The 2018 CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car season officially kicks off this Saturday, March 10th with the Do the Dew 150 at Tri-County Motor Speedway.  There are 10,000 reasons for racers to converge on the Western North Carolina facility and the field is stacked from top to bottom.

With the season set to begin, is set to deliver our pre-season Power Rankings for the Late Model Stock Car division of the tour as we try to prognosticate who’s going to be the strongest all season long.  Of course, with no racing in the books and only one test to speak of, our job is tough.  And, to make that even harder the only drivers we know for sure will be running are the touring 12.

We’re going to guess on some others but some guys that might run may end up making our pre-season predictions look like we have no idea what we’re doing. Of course, maybe we don’t. Guess we’ll see.

We’ll show you our top 10 for the season plus some guys who just miss the cut and could play even more into the fray but we’re not ready to put them there just yet. We’ll also give you our predictions on other guys who are going to really mix things up in this weekend’s Do the Dew 150.

Best of the Rest:

Grayson Cullather was all smiles at the test at Martinsville Speedway on September 14, 2017. Dinah Mullins Photo

Grayson Cullather – While we’re not ready to put him in the top 10, we’re pretty sure he’s going to get there before the end of the season. He’s one of the touring 12 and he’ll run all the races and if his 2017 performance at Martinsville’s ValleyStar Credit Union 300 is any indication he’ll be in the mix sooner rather than later. Of course, sliding behind the wheel of one of the Jumpstart Motorsports entries.

Sam Mayer – Another rookie who’s hard not to place in the top 10 but we’re sure he’s going to mix it up well with the CARS Tour guys. Another member of the touring 12 and essentially replacing Anthony Alfredo at JR Motorsports who finished second in the points last year to teammate Josh Berry. Mayer also ran strong in select races for Hawk-McCall Motorsports last year.

Colby Howard – Another young driver who’s going to make his presence known this season on the CARS Tour.  He’s been strong the last couple of years at Greenville-Pickens, Anderson and Myrtle Beach.  He only has two starts in the CARS Tour with one top ten finish but he’s going to be upping those numbers this season.

Ronald Hill – We debated back and forth putting him in the top 10. Between him and Craig Moore, it was a fight to figure out who goes in. Hill is a veteran who’s been coming on strong with a sixth-place points finish last season and a ninth the year before.  He also got his best career finish last July at his home track of Orange County and could very well be a threat to win this year.

Charlie Watson – After finishing runner-up at Hickory Motor Speedway in a close battle for the championship with Ryan Millington, Watson is poised for a strong run in CARS Tour. He’s a member of the touring 12 and while he has only one start on the CARS Tour he could very well be one of the drivers mixing it up for wins this year.

Brandon Pierce – Another rookie who is driving for one of the premier teams, Nelson Motorsports, and could find himself in contention sooner rather than later. Pierce has had some good runs at South Boston Speedway and stepping away from his home track he’s going to get his feet plenty wet this year.

10 – Craig Moore
He shocked the CARS Tour last year when he sat on the pole for the Do the Dew 150 at Tri-County Motor Speedway last year but for those who’ve followed him at his home track of Orange County, it was no surprise.  Moore is going to open some eyes this year and could be a darkhorse for the championship.

9 – Bradley McCaskill
The McCaskill lineage speaks for itself and Bradley is making a name for himself. He’s running full-time this year for Ronald Renfrow and the two of them are poised for a great season.  Together in 2017, they had nothing but bad luck but they should have the demons shook off and should be ready to win some races this season.

8 – Tommy Lemons, Jr.
Who knows how many races he’ll actually run this season but when he does he’s going to be in the middle of the action.  Lemons won only one race last year at Myrtle Beach Speedway (not a CARS Tour event) and his best finish in CARS Tour competition was fourth at Concord in August but Lemons isn’t one for sitting idle and he’ll be going for wins.

7 – Ty Gibbs
He could very well be one of the guys competing for the championship this year.  He finished second in one of his eight CARS Tour starts last year but with another season under his belt in these cars, Ty Gibbs is one to watch.

6 – Cody Haskins
There are some people who just read Cody Haskins at #6 and questioned what we’re thinking but I don’t think Haskins will let us down.  Haskins has been a perennial front-runner in starts at Greenville-Pickens and Anderson Motor Speedway. He has only four CARS Tour starts but has finished in the top ten in three of them with one top five. Haskins is going to surprise some people this season.

