One of the most recognizable names of the Virginia Late Model Stock Car scene will make his return to the CARS LMSC Tour following a two-year absence on Saturday night, as Jeff Oakley will pilot his familiar #11 Rock Island Creek Whitetails on the high banks of Orange County Speedway.
Oakley is coming off an eventful weekend at Dominion Raceway on Aug. 10 that saw him get placed on probation and assessed a $500 fine after he retaliated against Trent Barnes under caution following an accident between the pair in the closing stages of a 60-lap feature.
Oakley was frustrated with how everything turned out during the event but admitted that he is ready to put the incident behind him and focus on bringing home his first victory with the CARS LMSC Tour this weekend.
“I really like Orange County as a racetrack,” Oakley said. “There are some racetracks you like, and there are others that you don’t like, but this is a facility that I’ve always been fond of over the years even though I haven’t raced there many times. It’s an off weekend for us [at Dominion], so hopefully we can go down there and run strong.”
Oakley was one of the original 36 drivers who filed an entry for the inaugural CARS LMSC Tour race at Southern National Motorsports Park in 2015, and maintained an active presence in the series through its first year, where he scored a then-personal best finish of sixth in the series’ second visit to the track.
After only running two CARS LMSC Tour races at Southern National in 2016, Oakley elected to shift the focus of his Late Model program towards the series for 2017, where he was determined to battle drivers such as Josh Berry and Deac McCaskill for the championship.
Oakley cemented himself as a potential favorite during the QDMA Duels at Dominion, where he brought home a third place finish in the first race after being bumped out of the way by Layne Riggs with three laps to go, before solidly rebounding in the next event by edging Jared Fryar at the first line for his first CARS LMSC Tour win.
Oakley’s season with the CARS Tour would come to an abrupt, premature end only a couple of hours later when a post-race inspection revealed that the engine he used during the weekend did not meet CARS Tour specifications, which led to his disqualification from both races and resulted in an indefinite suspension.
Oakley has not competed in the CARS LMSC Tour since that day, but he stated that he is on good terms with the series and is looking forward to rejoining them on Saturday night, and is confident that he can outrun all of the top competitors in the division.
“I honestly didn’t know how long the suspension was for,” Oakley said. “I just talked to [Chris Ragle and Jack McNelly] to see if I could come race with the series this weekend, and they said that I could. It’s been quite a while since Dominion anyway.”
In his two prior CARS LMSC Tour starts at Orange County, Oakley managed to bring home a strong ninth-place finish in his first attempt, but he would be forced to settle for 21st in the second race after he was involved in an accident with Michael Fose on Lap 99.
Oakley knows that the Late Model he currently possesses is more than capable of establishing a presence inside the Top 5, but he added that patience and making the right adjustments will be imperative in deciding whether he is a factor for the win.
“Some of the things on these cars are a little bit different than a NASCAR Late Model,” Oakley said. “I think we’ll need to start out pretty decent and just be around the front at the end. Staying out of trouble is also going to be important.”
Oakley will face off against many of the same drivers he competed against during his last CARS LMSC Tour attempt in 2017, which will include Berry, Riggs, McCaskill, and others when the green flag for the 150-lap Late Model feature drops at 7:30 p.m.
RACE22.com will have RACEDAY LIVE updates of the day’s events starting with practice at 1:45pm.