Saturday afternoon was nearly perfect for Matt Craig, who formally wrapped up his first career CARS SLM Tour championship by leading wire-to-wire and securing a dominant victory in the AutosByNelson.com 250 at South Boston Speedway.
Craig officially clinched the championship by merely starting the 125-lap SLM feature, but he attributed his race victory to the amount of preparation and focus his team put into his #54 C&C Boiler Sales & Service Chevrolet leading up to the finale.
“I think I just knew something that people weren’t expecting,” Craig said. “Usually this track tightens up, but it loosened up on us out in the sun when we were testing here a few weeks ago. Everyone started out neutral and got loose, but we started out tight and got neutral.”
Although Craig failed to obtain the pole for the 125-lap feature, he did not even need a full lap to take the lead away from Fogleman, who was unable to stop Craig’s run on the high side and was forced to watch him pull away from the field.
Two restarts in the middle of the race were the only obstacle facing Craig on the afternoon, but he managed to stay out in front of his competitors and enjoyed an intense battle between Carson Kvapil, Tate Fogleman and Nolan Pope from the comfort of his rearview mirror.
Craig capped off his championship season with two victories and no finishes outside the Top 10, and admitted that he wants to contend for another CARS SLM Tour title in 2020, but also has several prestigious Super Late Model races circled on his calendar as well.
“I’d love to do this again if we can get everything together,” Craig said. “The CARS Tour is great, but there are also plenty of other big Super Late Model races out there like [the All-American 400] this weekend. It’s hard to balance everything, but hopefully no dates conflict next year and we can do everything.”
Kvapil would hold off Fogleman and Pope for the second position, while 2018 CARS SLM Tour champion Jared Fryar rounded out the Top 5.
SLM Feature Results:
1. 54 Matt Craig
2. 35 Carson Kvapil
3. 8 Tate Fogleman
4. 34 Nolan Pope
5. 14 Jared Fryar
6. 78 Corey Heim
7. 21 Bronson Butcher
8. 24 Colin Garrett
9. 40 Toby Grynewicz -1
10. 16 Molly Helmuth -1
11. 7 Justin Crider OUT
12. 49 Jeff Batten OUT
13. 45 Kodie Conner OUT