Alex Fleming's crew pushes his car towards the inspection area prior to the Solid Rock Carriers 123 at Wake County Speedway on Saturday. Fleming would be parked by CARS Tour officials after a late-race accident between him and Sammy Pacitti. (Photo: Brandon White)

The inaugural Solid Rock Carriers 123 at Wake County Speedway featured an even mixture of positives and negatives for Raleigh, North Carolina native Alex Fleming. After struggling to find speed during the weekend, Fleming used patience to work his way through the field, and found himself in a position to leave his home track with a solid finish.

Fleming’s decent run would come to an abrupt end with only two laps to go in the Late Model feature, as he struggled to pass the lapped down car of Sammy Pacitti, who eventually lost control of his car and spun in Turn 4. CARS Response Energy Tour officials were unhappy with how aggressively the two were racing each other in the closing stages of the race, and elected to park both drivers for the night.

Fleming was initially furious with the CARS Response Energy Tour’s decision to park him to the point where he got into a shouting match with competition director Chris Ragle following the conclusion of the race. However, Fleming eventually came around to accepting the decision and ultimately took responsibility for the accident that set up the two-lap shootout.

“I was in the wrong,” Fleming said. “I didn’t think I was at first. I had already been lapped by the #9 car, and I shouldn’t have been racing with the #43 car side-by-side. I didn’t mean to interrupt anybody’s race, but it was just a bum deal. I’ll admit fault with it, as I was a lap down and racing with another car in front of the leaders, which I shouldn’t have been.”

The Solid Rock Carriers was scheduled to be a one-race deal for Fleming, who had elected to take a break from racing after he finished 2nd in the Wake County Late Model point standings in 2017. Fleming was still present at the track as a crew chief for driver Will Roland, who approached Fleming about taking the reigns of his #47 Late Model for the Solid Rock Carriers 123, which Fleming happily accepted.

Fleming entered the 123-lap CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour feature with confidence on his side, having won numerous times at the quarter-mile bullring over his career, but he quickly found himself near the bottom of the practice charts on Friday and Saturday. Fleming was unable to improve his pace in qualifying, and would line up 18th on the grid, only posting a time better than fellow Wake County regular Zachary Marks and Mike Chambers, who was battling internal issues with his car.

Fleming’s fortunes began to turn once the green flag dropped, as he methodically maneuvered his way through traffic and found himself on the verge of a place in the Top 10 after only 30 laps. That progress would be erased on Lap 33 when Lee Pulliam checked up in front of the field, which caused Fleming to get turned around by another competitor, knocking him to the rear once again.

By the 73rd lap of the race, Fleming was able to work his way back to a position just outside of the Top 10, and found himself in a heated battle with many familiar competitors, including Marks and Eric Winslow. As the second half of the race progressed, race leader and eventual race-winner Sam Mayer began to set a blistering pace, as he lapped the field all the way up to eighth place, which included Fleming.

Despite losing a lap, Fleming still maintained a decent position in the running order over the final laps of the race until he encountered Pacitti on the track. Both drivers had been warned by series officials to sort out their battle that was not for a position on the track, which contributed to the series disciplining both drivers after Pacitti lost control of his car, even though video evidence showed that Fleming did not make contact with him.

Fleming would end his evening in the 14th position, and although he was unhappy with how his weekend turned out, he does not hold any hard feeling towards the CARS Response Energy Tour and is ready to move forward. Fleming does not know when his next race will be, but is looking forward to the remainder of the Late Model schedule at Wake County with Will Roland behind the wheel of the #47 Late Model after the car displayed a significant amount of speed against many of the best drivers in the CARS Tour.

“We put ourselves in a bad spot by getting any practice tires and making a one-day show out of it,” Fleming said. “We have a really strong car, and it showed, as we came up through the field two or three times, but I had no rear tires in the end as a result. I have a ton of confidence in the car, myself and my team, but it just didn’t work out tonight.”

There are only two races remaining in the 2018 season at Wake County Speedway, with the next Late Model race scheduled for September 14. Roland is 112 points back from Eric Winslow after skipping a race at the beginning of the year, but will be looking for another strong performance after winning the previous Late Model race at Wake County on July 13.