After inclement weather delayed the race for over four months, the drivers of the CARS Response Energy Late Model Stock Car Tour are preparing to tackle the quarter-mile bullring of Wake County Speedway for the first time in the Solid Rock Carriers 123 on Saturday evening.
Along with the usual suspects that dominate the front of the field, there will be a handful of local Wake County regulars looking to outrun the likes of Pulliam, McCarty and Berry and pick up a victory in the national spotlight. Among them will be Raleigh, North Carolina native Alex Fleming, who is excited about the opportunity to race against many of the best Late Model drivers and teams after taking a break from full-time driving following the 2017 season.
“I took this season off from driving, and I have been crew chiefing for Will Roland, so I didn’t think I was going to be a part of this huge event,” Fleming said. “Will asked me a couple of months ago if I wanted to drive this race instead of him. It was awesome to be asked that and for someone to have the faith in me to take on some of the best competition on the East Coast.”
Fleming found his love for racing at five years old when he began racing BMX bikes, but he quickly upgraded from two wheels to four wheels when he started competing in go-karts at the age of seven. With Wake County Speedway only a few minutes from his home, Fleming elected to start participating in the track’s weekly series on a regular basis as soon as he was eligible for competition, beginning his career in street stocks and four cylinders before moving up to the track’s Late Model division.
Over the years, Fleming has established himself as one of Wake County’s best drivers, as he has accumulated two Super Late Model track championships in 2007 and 2011, a Late Model championship in 2015, and currently holds the record for the fastest lap at the speedway at a 12.96. Outside of Wake County, Fleming has ventured into the PASS South Super Late Model Series where he has picked up four top fives, and has a win at his home track in the 602 Modified Tour, which came on August 10.
Fleming was one of the few drivers who attempted all three PASS South races at Wake County, with his best finish of fourth coming in the final race in 2010 after he dropped out prematurely in the two prior races. Fleming believes that the Solid Rock Carriers 123 will play out in a similar fashion to the PASS South races, adding that many of the teams he will be going up against possess better funding and resources than his operation, which will help them adapt to Wake County quickly.
Fleming was admittedly impressed with the amount of Wake County Late Model regulars that filed an entry for this weekend’s Solid Rock Carriers 123, and is looking forward to seeing how all of them measure up against the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour veterans. Eric Winslow, who enters the Solid Rock Carriers 123 as the points leader of Wake County’s Late Model division, believes that the CARS LMSC Tour drivers will be in for a rude awakening on Saturday, stating that Wake County will be unlike any track they have raced on in their careers to date.
“It is a very challenging track,” Winslow said. “I feel like the reason why a lot of people don’t run there is because it’s so challenging. 60 laps goes by there really quick, but they are very grueling, and Wake County is not the kind of track where you can just sit there and ride for a little bit. You have to be up on the wheel, as you don’t have a lot of grip and you’re going to be sliding around the whole time.”
A native of Danville, Virginia, Winslow has been around racing all his life, having watched his father compete in the National Pickup Truck Racing Association started by Buck Baker in the 1980s. After his father retired from racing, he assisted NASCAR Busch Series champions Jack Ingram and Tommy Houston while Winslow aimed to start a career of his own by looking up to drivers such as Barry Beggarly and Peyton Sellers, who he would later end up racing against and learning from.
Winslow has been bouncing around several different tracks across the east coast this season, including South Boston, Carteret County and Southern National Motorsports Park, but Winslow began racing at Wake County after a close friend introduced him to the facility. Winslow admitted that the track fits his driving style well, and has grown to appreciate how efficiently the track manages its costs and on-track activities and hopes that this weekend’s race will draw more in the facility from both fans and Late Model competitors.
Another notable name that has filed an entry for Saturday night’s Solid Rock Carriers 123 is Knightdale, North Carolina native Randy Renfrow, who recently came out of retirement to return to the track that brought him so much success in the early part of his career. A long-time NASCAR and Late Model veteran, Renfrow will look to add another win to his Wake County resume after picking up a victory in his first race back to the track on June 29. Zachary Marks is another local driver who will be making his first CARS Tour start and former Wake County Speedway winner and Hickory Motor Speedway regular in the Limited division, Dylon Wilson will also try his hand in this event.
All of the regulars are expecting the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour to put on a great show for what is expected to be a packed house for the Solid Rock Carriers 123, but all of them believe the race will feature a high attrition rate and little room for comfort. Although the 21-car field will be one of the largest in the history of Wake County, the regulars plan to approach Saturday’s race like any other Late Model feature in order to survive the chaos and leave the track with one of the most prestigious wins of their career.
“It would mean the world to me to beat some of the best guys on the east coast,” Fleming said. “I have one shot at this deal and I am going to make the most of the opportunity given to me. The strategy will be the same as any other race, which means you’ll have to stay patient, give guys room, and don’t make anyone mad that might be near your rear bumper at the end.”
The green flag for the inaugural Solid Rock Carriers 123 is expected to fly at approximately 7:30 p.m., with the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour feature scheduled to take to the track first of the four divisions running at Wake County Speedway on Saturday evening. Both the regulars of Wake County and the CARS Tour will have to find a way to chase down Bobby McCarty, who will be looking to pick up his fifth victory of the season an extend his 20-point advantage over Lee Pulliam.
📸: Jaden Austin