After receiving twenty-one different applicants for the inaugural CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour Touring 12 program, officials are proud to announce the twelve drivers that will kick the program off for the first time ever this season.
The selection process considered multiple factors including CARS Tour team loyalty, marketability, future development of the CARS Tour and its fan base, and the ability to fulfill the Touring 12 guidelines throughout the 2018 season.
“First of all to have 21 team and driver combinations apply for this program is unbelievable. I think it speaks volume on the possibility of 2018 being the best season yet for the CARS Tour. To have that many teams interested in potentially running the full season is big,” explained CARS Tour owner Jack McNelly. “Furthermore let me tell you how difficult it was to get to these twelve team and driver combinations. While we want each and every competitor in Late Model Stocks to race at least once with us this season, having these twelve teams and drivers to help build the series is going to be a big factor in growing this series to the next level.”
The same pair of drivers who battled for the CARS Tour driver championship a season ago headline the group of twelve drivers announced today. Layne Riggs, son of former NASCAR driver Scott Riggs, and reigning CARS Tour champion Josh Berry, driving for JR Motorsports, will both compete full time on the tour this season as part of the Touring 12 program. The two battled all the way down to the season finale for the 2017 championship title, before a mechanical problem sidelined Riggs and handed the season title to Berry.
Continuing with the youth movement Berry’s new teammate, youngster Sam Mayer, will also be a part of the Touring 12 program as he steps into the longstanding second entry of JR Motorsports that has been a staple on the tour since late in the 2015 season. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Ty Gibbs, the grandson of Joe Gibbs, will pilot a Marlow Motorsports prepared ride. While Grayson Cullather, driving for Tommy Lemons’ Jumpstart Motorsports, will be the lone driver representing the Commonwealth state of Virginia on the program that CARS Tour fans can get used to seeing this season.
Veterans Justin Johnson, Ronald Hill, and Craig Moore are the essential drivers that have helped build the Late Model Stock Car fan base in the Triad region of North Carolina and beyond. All three drivers have won track championships during their impressive careers. Both Moore (2013) and Hill (2006) have won championships at their home track of Orange County Speedway, while Johnson did the same just across the Virginia border at South Boston Speedway (2009, 2010).
Hickory Motor Speedway regular Charlie Watson will also add a veteran presence to the tour hailing from the Catawba Valley, a key market area the series races at three times this season, including the season opener March 10 at Tri-County Motor Speedway and two events at his home track of Hickory. While big-time stock car racing has seen a youth movement over the last few year, these four veteran drivers are the ideal fit for growing the Saturday night short track racing fan base the CARS Tour is building for years to come.
Rounding out the Touring 12 program are three drivers in their prime that are expected to turn heads in 2018. While Bradley McCaskill is the lone name with a CARS Tour win, shocking those in attendance in his 2016 triumph at Concord Speedway, both Georgia native Cody Haskins and Nelson Motorsports driver Brandon Peirce could easily do the same at any point of the season. This group of three should be in contention to win the 2018 Race22.com Most Popular LMSC Driver of the Year Award at season’s end, with all three having the personality to engage fans across the region.
2018 CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour Touring 12
Josh Berry – Mooresville, NC – JR Motorsports
Sam Mayer – Franklin, WI – JR Motorsports
Layne Riggs – Bahama, NC – Scott Riggs Enterprises
Charlie Watson – Lenoir, NC – C & C Racing
Branon Pierce – Oak Ridge, NC – Nelson Motorsports
Cody Haskins – Marietta, GA – Cody Haskins Motorsports
Craig Moore – Rougemont, NC – Craig Moore
Ty Gibbs – Charlotte, NC – Joe Gibbs Racing/Marlowe Motorsports
Ronald Hill – Rougemont, NC – Ronald Hill Racing
Bradley McCaskill – Wendell, NC – Renfrow-McCaskill Racing
Justin Johnson – Semora, NC – Robert Tyler Racing
Grayson Cullather – Chesterfield, VA – Jumpstart Motorsports
EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this article stated Charlie Watson won the Hickory Motor Speedway track championship. The 2017 Hickory Motor Speedway track championship was won by Ryan Millington and reference to Watson winning the championship has been removed.