The season opener at Tri-County Motor Speedway two weeks ago gave us a great glimpse into what the 2018 CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car season was going to look like. Several drivers showed strength but didn’t get good finishes and others showed out when the results came out and one driver went from an expected part-timer to the man to beat.
This weekend at Myrtle Beach the picture of who makes up the Top 10 in the CARS Tour LMSC Power Rankings will become even clearer but headed in here’s who we’re expecting to be among the contenders.
Here are a couple drivers who could make waves at the beach.
Sam Yarbrough – He won last weeks Late Model Stock Car race at Myrtle Beach Speedway and he’s already won a CARS Tour race at Myrtle Beach Speedway back in 2015. Look for him to be among the contenders Saturday.
Matt Cox – He picked up one lone victory last season at Myrtle Beach Speedway against the likes of Lee Pulliam and if he wants to win this weekend Pulliam will have to beat Cox.
Bryant Barnhill – I know some of you just said to yourself “Who?” …. well get ready to get to know Bryant Barnhill’s name. He led laps during last weeks LMSC race at the beach and he’s poised to make his name known as the CARS Tour rolls into town.
Best of the Rest
These drivers didn’t make the top 10 but they’ll be looking to crack the top ten after a good run at Myrtle Beach.
Ty Gibbs – Expectations this season were for this kid to have a great season but so far he’s just another car on the track. No doubt Greg Marlowe is working to make sure he’s a contender the rest of this season.
Justin Johnson – To date, his 2018 season has been nothing short of a disappointment. He destroyed a car in testing at Myrtle Beach back in February, then had a subpar run in the CARS Tour season opener at Tri-County and last week was just another car chasing Josh Berry at Hickory Motor Speedway’s season opener. His program is second to none, Johnson and his team just have to find that “little something” they’re missing right now and he’ll be one of the top 10 in the CARS Tour without a doubt.
Ronald Hill – Several people questioned him being part of our last list prior to Tri-County and what does Ronald Hill do? The veteran delivered a good run up inside the top ten, only to make a questionable call on strategy taking only one tire to get the lead but would fall back to a 15th place finish. His performance was good, the strategy was a gamble that didn’t work out but the old man can still get it done.
10 – Craig Moore (previous rank 10th)
While he didn’t move any positions, Craig Moore did earn his early season spot in the top 10 with a 13th place effort. No, it wasn’t the day he was looking for but something tells me business is about to pick up for him.
9 – Cody Haskins (previous rank 6th)
His drop from sixth to ninth this week isn’t so much about what he didn’t do but more about what others did in the season opener at Tri-County. We’re still very high on him and rallying to a ninth-place finish in the season opener was an accomplishment after his eventful day.
8 – Sam Mayer (previously unranked)
The rookie got the job done in the season opener grabbing a third-place finish at Tri-County Motor Speedway. He’s also coming to Myrtle Beach with a fifth-place finish in the 2017 Myrtle Beach 400 and he ran second to teammate Josh Berry at Hickory last weekend.
7 – Ryan Repko (previously unranked)
He was one of our “Drivers to Watch” at Tri-County two weeks ago and for good reason. The young driver had paced practice the week before and then backed it up with a solid fourth-place finish in the race. Now he’s looking to be a contender for the CARS Tour title.
6 – Layne Riggs (previous rank 3rd)
He didn’t run bad at Tri-County, he just didn’t run all that great. His run-in with Cody Haskins, which ripped the right front fender from his car didn’t help matters any. After his title run last season came up one race short we were sure he’d come out of the box firing on all cylinders but maybe he needed some practice. We’ll see this weekend.
5 – Justin Carroll (previously unranked)
He was another of our “Drivers to Watch” at Tri-County and boy did you have to watch him as he raced up to finish second. This young driver is money and if he stays on the tour full-time this season he’s going to continue to climb these rankings as well as the points standings.
4 – Deac McCaskill (previous rank 4th)
His sixth-place finish at Tri-County is about what we expected from Deac at the opener but we’re expecting he’ll ramp up his performance soon. Watch for him to have a good run at the beach this weekend.
3 – Bobby McCarty (previously unranked)
Had we known that Bobby McCarty was going to chase the CARS Tour points this season he would have been in the top five of our pre-season list. Since we didn’t know we only included him in our “Drivers to Watch” and we said he was known for going to new places and winning and …. he did. Look for him to be one of the drivers to beat for the CARS Tour title this season.
2 – Lee Pulliam (previous rank 2nd)
It was so hard not to move Lee Pulliam to first on this list. He won 14 of 17 races last season at Myrtle Beach and arguably had the car to beat at Tri-County two weeks ago in the CARS Tour opener. But, how do you put him ahead of Josh Berry? We aren’t ready to do that yet but Berry will have to beat Pulliam week in and week out to keep Pulliam from the number one spot.
1 – Josh Berry (previous rank 1st)
He had one of the best cars at Tri-County but had a mechanical issue that forced him to pit and lose track position. He rebounded from being a lap down to finish fifth and had the race not gone green as long as it did, he might have moved up further. Berry then hit Hickory Motor Speedway last weekend and picked up two wins. Momentum is on his side and heading to Myrtle Beach Speedway where he’s won in the CARS Tour and he won last years Myrtle Beach 400.
So, who’s going to be the car to beat this week??? I think you can take this top ten and ride almost any one of them for the victory unless a local driver steals one this weekend. It’s going to be a fun one and just think they’re off to Wake County after this…
Photos by: Corey Latham, Hunter Thomas and Jaden Austin