Kvapil Wins, JR Motorsports Shines for Icebreaker Redemption

After a disappointing showing in last year's Icebreaker at Florence Motor Speedway, Carson Kvapil picked up the win and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished fourth on Saturday.

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One year ago, JR Motorsports struggled mightily at Florence Motor Speedway's Icebreaker to kick off the 2023 season. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished 16th and Carson Kvapil finished 18th, a disappointing outing for one of the top teams in Late Model Stock racing.

There is no such disappointment for JR Motorsports after the 2024 edition of the event, as Kvapil won the 125-lap Late Model Stock feature and Earnhardt, Jr. finished fourth to put both cars in the top five.

Kvapil held off a hard-charging Connor Hall in the closing laps, as both drivers knifed their way through lapped traffic before Kvapil crossed the finish line a half-second ahead of Hall.

Needless to say, last year's Icebreaker disappointment was just a blip on the radar for Kvapil as he went on to win the 2023 zMAX CARS Tour Late Model Stock championship. Still, it was rewarding and fulfilling to start this year's campaign with a much better taste in his mouth from the Icebreaker win.

"Coming off last year's run we had here, it was really great to have a good run, even better to have a win," said Kvapil. "The guys gave me a good car. We felt we prepared pretty well for this race. Practiced throughout the day yesterday really good and made some gains on it. We made it better every run. We felt like maybe we weren't there on speed, but how the car drove felt really good."

Kvapil took the lead from Casey Kelley following a restart with 21 laps to go. He was able to build a lead of roughly one second, but that started to dissipate as Kvapil and Hall negotiated lapped traffic.

"The spotter was helping me out quite a bit," said Kvapil. "Those lapped cars, it was getting pretty hairy there. I didn't know what to do, honestly, when we got to those guys running side-by-side. Fortunately, we had just a good enough lead on the 22 car [of Hall] that we were able to be patient and not really cause any trouble passing those lappers."

"With 20 to go I realized Carson was probably the car to beat," said Hall. :Once we got by the 16 [of Kelley], our lap times stabilized. Over the last 10 laps, it seemed like I was catching him by about a car[length] a lap.

"I literally knew it was going to come down to a last-lap deal. If we had one more lap or maybe some more lapped traffic, it would have made a difference. I didn't want to do nothing too egregious."

While Hall, last year's NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series National Champion, was second-best in Saturday's race, he's still excited for a strong run in his first appearance in the Nelson Motorsports No. 22.

"This is our first race together. Just to have an opportunity to drive for a team like Nelson Motorsports is a true honor. I think we're going to do great things this year."

Kelley led nearly 50 laps after taking the top spot from Sam Yarbrough. Kelley faded to third after the final restart, but was still pleased with a strong run against a stout field of Late Model Stock competitors.

"I just lost a little bit of grip there at the end," said Kelley. "I wanted to stay out front, try to control the race and keep everyone's pace up. I knew we had a good car. I was hoping for no caution at the end and being able to keep the gap on the 8 car [of Kvapil].

"When the caution came out, I knew it was going to be tough to win, but coming home third against a field of cars like this is awesome. A couple of years ago, I never would have thought I'd be here racing against these cars."

As for Earnhardt, Jr., finishing fourth and seeing his teammate in victory lane was a huge boost of confidence after last year's struggles in the event.

"With about 20 laps to go, I was trying everything to park it on this front straightaway," said Earnhardt. "We just came up a little short. I'm thankful that we got running better. We hadn't run good the last couple of times.

"You badly want to win races, but it's such a tough crowd. I don't do it every week, and that shows up in qualifying. I'm really bad at qualifying, and I don't know what I'm doing wrong or what I need to do differently. I just need to do it more if I want to be good at it. It's just like anything else, you've got to do it all the time."

-Photo credit: Will Bellamy/Racing America

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS
9TH ANNUAL FLORENCE ICEBREAKER

FinishNoDriverLapsDiff
18Carson Kvapil125---
222Connor Hall1250.509
316KCasey Kelley1252.348
43Dale Earnhardt, Jr.1253.053
595YSam Yarbrough1254.072
623Kade Brown1254.753
795HJacob Heafner1256.481
874Mason Diaz1258.358
927Matthew Gould1258.651
1061Justin Hicks12510.311
1177Darren Krantz, Jr.12511.971
1288BDoug Barnes, Jr.12512.232
132Brandon Pierce12513.257
148BLanie Buice12514.484
1516Adam McCumbee12518.519
1609Riley Gentry1241 Lap
1781Landon Huffman1241 Lap
187Strom Altman1232 Laps
1918AAlex Meggs1232 Laps
205BBryant Barnhill1232 Laps
2151SDonovan Strauss1232 Laps
222DT.J. DeCaire1223 Laps
2363Tyler Matthews1223 Laps
2418MTruett Miranda11015 Laps
2518RDavid Roberts10322 Laps
2651Matt Cox9035 Laps
2732Zack Miracle8936 Laps
2899Colby Higgins8540 Laps
2913Cody Kelley6956 Laps
3000Jamie Weatherford6956 Laps
3188HAlex Hicks5669 Laps
327HBlayne Harrison4085 Laps
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