After an eventful 2017 season that saw the series go through several experimental rule changes, and concluded with veteran Josh Berry winning his first championship, the drivers of the CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour are getting ready to contest for the 2018 championship over the course of 12 races. The new season will introduce a more diverse schedule for the Late Model drivers, which includes new tracks like Wake County and Ace Speedway, as well as the return of traditional dates at Orange County and Hickory.
For the third consecutive season, the CARS LMSC Tour will begin the season at a different location, with the 4/10 mile Tri-County Motor Speedway in Hudson, North Carolina being the host of the 2018 season-opener. Unlike previous opening races, the Do the Dew 150 will offer a record purse of $10,000 to the driver who crosses the finish line first on March 10th, 2018 as well as $800 to any Late Model competitor who starts the race.
All CARS LMSC Tour competitors who plan to participate in the season-opening race at Tri-County will have an opportunity to shake down their cars in a test session at the track during the CARS Tour Media Day on March 3rd. Among the drivers who will participate in the session will be Knightdale, North Carolina native Bradley McCaskill, who is looking forward to taking his first laps around Tri-County on Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve never seen Tri-County in person before and I’ve just been watching a whole bunch of videos online in order to try and get some data to go off of,” McCaskill said. “I am very thankful that the CARS Tour is hosting this test session, as they normally have strict rules when it comes to testing. There are a handful of other guys who have never raced at Tri-County as well, so hopefully, we’ll get a good feel for the track.”
Tri-County has closed and re-opened several times over the past three decades due to ownership struggles and noise complaints from nearby residents, and remains one of the few major short tracks in North Carolina without a weekly racing series. Despite these issues, Tri-County has continued to attract several major divisions of auto racing over its long lifespan, including the Goody’s Dash Series, UARA-STARS Late Model Series, and one K&N East Series race in 2009, which was won by current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Matt DiBenedetto.
Since 2015, Tri-County has been a staple of both the CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour and the CARS Super Late Model Tour and has quickly grown into a series favorite for both fans and drivers. The track is known for producing competitive, side-by-side racing throughout an entire race, and is responsible for one of the most thrilling finishes in CARS Tour history, in which Late Model driver Josh Berry edged Garrett Campbell after pulling a crossover maneuver on him in Turn 4 on the final lap.
The 2018 edition of the Do the Dew 150 will be held in the middle of the afternoon as opposed to its usual evening start time, which will make Saturday’s test session all the more important for the CARS LMSC Tour drivers. One driver that will not be participating in the session is Late Model veteran Justin Johnson, who destroyed his primary car during a practice session for the Icebreaker at Myrtle Beach Speedway in February. Johnson had hoped to be at Tri-County this weekend for the test but added that he will be watching his competition closely in order to prepare for his first day race at the track.
“I’ve only been down to Tri-County once and it’s a pretty unique racetrack by far,” Johnson said. “It provides good racing since you can race from the bottom to the top, but I’m going to go to the test as a spectator to see if I can pick up on everyone else’s lines, and get a feel for the competition so that we can focus on ourselves when we show up next Friday.”
While Johnson will be able to rely on some experience for the Do the Dew 150 next Saturday, over ¼ of his fellow competitors in the newly formed Touring 12 program for the CARS Tour have never turned a lap at Tri-County. Among them will be Franklin, Wisconsin native Sam Mayer, who was signed to JR Motorsports’ Late Model program following a strong part-time Late Model campaign in 2017, which included a Top 5 finish in the Myrtle Beach 400. Mayer stated that his main goal for the two weekends at Tri-County will be to gain experience going forward.
“This is the first time that I’ve been with JR Motorsports as a whole team,” Mayer said. “The test at Tri-County is going to get me ready for what the team is like and how they work on the car. It’ll also give me a chance to get a feel for the track and analyze what the competition is going to be like, and what we have to do to beat them.”
Mayer will have plenty of assistance from his teammate and defending series champion Josh Berry, who will be searching for his third consecutive victory at Tri-County Speedway. The two JR Motorsports drivers will be among several talented Late Model drivers making the trip to Tri-County this weekend to prepare for the Do the Dew 150 on March 10th, which is expected to include Deac McCaskill, as well as four-time Whelen All-American Series champion Lee Pulliam.
The 2018 CARS Tour Media Day will begin with a two-hour media session at 9:45 am on Saturday, which will include a Q&A session as well as a photo and video session with the drivers participating in the inaugural Touring 12 program. Drivers will hit the track at approximately 12:00 for three Limited Late Model and four Late Model practice sessions before all on-track activity concludes at 4:30 pm.