The inagural CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour race at Ace Speedway this past weekend had many great battles take place throughout the field, but also featured a fair share of attrition that took out a fair share of contenders. Before 75 laps had been completed, former series champions Josh Berry and Deac McCaskill were among the drivers that were sidelined due to crash damage, while points leader Bobby McCarty managed to stay in front of the chaos and picked up his third win of the season.
Although McCarty led every single lap in Saturday’s Race at Ace 125, Marietta, Georgia native Cody Haskins turned in an impressive performance of his own, as he managed to hold off Layne Riggs and Lee Pulliam to pick up a career-best finish of second in the CARS Response Energy Tour. Haskins strong run at Ace Speedway has been the highlight of a slow start to the season, but hopes that his team can build consistency going forward.
“I felt like that was our best shot at running well this year,” Haskins said. “We were all on the same playing field, and almost no one had been there other than a couple of the local boys. It was good to get back to a racetrack that had a lot of grip and was real smooth, and a lot of those little things played into our favor.”
After turning in several strong performances during his select appearances in the 2017 CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour season, Haskins elected to make the jump to full-time competition in 2018 as a part of the series’ inagural Touring 12 program. Although Haskins opened the year with three consecutive ninth place finishes, he felt that his cars were not able to keep pace with the leaders, which eventually culminated into a poor showing at Hickory Motor Speedway where Haskins finished in 25th after lacking speed the entire weekend.
Haskins elected to go back to basics following Hickory, and brought an older chassis to the U.S. Short Track Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway as opposed to the equipment that was being provided to him by Jay Hedgecock and Ricky Turner. Although Haskins is no longer aligned with the Late Model veterans, he elected to combine his notes from their equipment over to his older Late Models, hoping that a combination between the two would help improve his performance on the track.
Haskins’ weekend at Bristol initially got off to a slow start, as he failed to crack the Top 10 in practice, and sustained heavy damage to the rear of his #2 KRC Power Steering Late Model after a crash in qualifying. Despite the damage, Haskins’ crew continued to work hard on his car, and were able to get the setup to his liking, as Haskins battled his way up to the 10th position from the rear of the field before a severe thunderstorm ended the race after 64 laps.
The strong performance at Bristol gave Haskins and his team confidence heading into the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour’s first visit to Ace Speedway, where he hoped to pick up his first Top 5 finish of the season. Haskins opened on-track activities on Saturday by posting the third fastest time in the opening practice, and proceeded to follow up his fast time with a 15.603 in qualifying, which was good enough for the ninth position.
Once the green flag dropped, Haskins worked to make sure that his car would be clean throughout the opening stages of the race, but also began making his way up to the front, as he found himself locked in a battle with Ace Speedway regulars Trevor Ward and Blake Stallings before the first caution came out. Haskins utilized the chaotic restarts and green-flag runs to gain several more positions, which moved him into the second position by the end of the night.
Haskins was disappointed that he was unable to get another chance at McCarty before the end of the race, but admitted that he probably would not have been able to pass him with the way his car was set up for the race.
“We kind of banked on little 20 lap runs,” Haskins said. “We thought there would be a bunch of cautions, and we ran 10 laps in practice and got everything where we wanted to, then cooled down and made a whole bunch of short runs. That was not the case in the feature race, and we were way off on our air pressure. The short run stuff was definitely different than what we needed, but the basic overall package we got is going to be good everywhere now.”
Despite coming up short on his first career CARS Response Energy Tour victory, Haskins is proud of the hard work he and his team have done to turn his season around, and he is looking forward to the series’ next race at Carteret County Speedway. Haskins believes that Carteret will be even more of a wildcard than Ace, as almost none of the CARS Response Energy Tour regulars have turned a lap at the track, and Haskins hopes that all of the unknowns, combined with his experience at similar tracks, will play into his favor.
“We won a lot of races over at Greenville with that new asphalt,” Haskins said. “Carteret is just as flat, and just as fast, so we should be pretty decent. I’m hoping we go into the race strong, and we’ll see what we come out with.”
Haskins and the rest of the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour competitors will have another weekend to rest and get prepared for the inagural Crystal Coast 125 on June 23 at Carteret County Speedway. Haskins will be looking for his first career victory, but will have to find a way to stay in front of McCarty, who leads the official series standings by 19 points over Lee Pulliam, and will be looking to pick up his fourth win of the season.