The Thrifty Tire/Puryear Tank Lines 300 would be a long and brutal event for Kyle Plott, but the Marietta, Georgia native managed to overcome his issues with some luck on his side, as he picked up his first career CARS Response Energy SLM Tour victory at Orange County Speedway.
“We blew a head gasket in practice, and as soon as that happened, I knew we were done,” Plott said. “We don’t have any stuff like that on the trailer, but Robert Long came over to help us, and their shop was only 45 minutes away and my dad hightailed it over there and got it. I thought my day was over, and I came out victorious.”
As with the rest of his competition, Plott did not get a chance to qualify his #4 Late Model even with his mechanical issues due to a pop-up shower that hit the track shortly after final SLM practice began. The lineup would be set by practice speeds, with Plott’s time of 14.227 in the first practice being good enough to earn him the 7th starting position for the 150-lap feature.
Raphael Lessard, who was in a backup car following an accident in practice on Friday, led the field to the green flag, but it would only take a few laps for Steve Wallace to pass him for the lead and assume control of the lead. Several drivers, including Plott and Matt Craig, managed to work their way into contention over the next 120 laps, but none of them would have anything for Wallace, who held a comfortable lead by the time the third and final competition caution was displayed.
The entire complexity of the race would change on the next restart, as Wallace would be turned around by Lessard going into Turn 1 after clearing Craig for the lead, which collected several other cars in the back of the pack. After reviewing the video footage, CARS Response Energy Tour officials determined that both Craig and Lessard were responsible for the accident and subsequently sent both driver to the rear, handing the lead to Plott.
The final 20 laps of the event would be far from easy for Plott, as he had to find a way to hold off Corey Heim and Wallace, who climbed his way back up from the rear to the third after only a handful of laps. Heim made a last ditch effort to knock Plott out of the groove in Turn 1, but the CARS Response Energy Tour rookie was unable to make the maneuver work, as Plott held on for the win.
Plott admitted that the car was a little too free for his liking to began the race, but was thankful for all of the hard work that his family, friends and crew put in to make his first victory in the CARS Response Energy Tour a reality. Plott knew that it would be difficult to hold off Heim, who was also looking for his first win, but he knew that he was not going to be overly aggressive trying to get around him.
“He’s a good little racecar driver, and he’s going to be real hard to beat here in a couple of years,” Plott said. “He gave me everything he had, and I was giving him just about all I had too. We were struggling those last few laps, and I think the rear end actually went out, but we’ll go to the shop, work on it a little bit and focus on the next one.”
Current CARS Response Energy SLM Tour points leader Jared Fryar ended up fourth, while Lessard fought his way back into the fifth position by the time the checkered flag dropped. Lessard entered the race only eight points behind Fryar, and finds himself in a decent position to pick up his second CARS Response Energy SLM Tour championship with a strong showing at South Boston Speedway.
SLM Feature Results:
1. 4p Kyle Plott
2. 78 Corey Heim
3. 66w Steve Wallace
4. 14 Jared Fryar
5. 18 Raphael Lessard
6. 17 Mike Speeney
7. 00 Anthony Cataldi
8. 16 Molly Helmuth
9. 2 Darrell Gilchrist
10. 2t Gracie Trotter
11. 8 Tate Fogleman
12. 49 Jeff Batten
13. 54 Matt Craig
14. 37 Dan Speeney -1
15. 12 Dean Ward OUT
16. 32 Harold Crooms OUT