Justin Carroll looks through the windshield of his car as his team pushes him to the tech line at Southern National Motorsports Park for the CARS Tour season opener on March 9, 2019. (Jaden Austin photo)

Justin Carroll’s weekend at Ace Speedway began with promise, as he paced several CARS LMSC Tour practice sessions on Thursday and Friday and put himself in a position to win with a solid qualifying effort.

Carroll would see his hopes for his first CARS LMSC Tour victory come to an end before Lap 25, as an accident early in the event knocked him out of contention and would ultimately relegate him to a 23rd place finish.

“It’s kind of how our year has been I guess,” Carroll said. “This is obviously frustrating, as we beat ourselves. There’s really no way to put it other than that. We had a car that could have contended for the win tonight, and we could have been right there with Josh, Deac, McCarty and the others, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

The Concord, North Carolina native has been an active part-time competitor of the CARS LMSC Tour since 2016 when he made is debut in the Do the Dew 200 at Tri-County Motor Speedway and came home in the sixth position. Carroll has since amassed four more Top 5 finishes, including a victory in the 2017 Throwback 276 at Hickory Motor Speedway in which he ran a paint scheme that paid tribute to late NASCAR car owner Junie Donlavey.

After another partial schedule in 2018, Carroll elected to fully invest himself in the CARS LMSC Tour in 2019, as he signed up to participate in the series’ Touring 12 program that offers benefits to drivers throughout the year. Carroll would have to contest with a strong field of full-time drivers that included former champions Josh Berry, Deac McCaskill, and Bobby McCarty, but he believed that he could contend for the win on a regular basis.

In the season-opening Solid Rock Carriers 300 at Southern National Motorsports Park, Carroll worked his way up to the sixth position after starting 17th, but he would get knocked to the rear of the field after going around off the front bumper of Bradley McCaskill with just over 100 laps remaining. Carroll remained persistent, as he fought his way back to a 10th place finish on the lead lap.

Carroll would not be as fortunate at the series’ next stop at Hickory Motor Speedway, as he sustained damage after contact with Camden Gullie early in the race, which eventually put him behind the wall in 22nd. Carroll struggled to find speed a couple of weeks later in the inaugural Old North State Nationals at Orange County, and as forced to watch the finish of the race from the infield after suffering a mechanical failure on Lap 149.

Despite his struggles, Carroll entered the Race at Ace 125 with confidence after previously securing a victory at Ace Speedway on April 26. The speed that Carroll possessed carried over with him into the weekend, which Carroll believed was a step in the right direction after previously encountering issues on how to keep up with the rest of his CARS LMSC Tour competition.

“We’ve just been working hard on the car,” Carroll said. “We haven’t had the speed that we’ve wanted all year, and we know we can be better. I feel like we got there this weekend and the last weekend with winning the local race here. We’re on a better track for sure.”

Carroll qualified his #57 Industrial Battery & Charger/GECI Ford in the sixth position for the 125-lap feature and planned to ride behind the leaders as he tried to save his equipment for the end of the race. Carroll would not get that opportunity, as the right rear wheel completely fell off his car on the ninth lap of the race, bringing out the event’s second caution.

Carroll’s crew was able to make repairs to his Late Model, which allowed him to return to the race moments later, albeit several laps down. Despite showing some decent pace at the rear of the field, Carroll would retire from the race on Lap 57 with more mechanical issues, putting an end to another frustrating weekend.

Carroll plans to quickly put his misfortunes at Ace behind him and will get to work on preparing his Late Model for the next CARS LMSC Tour. Carroll is optimistic that he can pull out a victory before the season ends, but he admitted that he has given up on the idea of bringing home his first CARS LMSC Tour championship.

“We were out of the points coming into tonight,” Carroll said. “We had a poor finish at Southern National after getting spun out, we got wrecked at Hickory on Lap 40 and we just did not have a good run at Orange County. We come here, and we’re out after only 50 laps. It hasn’t been our season in the CARS Tour. We have fast racecars, but we just can’t beat ourselves. We will have to do some lessons at the shop on tightening a wheel.”

Carroll and the rest of the CARS LMSC Tour drivers will regroup for the series’ next race on May 18 in the Heritage Truck Centers 250 at Motor Mile Speedway.

Cover photo by Jaden Austin.