Response Energy Drink became the official sponsor of the CARS Tour in an announcement made by the series at the start of the CARS Tour Media Day on Saturday morning (Photo: CARS Tour)

A brand new season officially began for the CARS Tour on Saturday afternoon as approximately two dozen Late Model teams and drivers arrived in Granite Falls, North Carolina to participate in an afternoon test session at Tri-County Motor Speedway. As with the 2017 season, there will be many new changes introduced to both divisions of the CARS Tour for 2018, which will include a presenting title sponsor for the first time in series history.

The CARS Tour announced early on Saturday morning that Response Energy Drink would serve as the primary sponsor of both the CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour and the CARS Super Late Model Tour for the duration of the 2018 season. Series owner Jack McNelly said that Response Energy embodies many of the values that the CARS Tour represents, and believes that the partnership will be beneficial to both parties going forward.

“They actually reached out to us,” McNelly said. “Response Energy Drink will certainly bring us stability in the long-term. I’m not afraid to admit it, but we’ve operated for a number of years breaking even, and sometimes a little bit under. This gives us a little bit of cushion, but we intend to spend that money, and we are not going to sit on it.”

Although the brand has only been around since 2015, the Abingdon, Virginia based Response Energy Drink have been gradually working to increase their presence in auto racing over the past couple of years. Prior to signing on with the CARS Tour, Response Energy served as a sponsor for Lizard Creek Speedway in Hanover, West Virgina, as well as driver Dallas Hatfield, who would go on to win several races at the track in 2017.

Response Energy Drink will promote their brand for the 2018 CARS Response Energy Tour in a similar method to Hooters on-track presence when they sponsored the USAR Pro Cup Series from 1997 until 2008. Response Energy Drink will regularly bring female models out to every single CARS Tour event, who will help participate in pre-race ceremonies and will hand out free samples during the race. The company will also provide grandstand entertainment for fans, which will include games for children.

The presence of Response Energy Drink at the track is expected to provide extra benefits for CARS Tour owners and drivers as the season progresses. Late Model veteran Cody Haskins, who is a part of the CARS Response Energy Tour’s inaugural Touring 12 program, believes that the presence of a title sponsor will create more income for the teams, which will improve the series as a whole.

“Response Energy Drink is great for the CARS Tour,” Haskins said. “They can spend money from the title sponsor, and bring in more fans, as well as do more media. Both parties can get more exposure with the partnership, and it will help out the drivers as well, as I believe they will up the purses as the season goes on. I’m excited to be a part of this.”

McNelly added that the increased budget for the CARS Response Energy Tour will allow the series to focus on ideas to bring more spectators to the track, which he believes has been issue for the series since its inception in 2015. The series plans to spend more money on advertising in order to attract more fans, but also plans to bring back special events that were popular among spectators and competitors, including the Throwback 276, which attracted one of the largest crowds in CARS Response Energy Tour history.

The CARS Response Energy Tour also plans to take advantage of an increased media presence in Late Model racing, as the series will have a handful of races broadcasted on television this season. Although McNelly declined to comment on which races would be shown on television, he stated that the races would be broadcast on a two-week delay, and is confident that the television presence will attract more fans, and will help drivers bring more attention to their sponsors.

Response Energy Drink will make its debut as the title sponsor of the CARS Tour on March 10th when the Late Model Tour returns to Tri-County Motor Speedway for the Do The Dew 100. Over 30 Late Model drivers are expected to participate in the event, which will be divided into four stages over 150 laps, and will reward a purse of $10,000 to the driver who crosses the finish line first.