Bobby McCarty started the 2018 season with a bang at Tri-County Motor Speedway and kept the momentum going through the first half of the CARS Response Energy Tour season, which ultimately made the difference and allowed him to clinch the series championship.
McCarty, 26, from Summerfield, North Carolina, won four of the first seven races in the CARS Response Energy Tour and finished no worse than seventh during that stretch which allowed him to build up a seemingly insurmountable points lead. While he would go on to have some struggles down the stretch, the points lead did prove to be insurmountable and he would go on to hoist the championship trophy in the final race of the season at his hometown track of South Boston Speedway no less.
“I’m just so thankful,” McCarty told Race22.com. “I’m really glad to win this championship with Kirk Ipock and Solid Rock Carriers on the hood and Autos By Nelson who was the guy who gave me my shot at winning this thing. Without him, the three amigos, Jeremy Upchurch, Brian Tanner, Charlie Long, BST Shocks, Blue Ridge Color Company and everybody who puts the time in that car and made the season possible for me, I can’t be thankful enough.”
McCarty has shown in the past that he had the talent to win races. In 2017, he joined Barry Nelson’s Late Model Stock Car team and gained knowledge, confidence and even more experience. That year, he won Late Model Stock Car racing’s summer highlight, the Hampton Heat 200 at Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway. McCarty credits his success with Nelson to what he’s learned in terms of tire management.
“You know, for me, it means a lot as far as what I can do with the car,” McCarty commented. “With David Triplett, Jr., Timothy Peters, Barry Nelson and Marcus Richmond, those guys really taught me a lot about tire management and that’s what really turned everything around for me. Before, as soon as the green flag dropped, I was getting all I could get until the checkered flag fell and I didn’t understand saving tires.”
Prior to joining Nelson’s team, McCarty had raced for his own family-based team out of Summerfield, predominantly at South Boston Speedway.
“To be honest, I wasn’t confident enough in my own equipment to save tires,” McCarty explained. “Then we got with this team and they taught me a lot. Timothy and Marcus and Barry taught me a lot about saving tires and just being confident in your equipment – just know it’s there, take care of it and be there at the end.
“Once I finally understood how that deal worked,” McCarty continued. “You could look at last year’s results and it was up and down. Top-five one weekend and not even a top-15 the next. Once I figured it out, it was like a light switch. I was running top-three every weekend and I feel like we should have had the same success in the CARS Tour if it wasn’t for a few hit-or-miss races.”
McCarty’s dominance in the first half of the season didn’t translate into the second half of the season. When he scored his fourth win of the season in a frantic CARS Tour race at Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway, he looked unstoppable. However, the victory at Carteret County would be the last win he would get in 2018.
“We started out really good and we got in a slump around the end of June or July,” McCarty remarked. “Around the end of July or August, we had the cars better. Kingsport, we were running fourth and got knocked up the track. Wake County, we were running second and got knocked up the track. We had good runs but, when you dominate like that, I feel like you paint a target on your back and that’s what we did. Some people enjoy a challenge. Others just want to use the bumper to get around you and that’s fine, I’m all for racing, but to me, it seems like we had a big target on our back and they went after us.”
Those frustrations boiled over during the Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway back in August. After a series of tense battles which often involved the use of bumpers and paint being traded, McCarty expressed his frustrations when he proclaimed, “I was the ball and everybody else was the bat.”
McCarty elaborated on the frustrations with the level of aggression he felt was directed at him on track.
“It got to that point for me,” McCarty stated. “You know, we won Carteret, but we got knocked up the track three different times by three different cars at Carteret. That just set the tone for the next six or seven races where we’d have a top-three or top-four run and just get knocked up the track. As a competitor, I could have knocked any car up the track anytime I wanted to, but I wanted to race the right way and race them clean. For me, that’s just frustrating and I kind of got tired of it and let it show at Langley and I shouldn’t have, it was unprofessional of me.
“When it comes down to it, everybody’s got bumpers. I got a front and rear bumper. If they can hit my rear, then I’m going to use my front is all it comes down to.”
After the victory at Carteret County, McCarty scored finishes of 7th (Kingsport), 4th (Hickory), 7th (Wake County), 5th (Orange County) and 9th (South Boston). Despite the frustrating string of finishes down the stretch, McCarty was still elated to win the series championship against heavyweights such as Lee Pulliam, Layne Riggs, Deac McCaskill and Josh Berry.
“It’s been a long time coming,” McCarty noted. “To win a touring series like this against some of the best out here, it means the world to me and I know it means just as much to my team.”
Cover Photo by: Corey Latham/RACE22.com