Hypothetically Speaking: Where to Now for the CARS Tour Opener?

Hypothetically Speaking: Where to Now for the CARS Tour Opener?

On Christmas Eve event promoters for the CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car season opener at Rockingham Speedway announced that the race would be moved to late October. This move leaves the CARS Tour without an early March season opener and while they could just shift to the next date, we’re contemplating where they might open the season in the wake of the Rockingham announcement.

The next date on the schedule would be the annual Spring visit to Hickory Motor Speedway set for March 20th. Typically the CARS Tour gets started in the first couple weeks of March and I’m sure they’d like to do so this season given the original date of the opener at Rockingham was set for March 6th.

Hickory would be a fine opener because of the history of the track and the history the series has at the track. It would also put both the Late Model Stock Car and Super Late Model portions of the CARS Tour back on the same weekend to start their season. The biggest challenge facing the CARS Tour at Hickory is the potential for fans not to be allowed to attend the event.

Yes, Covid is still around and we’re still facing government overreach as a means to fight off this pandemic. Unfortunately for many race tracks, especially those that are in more liberal controlled states, counties, and municipalities, it appears much of the 2021 race season could be restricted.

Hickory Motor Speedway is one of those tracks. Hickory is in the state of North Carolina, a state that recently re-elected a governor that has restricted racing worse than any state in this region. The county Hickory is located in isn’t exactly conservative either, which furthers their challenge to have fans during at least the first half of 2021.

So Hickory isn’t the best option right now but here are a few tracks we think might work.

Florence Motor Speedway
Florence Motor Speedway rose from obscurity in 2020. While most other tracks in the country found themselves on hard times with many not even getting to open, Florence was thrust into an almost perfect scenario. Myrtle Beach Speedway has long since been the top track in South Carolina and under the guidance of Steve Zacharias it became one of the top tracks in the region.

Myrtle Beach shuttered in 2020 due to the real estate being more valuable than the business of racing. That opened the door for Zacharias and his partners to lease Florence from longtime owner Charlie Powell, who passed away this year. Zacharias and company completed their season early at Myrtle Beach and then reopened Florence, which had fell on hard times in the last decade. They did so with great success and even hosted a CARS Tour race in 2020 replacing a North Carolina based race that couldn’t be held due to a lack of fans in attendance (see a trend here???).

Florence is in South Carolina and conservative leadership has proven all too important to businesses that at least are given a chance at survival. That’s not a political statement, just one of fact, so let’s not make this political. Florence will likely be able to have fans in some capacity, barring a National strategy from the new President-elect, which has previously hinted at possibly locking the country down for 100 days. That would almost end any chance of a March 6th opener, no matter the state.

Florence could provide everything the CARS Tour needs for a March 6th opener and even in a warmer climate than North Carolina.

INEX Legends cars have been racing around the 1/4 mile at Charlotte Motor Speedway for years and the track has even hosted Tour-type Modifieds and Mini Stocks. It could be an ideal venue given the circumstances to host the CARS Tour opener in 2021. (Photo from LegendsNation.com)

Charlotte Motor Speedway
Yeah, I know you think I’m crazy. Maybe I am. But, I think that the 1/4 mile on the frontstretch could provide a great place to open the CARS Tour season. Before you say it, yes there would be carnage on a flat 1/4 mile track but nothing like a single-car tire failure would be at Rockingham, so let’s just take a minute and think about this.

Charlotte Motor Speedway is a North Carolina track and as previously mentioned that could pose a challenge but what they have that almost no other track in North Carolina has is a capacity above 10,000. Rockingham was in a similar situation. Charlotte Motor Speedway could potentially have as many as 7,000 people under what I believe is still the current restrictions in North Carolina to allow just 7% capacity on venues of more than 10,000 seats.

They won’t sell 7,000 tickets to a CARS Tour race but they could and that’s a good option to have. And while the 1/4 mile configuration won’t be a driver or team favorite, it will be very entertaining and fans will pay to see it. I’m not even sure this is a possibility but maybe it’s one that they should look into.

Wake County Speedway
On that same 1/4 mile thought process and provided Covid-restrictions were to go away by then (yeah, I know it’s not likely), Wake County Speedway would provide an excellent opener for the CARS Tour. A rough and rowdy little bullring but easily one of the best venues for entertaining racing anywhere. Wake County has staged some great PASS South and CARS Tour events in the past, so why not go there and kick off the season?

This was probably the first place that came to mind for me because the promoters of the Rockingham event, also promote Wake County Speedway and it would be easy for them to just swap dates (thought this before the October 30th Rockingham postponement was announced). It would have been ideal in my mind but what do I know???

Kingsport Speedway
The Concrete Jungle is a perfect place to hold the season opener for the CARS Tour. They have minimal restrictions and the concrete track always puts on a great show. Nope, it’s not the nicest facility but we’re in the racing business not the wine and cheese business, things don’t have to be perfect. Weather could be a little iffy up in the mountains of East Tennessee but put a hoodie on and bring some hand warmers and let’s open the season at a great race track.

Most of all, Kingsport Speedway wants to be on the CARS Tour and was denied that chance in 2020 despite being open to being a replacement race. Kingsport Speedway fans have always shown up for the big races, heck they come out in droves for a regular Friday night show with 7 Late Models and one guy who wins every race. I’m not knocking it, it’s one of my favorite places to go watch a race, but if the fans enjoy that, they’ll really love the CARS Tour. They’ve already been vocal about wanting to see them return anyway.

2009 June 27 | Saturday: Clay Alexander (84) Chevrolet Impala SS is involved in a spin with Shane Sawyer (38) Toyota Camry in the RC Cola/Moon Pie 100 American Speed Association (ASA) RC Cola/MoonPie Southeast Asphalt Tour (SAT) Late Model race at Lanier National Speedway in Chestnut Mountain, Georgia. (David Allio photo)

Somewhere in Georgia…
In 2020, the CARS Tour ventured all the way to Pennsylvania, which is way out of their normal racing region. Albeit for a Super Late Model race, in this case, a short trip to Georgia for some better weather and an opportunity for Late Model Stock Cars to be able to race somewhere other than Virginia, North & South Carolina, and Tennessee wouldn’t hurt.

Several tracks down there could work and this could easily be paired back with a Super Late Model race as well. Lanier was a great facility and could be made to work, I think Late Model Stock Cars raced there with the UARA-STARS Series years ago. Other tracks could be looked at to make this work but I’ll admit I’m not familiar with the restrictions in Georgia or what that might look like come March.

There’s a couple of options that I thought of and yes, some are out there but I think they all could be made to work. Maybe you have a suggestion, so leave a comment on the link to this story on Facebook and let us know.