Oak Ridge, North Carolina native Brandon Pierce was only a few inches away from picking up his first victory in the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour during the series’ previous visit to Orange County Speedway. On the final lap of the race, Pierce was on the back bumper of Late Model veteran Deac McCaskill, but was unable to obtain the run that he needed to pass him for the win, and would ultimately settle for a second place finish.

Nearly five months have passed since the Mid-Atlantic Classic at Orange County, with Pierce picking up his first career victory in a Late Model at South Boston Speedway on May 12 after passing four-time Whelen All-American Series champion Philip Morris in the closing laps. With more experience on his side, Pierce is ready to return to the site of his career-best CARS Response Energy Tour finish, where he believes he can pick up that elusive first win.

“We had a really good car that night,” Pierce said. “Deac is just so good there, and everybody knows that. I was really killing him coming out of 2, and you really have to make a lot of time with your entry into 1 and exit off 2 at that track. I knew I wasn’t going to wreck him, and I just tried to be right there in case he made a mistake so I could be right there to capitalize on it, but he never did.”

Pierce, along with his Nelson Motorsports teammate Bobby McCarty, made his CARS Response Energy Tour debut at South Boston Speedway in 2017, where he completed every single lap and came home with a solid 12th place finish. During the weekend, Pierce was impressed with the positive atmosphere that series and its competitors brought to his home track, which convinced him to join the CARS Response Energy Tour full-time in 2018 as a part of the Touring 12 program designed to provide benefits and incentives to participating members.

Pierce’s season initially got off to a slow start in the Do the Dew 150 at Tri-County Motor Speedway, where he faded from his eighth place starting position and finished in 20th as the last car on the lead lap. Pierce quickly turned his season around with a 10th place finish in the next race at Myrtle Beach Speedway, and has shown consistency at every track since then by completing every lap at all CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour venues with the exception of Ace Speedway, where he was eliminated in a crash on Lap 70.

Pierce has had a productive season in Late Models outside of the CARS Response Energy Tour, which includes his first victory at South Boston and being a contender in the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown, but he admitted that numerous occurrences of bad luck have prevented him from posting better results. In recent weeks, damage sustained at Wake County Speedway and the Hampton Heat 200 have derailed strong finishes for Pierce, but he remains confident that he can build off his early-season success and bring home more checkered flags as the season draws to a close.

“It’s been a good year for us,” Pierce said. “I got to beat the King at South Boston, which was very special not only for me, but my family, my team and my sponsors. We’ve had speed just about everywhere we went, but the disappointing side of it is that it doesn’t do you a lot of good if you don’t have the finish to represent it. We haven’t been able to capitalize when we’ve needed to and have the finishes we would like.”

Although Pierce has many fond memories of the 2018 season, he has not forgotten about how close he came to beating Deac McCaskill on what has been one of the best tracks for the former CARS Response Energy Tour champion. Pierce had many opportunities to overtake McCaskill in the final laps, and even pulled up alongside of him before a late-race caution came out, but he later admitted that he could not find a way around McCaskill without knocking him out of the way, which he had no intention of doing.

Pierce has had the Thrifty Tire/Puryear Tank Lines 300 circled on his calendar since the checkered flag was displayed in the Mid-Atlantic Classic, and will be bringing the same #2 Fremont Properties Late Model that earned him the pole and a runner-up finish at Orange County in April. Pierce expects a very similar race to the Mid-Atlantic Classic despite the extended length and different weather conditions, and is confident that he will once again be contending for the victory despite his lack of experience at the track.

“I still have less than 300 laps total on the racetrack,” Pierce said. “I’m also interested in seeing what the heat is going to do, as it’s my first time racing there in the hot months. I don’t think you will have as much grip this weekend, but it’s still going to be very important to qualify up front, as Orange County is pretty abrasive on tires. I think you’ll see the frontrunners ride a little bit longer, but I think it’s going to come down to wire like it did with Deac and myself.”

Pierce plans to enter in many prestigious Late Model races over the next several months, and is already preparing to pursue his first grandfather clock in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway later this month. Pierce will also compete in the inaugural Commonwealth Classic at Richmond Raceway, and will conclude his season by making stops in the Rodney Cook Classic at Ace Speedway and the Myrtle Beach 400.