It’s that time of year again as the cars and stars of the CARS Tour Late Model Stock Cars heads to their fifth season-opening event. This year they go back to the birthplace of the CARS Tour, Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, NC, where the first race in series history was held.
This year the competition has gotten even better than it’s been in the past four seasons. This season the three most recent champions will return for a chance to repeat. Deac McCaskill (2016), Josh Berry (2017) and Bobby McCarty (2018) all return with a unique opportunity to be the first repeat champion in series history.
But behind those three guys are 15 other drivers signed up to race full-time on the CARS Tour including nine others that join McCaskill, Berry, and McCarty as members of the Touring 12 program. Some of those names ring out like a future Hall of Fame list for Late Model Stock Car racing including veteran Stacy Puryear.
The tour also boasts the strongest rookie core potentially in the series history with California hot shoe Adam Lemke, the youngest driver to ever win in a Late Model at age 10 Mini Tyrrell and David Gilliland Racing drivers Drew Dollar and Taylor Gray.
This season is shaping up to be one for the ages and it was very hard for us to pick out just 12 drivers to put in the pre-season power rankings but we’ve narrowed it down and here’s who we think comes into the season with the most power.
Part Time Power:
Several drivers will only run a part-time schedule in the CARS Tour and some of those drivers could very well steal a few wins from the full-time guys. Here’s who we think is the best among the expected part-time contenders.
Fresh off the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, Myatt Snider could be a force on the CARS Tour in what’s expected to be a part-time run. Snider in his Late Model days was a contender everywhere he went and he could very well be standing in victory lane this season.
Tommy Lemons, Jr.
He’s refocused and rejuvenated and Tommy Lemons, Jr. could very well work his way back to the top of Late Model Stock Car racing this season. With his Driver Development program not having a driver on the CARS Tour this season, it’ll allow him to focus solely on his car and getting to victory lane.
He might just be one of the best Late Model Stock Car drivers at Myrtle Beach Speedway, but former NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series driver Chad McCumbee can get it done anywhere he travels. He’s expected to compete in select events on the CARS Tour this season and when he does watch for him to be in the mix for the win.
We mentioned earlier the core of rookie drivers might well be the best in CARS Tour history and I think we could end up with an incredible battle for Rookie of the Year this season. Here are the top guys among the rookie contenders.
At age nine (yep 9) he started his career in Late Model Stock Cars. He competed and won many races at Shenandoah Speedway including being track champion. He competed in select Limited Late Model races during the 2018 season running a high of second at Carteret County Speedway. He comes into 2019 poised to turn heads on the CARS Tour and going to a track like Southern National Motorsports Park, where he has a Limited Late Model win could be just the trick to get his season started off right.
Coming off of a successful Rookie of the Year run at Madera Speedway in Madera, CA, Adam Lemke joins JR Motorsports for a full-time CARS Tour stint. Lemke is taking the seat of 2018 CARS Tour Rookie of the Year Sam Mayer and hopes to repeat for the Dale Earnhardt, Jr. owned team.
He won his first Limited Late Model race quickly at Hickory Motor Speedway last season and this year he’s hoping to get off to that quick of a start on the CARS Tour. Taylor is the younger brother of NHRA turn NASCAR star, Tanner Gray and hopes to bring his family name the same kind of success.
While we’re not sure if he’s going to run the full CARS Tour schedule, Camden Gullie has been cutting his teeth on the same short track that his father Jason did. Orange County Speedway is home to Gullie and when the series heads there in a few weeks he will have a leg up on the competition after finishing second in points there last season.
Alright with the part-timers and the rookies out of the way, here are the Top 12 drivers as the season kicks off at Southern National.
Odd Man Out – Jonathan Findley
Findley could very well find himself in the mix on the tour but with his past success at Southern National, he could make a name for himself right out of the box this weekend. Findley will run the full tour and we’ll be watching for him to move inside the top 12 this season.
12 – Adam Lemke/Mini Tyrrell
We couldn’t decide who to put in and who to leave out, so we’re giving both these rookies a spot in the Power Rankings. Lemke and Tyrrell come in with a great resume and both come in with great teams. Lemke with JR Motorsports and Tyrrell led by veteran Late Model Stock Car driver Brandon Butler. Look for both to make noise this season.
11 – Ronald Hill
In the first two races last season on the CARS Tour, Ronald Hill could have easily taken home two wins. He had himself in contention for a win in several other events as well and this season we expect he’s going to step his game up and breakthrough for a victory.
10 – Stacy Puryear
He’s not part of the Touring 12 but he has said on social media that he plans to run the full CARS Tour schedule. Stacy Puryear is a wily old veteran driver who could play spoiler to the younger guys at many tracks this season and he’s no slouch at Southern National either.
9 – Trevor Ward
Honestly as impressive as this kid was last season, he could easily find his way up this list. Trevor Ward proved himself last season and got his first career Late Model victory at his home track of Ace Speedway. Now he’s looking for his first CARS Tour win and it could come sooner rather than later.
8 – Bradley McCaskill
With a brand new TORP car and some momentum at the end of last season, there could another McCaskill at the front of the field. Bradley McCaskill has long since been in the shadows of his more famous cousin Deac who is the all-time laps leader in CARS Tour. This year he could emerge from those shadows.
7 – Craig Moore
I could have easily put him further up this list but Craig Moore could be the underdog story of the year. Moore shed his winless status last November at South Boston Speedway as he grabbed his first win on the CARS Tour. Now he’s looking to be in the fight for his first CARS Tour championship and if South Boston last November was any indication he could be one of the guys to beat everywhere the series travels.
6 – Brandon Pierce
Last season was a big one for Brandon Pierce. He got his first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model win at South Boston and nearly pulled off a CARS Tour win at Orange County. He has a best finish of second on the CARS Tour but with a move from Nelson Motorsports to Lee Pulliam Performance and more focus solely on him, Pierce could see victory lane multiple times this season.
5 – Justin Carroll
This guy is a threat to win everywhere he travels and with a move to full-time on the CARS Tour, he could be one of the drivers to beat. Justin Carroll comes in with a new Reynolds Racing Chassis, Jason Stanley as his full-time crew chief and sponsorship to get him where he needs to be. Watch for him to be a contender for the championship.
4 – Deac McCaskill
The 2016 series champion is a contender everywhere the CARS Tour travels but this season the competition level is extremely high. Deac McCaskill will be looking to add to his laps led and hopes to creep up on Josh Berry this season in total wins. Look for him to be a championship contender right out of the box at his home track of Southern National.
3 – Layne Riggs
Without a miscue in the season finale in 2017, Layne Riggs would already be a CARS Tour champion but that honor instead went to Josh Berry. Riggs only got to victory lane last year once at Kingsport Speedway but should have had another win at Carteret before contact with Berry ended his run. This season Riggs is looking to get back to championship form.
2 – Josh Berry
The 2017 CARS Tour champion and the all-time wins leader (14), Josh Berry is certainly one the entire field will have to worry about all season long. Berry is looking to become the first repeat champion and with his CARS Tour statistics, he could very well be the first to do so.
1 – Bobby McCarty
As good as he was last year and as good as his team Nelson Motorsports has already fired off with a win at Myrtle Beach Speedway with Ty Gibbs, Bobby McCarty is the easy odds on favorite to win the championship in the CARS Tour again this season. The 2018 champion will be looking to get into championship winning form early and with how he ran in the Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National last November, he could easily come out of the box with a win and the points lead.
Well, there you have it. That’s our assessment of the CARS Tour and the drivers with most momentum and power heading into the 2019 season. Be sure to let us know who we missed or who you think will out-perform our expectations on our Facebook page.