Justin Johnson’s new 2018 ride for Robert Tyler Motorsports with JTS Built. Jason Stanley Photo

5 – Justin Johnson
New digs didn’t really work out for Justin Johnson at the Icebreaker at Myrtle Beach Speedway as he crashed hard in practice in the new Robert Tyler Motorsports entry.  Johnson’s early misfortune aside he’s poised for a big season on the CARS Tour.  Going winless last year in a Jumpstart Motorsports entry is enough to give Johnson the drive to get himself to victory lane this year.

Deac McCaskill stands in victory lane at Southern National Motorpsorts Park after a CARS Tour event in 2016. Andy Marquis Photo

4 – Deac McCaskill
He’s likely going to run the full tour but couldn’t commit to being one of the touring 12 presumably because of his daughter Ashlyn’s Limited Late Model schedule at Southern National Motorsports Park. But, we know he’s going to be one of the drivers to beat in every race he competes.

Layne Riggs stands confidently after winning the pole for the Rodney Cook Classic at Ace Speedway on October 28, 2017. Corey Latham Photo

3 – Layne Riggs
He could very well be the guy to beat for the championship again this year after missing out on it last year leading the points headed into the last race.  Riggs isn’t flashy but he’s consistent and he’s going to give Berry and Pulliam a run for the championship again this season.

Lee Pulliam used his Late Model Stock Car success at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway — including the track championship — to propel himself to a fourth NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national title. (Corey Latham photo)

2 – Lee Pulliam
It’s hard not to rank him first overall in almost any list involving Late Model Stock Cars. Between him and Philip Morris, they’re the top of the heap but Pulliam is treading deeper waters now. Fields this season will be stacked from top to bottom not from first to fourth and he’s going to have his hands full but let’s not get confused he could very well show the CARS Tour bunch why he’s a 4-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion.

Josh Berry celebrates his win at Concord Speedway on Saturday August 26, 2017. Photo courtesy of CARS Tour.

1 – Josh Berry
The reigning champion isn’t about to be outdone and Josh Berry is poised to defend his title. With an average finish of FIRST at Tri-County Motor Speedway, he could very well get his 2018 defense of the title off to a grand start and take home $10,000 to boot.

In addition to the guys we expect to compete for the CARS Tour Championship and to show the most power during the 2018 season, we’ve got some guys you should keep your eyes on this weekend at Tri-County. We could pick all of the field given the strength of the entries but we’ve narrowed it down to just a few.

Ones to Watch:
Timothy Peters – Coming off last fall’s victory in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 and a victory in the season-opening Icebreaker at Myrtle Beach Speedway, Timothy Peters is one of the drivers who could be shining in victory lane on Saturday evening.

Dexter Canipe, Jr. – He might not be a name you watch everywhere but come into his backyard at Tri-County or Hickory Motor Speedway and Dexter Canipe, Jr. is no joke. Watch for him to be in the mix this weekend.

Austin McDaniel – With three starts and two top ten finishes at Tri-County, Austin McDaniel is certainly one of the drivers to watch.  He’s due for a breakout with the CARS Tour and it could come this weekend.

Ryan Repko – Fastest in practice last weekend, Ryan Repko is no stranger to playing the spoiler role. He got his first win last year at Anderson Motor Speedway (non-CARS) and he’s looking for his first CARS Tour LMSC victory.

Bobby McCarty – He’s good everywhere he goes and he will be in the mix at Tri-County Motor Speedway. McCarty is one of those drivers who’s known for going new places and picking up wins, just like he did at Langley Speedway in the Hampton Heat 200 last July.

Thomas Beane – He was one of fastest cars last weekend at Caraway Speedway in the Money Madness 99 before his car broke and ended his day early. Beane is one true underfunded racers who is finding success the hard way and Tri-County is a good place for a driver like that to play his cards right and pick up a win.

Justin Carroll – A cut tire in the final laps of the Money Madness 99 at Caraway Speedway cost him a chance to hold off Ryan Millington for the win, but this week he’ll have a chance to redeem himself.  He’s finished in the top ten in both Tri-County starts and he’s hungry for a win.

Chad McCumbee – He’s one of the drivers to beat every race at Myrtle Beach but he’s not limited to his home track. He’s been traveling around in his Super Late Model and running top five everywhere he goes and we expect he’ll be up front this weekend.