in recent weeks, leaving Hall to fend off Nelson Motorsports Kaden Honeycutt for second in the championship.
There are five races left this season – North Wilkesboro, Tri-County, Dillon, South Boston and Caraway.
In other words, with so many races, and a 30-car field on Wednesday night at North Wilkesboro, the championship isn’t secured for Kvapil. And it’s something he is aware of prior to the Window World 125 at Wilkesboro.
"We tend to get 20 cars per race and 30 here so one bad race and they’re caught right back up to us," Kvapil said. "We just can't let our game down. Keep pushing hard and keep racking up good finishes."
You’ll notice that McCarty has not had a competitive season, and isn’t in the championship mix for the first time since running CARS Tour full-time. His No. 22 team has just struggled to figure out the new tire compound, but is starting to return to life with consecutive top-five finishes.
"It’s crazy some of the things that’s gone wrong," McCarty said. "We’re definitely putting some better stuff on the race track. We feel more confident in the cars. I feel more confident in the cars. This tire really threw everyone for a loop.
"The tires this year just powders, so it’s a different compound or it just doesn’t have time to cure because they can’t get them made quick enough, but that’s been the biggest thing that’s thrown us for a loop."
WHAT WILL THE RACING LOOK LIKE?
There are several extremely abrasive tracks in the region, most notably Florence Motor Speedway and the former Myrtle Beach Speedway, that produced a very distinct style of racing for CARS Tour and Late Model Stocks in general.
It’s a pack race, like Daytona and Talladega, but within much tighter confines.
Because tire wear is so significant, drivers slow down the pace to such a degree that the entire field runs in a huge pack, minimizing tire wear or at least matching the pace of the competition. No one drives away because a caution is inevitable and there is no reason to abuse the tires when no one else is.
Late Model Stocks haven’t raced at North Wilkesboro in 30 years, so no one knows for sure, but the expectation is that this will be a Florence and Myrtle Beach style pack race for the first half.
The race will feature controlled cautions every 40 consecutive green flag laps but not one inside of 25 laps to go.
"I think there's no doubt about that," said Corey Heim of Lee Pulliam Performance about this being a tire management race. "We're going to be riding around a lot. Luckily, we're getting right sides at the break. I've never seen this place and maybe it's less abrasive than everyone says it is because I'm not a big fan of riding around for 100 laps and then going for the final 25."
Conversely, his teammate, Brandon Pierce has really taken to this discipline.
"That comes from Lee because he was known as the man in these tire management races and it took a long time and a lot of coaching to get me to that level because I didn’t have a ton of experience doing it," Pierce said. "I feel like this place is going to be Florence or Myrtle Beach and that excites me because we’ve had good runs at Florence.
"We’re approaching this like a big Florence and then 3 and 4 visually comes across like Myrtle Beach. 1 and 2 looks like nothing so that will be interesting."
Josh Berry, serving as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Wednesday isn’t entirely sure what to make of it yet, and will be learning on the fly.
"I'll be honest, I'm not sure how it's going to play out," Berry said. "A part of it is going to be like Myrtle Beach. I've watched both Modified races, both Super Late Model races to prepare for what could happen and how it might be. Each one was a little bit different and it's hard to say what this could be. Like in the modified race, everyone kind of rode because they felt like they were supposed to and that's what they did.
"It seems like each race is a little bit different."
Late Model Stock legend and 2016 Martinsville 300 winner Mike Looney isn’t sure either.
"We won’t know for sure until we do it and it’s cool to me that no one has raced here so we’re all on an equal playing field," Looney said. "The thing about these group of racers is that everyone is so good. They all know how to play this game. I expect everyone to go about the same speed and save the same until it’s time to go."
That would result in a pack race, which creates its own set of challenges, but fun for fans according to McCarty.
"The fans will love it, right," McCarty said. "Three wide and it looks like we’re racing but we’re really in the car picking at our nose and looking at the fans in the stands. Sometimes that leads to someone making a mistake.
"But I don’t know what the racing is going to look like because we’re all so new to this place."