There was a degree of déjà vu to what Ty Majeski accomplished in winning the second South Carolina 400 on Saturday night at Florence Motor Speedwayave.
For one, his weekend in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina began the same way it did in 2020, needing his Chad Bryant Racing team to complete an engine swap before he could properly hit the track for practice.
In fact, Majeski made the same midnight drive across the street to Hardees in both 2020 and 2021 to feed his crew as they worked to get their car ready to compete.
Both races were extreme tire conservation affairs that came down to Majeski needing to outduel the JR Motorsports No. 8 over the closing laps. This time, however, it was Carson Kvapil behind the wheel of the car usually piloted by Josh Berry.
And yet, Berry had a role to play in this rematch as well, guiding Kvapil over their radio communications from inside the infield.
The result was the same, with Majeski making a late charge through the field and remaining the only driver to win the spiritual successor to the Myrtle Beach 400 in its second season an hour northwest from the Grand Strand.
It took everything the five-time ARCA Midwest Tour champion needed to do last year and a little bit more as well.
Majeski only started the feature by virtue of the provisional reserved for the defending winner. There were 52 teams entered into the event, with 24 making the race via time trials, and Majeski only posted the 26th best time.
He was forced to run three extra laps on his race tires, not to mention the extra heat cycle, which still wasn’t enough to make the field without needing the defending winner provisional. He was running 27th at the competition caution with 50 laps to go, spending the first 100 laps saving the maximum amount of right rear rubber imaginable.
He caught a break on the restart with 50 laps to go, avoiding a dozen
car melee, and restarted inside the top-10. At that point, he had
enough right rear to begin carving up the top-10 and eventually outduel
"We kind of dealt ourselves a bad hand in qualifying and we were limited in what we could do on strategy because of how the race played out. Running two or three wide per row meant we couldn't go anywhere. We went right into tire conservation mode and did the best we could there in that first run to save. Missing that big wreck on the frontstretch really bailed us out."
It was arguably the decisive moment of the race.
The big crash began on the Lap 100 restart and started with a missed shift or stalled start from Doug Barnes and Kvapil near the front of the field, and ultimately collected the likes of Corey Heim, Kade Brown, Ryan Glenski, Mark Wertz, Chad McCumbee and pole sitter Zack Miracle.
Berry immediately realized the shifting dynamic and told his apprentice that it eliminated several good cars but also gave the drivers who were saving the most in the rear of the field much needed track position.
Majeski, Brandon Pierce and Connor Hall especially benefitted from missing the incident, all gaining around 15 spots and all three finished inside the top-five.
"It was literally 15 free positions that I otherwise would have needed to work for," Majeski said. "Without that, and the caution with 15 laps or so to go, that was the difference tonight."
It was 12 laps to go and Majeski was driving the fastest car on the track but didn’t have enough time to make up the three seconds and three cars at the pace they were all running. That’s when Justin Hicks lost an engine in Turn 4 and necessitated a clean-up.
Several restarts ensued and Majeski got the best of Kvapil.
"At the end, I just couldn’t fire off because we were too tight," Kvapil said. "On the long run, we could pull away and that’s what got us at the end because Ty was able to fire off better than me. He just restarted good.
"We could hold with him for a lap or two, but we were too tight."
The first 100 laps was a spectacle of tire conservation with the entire field running 20 second-ish laps in the efforts to minimize tire wear. Due to the national tire shortage, teams didn’t even have the two tires for the Lap 100 break they had last year.
Drivers needed to make their four qualifying tires last the entire race, and make sure they had more right rear than everyone else by Lap 150.
Like Majeski, Pierce got through the Lap 10 crash unscathed and saved the entire race but found too many other teams running the same strategy they used in October for the CARS Tour race.
"We kind of panicked because in October, we nearly won the race on letting everyone go and we dropped back to save," Pierce said. "Five laps into the race, everyone was falling back to where we were to save with us, and suddenly we’re 30th so now we’re having to figure out how to get that track position back as best we could."
The big crash took care of that problem and both Pierce and Hall were able to get it both ways -- save tires and pick up 15 free spots.
"I honestly think we saved as well as anyone but Majeski," Hall said. "We were almost a lap down, got the big break dodging the wreck, gained 15 spots, and I just needed more turn down the middle.
"I literally said we should think about going up on the left rear track bar because I had a feeling (that) we were going to get tight, but we were a little too conservative, and I should have made the call."
Doug Barnes led the most laps, but probably just didn’t save enough, but also had a decisive pass on a restart taken away from race control when it was decided that Kvapil made an illegal move. Had the restart stood, Barnes could have played defense, but he fell to fifth by the finish.
Majeski has now made just two Late Model Stock starts, both at Florence in the South Carolina 400, and is undefeated.
The style of racing is unlike anything he has done in NASCAR or Super Late Models, and winning in such an unorthodox fashion is something that left him feeling proud.
"It is satisfying because we find different ways to win, and won when some might have counted us out after qualifying," Majeski said. "I knew we would be fine if this car drove the way it did in practice. So, like my dad taught me from a young age, surround yourself with better people than you and they’ll make you look good,
"That’s how it is with Toby (Nuttleman) and our Super Late Model program and now Chad Bryant Racing and his guys here."
South Carolina 400
- Ty Majeski Seymour, WI
- Carson Kvapil Mooresville, NC
- Brandon Pierce Oak Ridge, NC
- Connor Hall Hampton, VA
- Doug Barnes Forest Hill, MD
- Ryan Millington Statesville, NC
- Stefan Parsons Concord, NC
- Sammy Smith Johnston, IA
- Mark Wertz Chesapeake, VA
- Bobby McCarty Madison, NC
- Corey Heim Davidson, NC
- Connor Mosack Charlotte, NC
- Brenden Queen Chesapeake, VA
- Jacob Heafner Dallas, NV
- Justin Johnson Rougemont, NC
- Cody Kelley Darlington, SC
- Braden Rogers Huntersville, NC
- Connor Jones Fredricksburg, VA
- Janson Marchbanks Anderson, SC
- Justin Milliken Shallotte, NC
- Annabeth Barnes Crum Charlotte, NC
- Isabella Robusto Concord, NC
- Matt Cox Longs, SC
- Carter Langley Zebulon, NC
- Justin Hicks Thomasville, NC
- Trent Barnes Forest Hill, MD
- Chad McCumbee Ocean Isle Beach, NC
- Matt Linker Mount Pleasant, NC
- Jeremy McDowell Conway, SC
- Zack Miracle Monroe, NC
- Casey Kelley Darlington, SC
- Kade Brown Denver, NC
- Ryan Glenski Mooresville, NC
- Jamie Weatherford Darlington,SC
- Dexter Canipe Jr Conover, NC
- RA Brown Columbia, SC
- Jason York Reidsvile, NC