The CARS Tour’s inaugural event, the X-1R Performance Procucts 300 at Southern National Motorsports Park, was a highly anticipated spectacle, touted as an event that would parallel with the biggest and best races in short track racing.

It would have been easy for the event to fall short of those expectations. There had been so much talk about how the event and tour would be “the best of both worlds” that it seemed unlikely that they could deliver on all of it.

Not only did the maiden voyage of the CARS Tour justify the hype, it exceeded it.

Want a good car count? That was covered, as 30 Super Late Models answered the call for the green flag for their 150-lap feature. 36 cars participated in the Late Model Stock qualifications, meaning a Last Chance Qualifier was necessary to whittle the field down to 30 for their 150-lapper.

Want an all-star roster? Between the two fields, there were two Martinsville winners, two Myrtle Beach winners, two Snowball Derby winners, five Pro Cup championships, a Southern Super Series champion, and nine Late Model Stock track championships at Southern National, the host track of the series debut. There were former NASCAR pilots such as Stacy Compton and Stephen Leicht, along with young budding stars like Christopher Bell and Tyler Ankrum.

Then there was the on-track product. Whether they came to the track or were watching on RaceFeedX’s live pay-per-view stream, those who watched Saturday’s festivities were treated to thrilling battles on the 0.400 mile oval.

In the Super Late Model feature, PASS émigré Cole Timm and Bell, this year’s Rattler 250 winner, battled tooth-and-nail for 150 laps. Bell was better on the restarts, but Timm held the advantage on longer runs. Ultimately, a 47-lap run to close the race turned the tables in Timm’s favor, but Bell’s effort (and the possibility of a caution) kept the crowd on edge.

The Late Model Stock feature had been dominated by four-time Southern National Motorsports Park champion Deac McCaskill. However, the cleanliness of the Super Late Model finish contrasted sharply with the string of cautions to close the Late Model Stock race.

Those cautions helped two youngsters, Ankrum and Brayton Haws, as they clawed their way through the field. Ankrum spun in time trials, but won the Last Chance Qualifier and wasted no time in working his way forward. Brayton Haws was running in the top five when a broken valve spring brought his car to pit road. His crew was able to solve the gremlins under caution, keeping him on the lead lap.

Ankrum and Haws finished fifth and sixth, respectively, as their hard charges ran out of time and steam. However, another youngster rained on McCaskill’s parade. Todd Gilliland, the second place finisher in the 2014 Autumn Classic, put the bumper to McCaskill on a late restart, giving him enough room to duck underneath. Gilliland won the side-by-side battle that followed, earning him the inaugural Late Model Stock victory.

It would be rash to judge the CARS Tour a success on one weekend in Lucama, North Carolina. The challenge for the series now will be to make this event’s excitement sustainable as the tour rolls on to Orange County and Hickory.

However, they were able to prove Saturday night that there was a reason for all the hype and headlines. For one night, the stars came together and put on 300 exciting laps of green-flag racing. The dream of an event that brings together the best and brightest of Late Model Stock and Super Late Model racing was a dream no more, it was a reality.

A reality that could occur nine more times in 2015.