Josh Berry and Brenden Queen lead a field of Late Model Stock Cars to the green flag at Southern National Motorsports Park in November 2021. (Andy Marquis photo)

A new era begins for the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour on Saturday night when the series heads back to the track where it all began in the outskirts of Wilson County, North Carolina.

This weekend’s CARS Tour race, which features both the Late Model Stock and Pro Late Model Tours, will be the first race for the series under the combined ownership of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and Justin Marks.  It also marks the return to Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina – and the 2023 season is opening with large fields in both divisions.

“We could not be more excited about this weekend,” Keeley Dubensky, director of operations for the CARS Tour, said.  “When Jack formed the CARS Tour back in 2015, he wanted it to become a premier short track series but never imagined it would get this big.  There is so much happening with the CARS Tour right now and we all believe this weekend’s race at Southern National is going to be a great start to this new chapter.”

33 drivers will compete in the 125-lap Late Model Stock Car feature, a field that consists of names like Brenden Queen, who comes in fresh off a big win in Jacksonville on Saturday night, Bobby McCarty, Carson Kvapil, Landon Pembelton, Isabella Robusto and more – along with multi-time Southern National track champions Deac McCaskill and Mason Diaz.  The Pro Late Model field also consists of heavy hitters, such as Caden Kvapil, Katie Hettinger, Tyler Church, and more.

Ushering in a new era at Southern National is only fitting for the CARS Tour, which was born from the ashes of the USAR Pro Cup Series by Jack McNelly in late 2014, with the series’ first race being held at the 4/10-mile track in Lucama, North Carolina, on a cold night in March 2015.  Todd Gilliland, who now races in the NASCAR Cup Series, and Cole Timm each scored victories that evening.

The CARS Tour premiered at Southern National with great anticipation.  The eve of the inaugural race felt much like the eve of a Late Model Stock Car major, a series that would become a mainstay in short track racing.  That is exactly what it would become.

“Southern National is where it all began for us,” Dubensky stated.  “They could barely fit everyone in the infield because there was so much anticipation leading into the first race in 2015.  It’s kind of fitting that our first race under new ownership is taking place at Southern National and hopefully we’ll have many more memorable races at the track going forward.”

Saturday night’s race marks the first race for the CARS Tour at Southern National since March 2020.

“I’m very grateful to have the CARS Tour back at Southern National for the season opener,” Southern National Motorsports Park track owner Michael Diaz said.  “Really glad we could get it back here for Kirk and Lynette Ipock for the season opener, back at their home track.  It is also fitting that the first-ever CARS Tour race was run here and now the first race under new ownership is back here at Southern National.  I’m looking forward to seeing the direction and just exactly where it is going.  Thankful to have it at Southern National.”

The March 2020 race, which was won by Taylor Gray in the Late Model Stock Car division and Matt Craig in the Super Late Model division, was the last race of the pre-pandemic era.  Just days after that event, motorsports joined much of the country in hitting the pause button as governments and industries worked to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Saturday’s race also begins the first full season of racing at Southern National since 2019.  The track will run regular-season races on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday nights throughout the season.

The entry lists for the Puryear Tank Lines 225, provided by the CARS Tour, can be seen below.

LMSC Entry List (33 cars): #00 Jody Measamer, #03 Brenden Queen, #04 Ronnie Bassett Jr., #08 Deac McCaskill, #0 Landon Pembelton, #1 Andrew Grady, #2 Brandon Pierce, #2W Ryan Wilson, 4 Dylon Wilson, #4F Jonathan Findley, #6 Bobby McCarty, #8 Carson Kvapil, #8B Chase Burrow, #8F Tate Fogleman, #10 Kaden Honeycutt, #14 Jared Fryar, #15 Ryan Millington, #16 Chad McCumbee, #19 Jessica Cann, #20 Joshua Dickens, #22 Cale Gale, #24 Mason Diaz, #29 Brian Obiedzenski, #32 Zack Miracle, #42 Carson Brown, #44 Conner Jones, #55 Isabella Robusto, #59 Blake Lothian, #67 Cameron Bolin, #77 Connor Hall, #81 Mini Tyrrell, #95 Jacob Heafner, #97A Jason Kitzmiller

PLM Entry List (23 cars): #03 Kyle Campbell, #5 Zac Fowler, #5B Gavan Boschele, #6 George Phillips, #7 Tristan McKee, #7c Justin Crider, #7T Tyler Church, #8 Rusty Skewes, #9 Ashton Higgins, #13 Austin MacDonald, #15 Brett Suggs, #19 Bryan Kruczek, #24 Carter Langley, #28 Isabella Robusto, #29 Logan Boyett, #43 Nick Loden, #43H Matt Horniman, #44 Justin Whitaker, #48 Jeff Batten, #49 Luke Morey, #77 Logan Jones, #81 Katie Hettinger, #96 Caden Kvapil

Late Models flash by turns one and two at Southern National Motorsports Park in the 2021 Thanksgiving Classic. (Andy Marquis photo)