When the CARS Tour regulars unload at Dillon Motor Speedway for the first official practice on Friday, it’ll be the first time many of them have seen the track or at least been on it. For the ones who have been there to test in the last couple of weeks, they’ve got a slight head start but almost no one entered has raced there in the past.
The only real exception to that rule among the guys expected to be regulars on the CARS Tour in the series seventh season of racing is NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series South Carolina Champion Sam Yarbrough. Yarbrough has some experience at Dillon Motor Speedway but other than him only local driver Jake Vuncannon has any real racing experience among the CARS Tour brigade.
The lack of experience for nearly all of the tour regulars sets up the potential for a great race to open the season at the PeeDee South Carolina track. Here’s a driver-by-driver look at what to expect at Dillon in numerical order.
Deac McCaskill #08
There’s not much that Deac McCaskill hasn’t done in his Late Model Stock Car racing career but after struggling through the last season, he’s rebuilt his program and is looking for wins, a stat in which he’s tied with Bobby McCarty for the second most (seven) in series history. McCaskill is also the all-time starts leader with 62 starts, 11 more than any other active driver.
Craig Moore #1
Once a staple of the CARS Tour Touring 12 program, Craig Moore finds himself spending more time crew chiefing up-and-coming young drivers like Landon Pembelton rather than racing full-time. Moore, who has one lone win on the CARS Tour at South Boston Speedway will be making his first trip to Dillon Motor Speedway and will be looking for a solid performance at Dillon.
Brandon Pierce #2
This young driver found himself in a lot of tough positions in 2020 after a promising start to his CARS Tour career in 2019, where he won the season opener at Southern National Motorsports Park. 2021 is where Pierce hopes to get back on track and get back to winning like Lee Pulliam’s teams are expected to do.
Timothy Peters #2
In what is likely to be one of few starts this season on the CARS Tour given his full-time ride in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Timothy Peters is always a threat to win. We expect nothing different from him this weekend despite a lack of experience at Dillon. The Nelson Motorsports teams have always been strong on tracks where you have less grip and you have to save tires and Dillon surely provides that type of surface.
Jonathan Findley #4
He shocked some people when he won a CARS Tour race last season at Dominion Raceway but the young driver has become one of the guys you know you’ll have to contend with at any track. Jonathan Findley will be driving his own equipment this season but will have veteran crew chief Wendell Davis turning wrenches on his car. Davis has a lot of Dillon experience and could put his driver in a position to win this weekend.
Kaden Honeycutt #4
Late Model Stock Car people have no idea who Kaden Honeycutt is. Coming from a Super Late Model background this young driver could turn heads this season on the CARS Tour. Teaming with Justin Johnson and veteran crew chief Jason Stanley could put Honeycutt exactly where he needs to be to grab some wins and be a contender for the series championship. Dillon will be a good test for him and his team.
Jake Vuncannon #5
He’s a Dillon Motor Speedway local driver, which obviously gives him a leg up on the CARS Tour regulars when it comes to what the track might give you on a race weekend. However, not being a CARS Tour regular is a drawback when learning what the CARS Tour F-45 does and how these guys race. Vuncannon could be a contender but will need to be at the top of his game to compete against Late Model Stock Car racing’s best drivers.
Jared Fryar #14
Being the reigning CARS Tour champion, Jared Fryar comes into 2021 with a lot of confidence but every season on the tour is a challenge and with new venues bring new challenges. Fryar is a model of consistency but last year’s Old North State Nationals at Greenville Pickens showed that old worn-out tracks can throw him a curveball. Fryar is hoping Dillon Motor Speedway is kinder to him as he pursues his second straight series title.
Conner Jones #14
If Speedweeks at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida is any indication, Conner Jones is poised for a breakout season in 2021. He racked up two Pro Late Model wins in February and comes into the CARS Tour season opener with a lot of momentum and confidence. Two things that are key to a young driver in what will be his toughest season to date as he challenges the best of the best in the CARS Tour.
Joe Valento #17
He’s looking to become the next big star from the David Gilliland Racing camp after the DGR team groomed Tanner and Taylor Gray in previous seasons. Taylor Gray has a pair of wins to his credit on the CARS Tour and with the same team Valento could be on track to have the same kind of success. He’ll be part of one of the best rookie crops in years and has his work cut out for him.
Jessica Cann #19
She’s been improving every season but has yet to show she’ll be a contender on the CARS Tour. 2021 could be the season she breaks out but when you battle the best Late Model Stock Car drivers in the country week in and week out it’s hard to shine. Cann is a member of the touring 12 for the first time and she has new equipment to challenge the top Late Model drivers.
