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It was four years ago when Connor Hall won the prestigious Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway and it was the biggest win of his career because the now 25-year-old lives just 20 minutes away from the Virginia bullring but winning a CARS Tour race is an even bigger deal.
Mission accomplished for Hall who claimed the New River 125 at Goodyear All American Speedway on Saturday night by narrowly holding off one of the best in Deac McCaskill.
McCaskill had spent the first half of the race in major tire conservation mode but a mid-race incident meant the 2016 champion spent the second half charging through the field. And despite needing to use more tire than Hall, McCaskill was still chopping up to a second a lap over the final 15 laps after restarting outside of the top-five with 21 to go.
The Chad Bryant Racing No. 77 likely could not have held on another lap but Hall was able to get back to the line to win by .288.
"I'd probably say it's the top," Hall said.
"I mean, we're racing the same guys as the Hampton Heat and stuff," Hall said. "But every CARS Tour race is a big deal and you really have to execute properly. You have to have a car capable of winning and then bring the right strategy."
That’s what the New River 125 was -- a classic Coastal Plains strategy race.
The start of the race featured practically the entire field backing up to a snail’s pace, in the efforts to save tires for the finish, especially knowing there would be at least two competition cautions for 40 consecutive laps run without a caution.
The coastal Carolina bullring is extremely abrasive and the different strategies of drivers choosing to go to the back, and others racing towards the front created a tremendous amount of action in the middle.
That’s also what led to the big pile-up on Lap 80 after the second competition caution. The running order was so jumbled due to various cars out of place on speed that when everyone got on the throttle to go for it, it resulted in a melee that involved Tyler Matthews, Carson Kvapil, Brandon Pierce, Zack Miracle, Jacob Heafner, Braden Rogers, Janson Marchbanks and McCaskill.
Thus, McCaskill had to use up a lot more tire to get to Hall, and just ran out of time to make the winning pass.
"The driver always says give me one more lap, but I don’t know man," McCaskill said. "If I ever could have get under him in Turn 4, it could have been interesting. He had a good car, and that’s everything, so catching him is one thing and passing him is another."
Chad McCumbee completed the podium, but battled drive off with a new engine package, but conceded it was something to build upon.
"We’re trying to figure out this new program this year," McCumbee said. "I’m really happy with the result. Wish we had a better result in qualifying but I’m proud that we’ve been able to overcome some of the bad luck this year."
Kvapil overcame his own bad luck in that crash to finish fourth and preserve most of his 18-point championship advantage over McCumbee.
The only other major incident involved Miracle and Brandon Pierce. Still reeling from the Lap 81 crash, Miracle’s hood flapped up on the ensuing restart, and when he slowed, Jason York hit him and Pierce had nowhere to go but into Miracle.
Pierce got out of the car considerably heated and shared a few words with CARS Tour owner Jack McNelly in his usual perch in Turn 4.
"I got suspended once in 2020 for stupid <expletive> and that’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen," Pierce said. "I like Zack a lot, but he had too much damage to be out there and because of that, we got junked."
CARS Tour Late Model Stock
Goodyear All American Speedway
April 23, 2022
-Andy Marquis Photography