Bobby McCarty #22
He’s easily one of the top Late Model Stock Car drivers in the game right now. He’s a two-time CARS Tour series champion, a feat no one else has ever accomplished but 2020 wasn’t his year. He struggled to get wins and after an early-season altercation with Josh Berry, he was never able to regain his spot among the top drivers competing for the championship. He’s looking to get back to victory lane after only securing a single victory last season and with the Nelson Motorsports team’s performance on low grip tracks, Dillon could be a place for him to put himself back atop the CARS Tour.
Mason Diaz #24
Mason Diaz will compete for the CARS Tour championship for the first time in his career. He also competes on the ARCA Menards East Series schedule but will focus a lot of energy this season on the CARS Tour. While having never won on the CARS Tour he’s expected to compete for wins right from the start as a multi-time Late Model Stock Car winner at Southern National Motorsports Park and Dominion Raceway. Look for Diaz to be one of the drivers to beat this season starting at Dillon Motor Speedway this weekend.
Justin Johnson #44
Despite still looking for his first win on the CARS Tour, Justin Johnson is one of the drivers every week that you know will be upfront competing for wins. He’s moved into a different role this season with the launch of his driver development program, where he’s helping to guide Kaden Honeycutt’s first foray into Late Model Stock Car racing but he’s also part of the Touring 12 and looking to be one of the drivers to beat week in and week out.
Mini Tyrrell #81
Entering his third season of CARS Tour competition Mini Tyrrell is looking to break out after being seemingly on the cusp of winning last season. Tyrrell will be looking to put his stamp on the 2021 CARS Tour season and hopes to get off to a fast start at Dillon Motor Speedway.
Sam Butler #81
This kid had a big season in his rookie year at Hickory Motor Speedway last year. No one knew who he was when the season started but by the time August and September rolled around he was quickly in the conversation with Josh Berry and Ryan Millington for who could win on a given weekend. He’ll be a CARS Tour rookie contender this season and despite the lack of press he’s getting, he could very well be the best of a strong rookie crop.
Mike Looney #87
He came close to winning at his home track of Franklin County Speedway last August and then had what looked like the second-best car in the Old North State Nationals at Greenville Pickens Speedway last fall in his first two efforts in the CARS Tour. Certainly, he’s coming into 2021 with high expectations as he competes full-time on the tour for the first time. At Dillon, it’ll be a challenge for him to be one of the guys to beat just given his previous runs on tracks with low grip but if he and Forrest Reynolds can get that Billy Martin Racing entry dialed in, he could be hard to beat.
William Cox III #88
Anytime you burst on to the Late Model Stock Car scene in a JR Motorsports entry with Josh Berry helping guide you, you’re going to be a guy everyone looks at. William Cox III might be the least well-known of the recent JR Motorsports Late Model Stock Car drivers but he appears to be a fast learner and could very well surprise some people on the CARS Tour this season.
Jonathan Shafer #91
This kid had some great runs in 2020 in a limited schedule with Nelson Motorsports and now with Lee Pulliam Performance, he could be set for a big season. The last time a driver moved from Nelson to LPP, they (Brandon Pierce) won the season-opening race. That’s probably not something Shafer is thinking about but with Pulliam’s guidance, Shafer will be competing for wins soon enough.
Sam Yarbrough #95
He has to be the odds-on favorite to win at Dillon Motor Speedway as Sam Yarbrough comes in as the only driver who really has both experience at Dillon Motor Speedway and racing against the top Late Model Stock Car drivers. Yarbrough will also be a great competitor for the CARS Tour championship this season and no one would be surprised if he kicks 2021 off with a win at Dillon.
Daniel Silvestri #97
This young driver has turned heads with his performances at South Boston Speedway and Dominion Raceway in the past two seasons and with Thomas Scott atop the pit box calling the shots for him, he’s likely going to be a strong contender in the CARS Tour. However, starting off at Dillon Motor Speedway might be a challenge for him as Sellers Racing, the team he competes for, isn’t known for their strengths on low grip tracks but you can bet when he gets to high grip Virginia tracks, where he has experience, this kid is going to be a serious contender.
Layne Riggs #99
This guy is easily the best CARS Tour driver not to have won a championship yet. He’s a five-time winner in the series with two of those wins coming last summer. Mike Looney recently said that Layne Riggs is “going to win a CARS Tour title” and this year could be the year he breaks through for that title. Dillon Motor Speedway could pose a challenge for the young driver to get started but then again he’s been really strong when the series hits new tracks in the past.
That makes up the 22 drivers that are pre-registered for the CARS Tour opener on Saturday at Dillon Motor Speedway. There could be others that throw their hat in the ring but these 22 should put on a show at a tough South Carolina venue and the CARS Tour should be the epicenter of all things Late Model Stock Car racing in 2021.