Justin Johnson waves the checkered flag to the crowd at Dillon Motor Speedway after winning his first CARS Tour race on March 6, 2021. (Bridger Swinimer photo)

Justin Johnson emerged victorious in a monumental performance during the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour Late Model Stock race at Dillon Motor Speedway. The Blacks Tire 125 was an organic style of race that ran fairly clean but was a very competitive battle through and through.

The CARS Tour brigade all lined up and ready to tackle their first series race at Dillon Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Bridger Swinimer photo)

Timothy Peters started on the pole and led the first five laps before Bahama, North Carolina’s Layne Riggs took the lead and paced the field early on. On lap 27 the drivers at the front would duke it out for the first of many lead changes that occurred at and in between the official start/finish line.

Sam Butler had a strong run and a few times the Peters and Riggs machines got side by side for two or three laps, Butler’s nose appeared towards the front. On lap 45 the other 81 car of Mini Tyrrell collided with Craig Moore and nearly caused a caution in front of the packed stands on the frontstretch. This action affected the outcome of the race for some competitors later on.

Layne Riggs tries to fend off a challenge from Timothy Peters early in the Blacks Tire 125 CARS Tour race at Dillon Motor Speedway. (Bridger Swinimer photo)

From lap 60 to lap 70 the cars of Peters and Riggs executed crossover moves on each other cleanly, each driver would take the top spot and, almost like a dirt track, the second-place car had enough of a run to dive back down below and slide in front from the bottom of the racetrack. Joe Valento suffered a mechanical failure and Jonathan Findley fell out of the race with mechanical issues on lap 64. Each car that dealt with issues was able to get off the track without a yellow coming out.

Lap 91 the caution was displayed for a lost tire on the Moore car. The tire issue was likely caused by earlier contact that nearly sent his car careening off the frontstretch groove. The Moore car came to rest in turn two. The field re-racked for the restart and the brief caution period gave drivers a chance to collect their breath and prepare for the laps ahead.

Craig Moore found himself on the tow hook after a brush with the wall after losing a tire on lap 91 in the Blacks Tire 125 CARS Tour race at Dillon Motor Speedway. Layne Riggs tries to fend off a challenge from Timothy Peters early in the Blacks Tire 125 CARS Tour race at Dillon Motor Speedway. (Bridger Swinimer photo)

Peters caught some bad luck on the ensuing restart. His vehicle swung wide to the high side in turns one and two. It was discovered that Peters was fighting a slight oil leak which was hardly enough of a problem to affect his driving under green. The yellow flag was just enough to cause his car to lose grip. Peters shuffled back to fifth before powering ahead to stay in the top five as the laps continued to click away.

Johnson was stalking the front and running near the fourth position for most of the day. Lap 109 was the moment that Johnson caught the leader and Riggs began to dance with his opponent’s cars yet again. Johnson and Riggs completed four consecutive laps diving over each other. Contact was made but neither driver bullied the other’s rear bumper to the point of breaking too much grip with the track surface. Riggs put on a clinic of car control as he resumed leading.

Justin Johnson (44) uses some muscle to make a move on Layne Riggs for the lead in the Blacks Tire 125 at Dillon Motor Speedway. (Jaden Austin photo)

The biggest factor at the end was the lapped traffic that Riggs and Johnson encountered as the laps crept into single digits. With three to go Riggs was pinned behind slower cars that took up much of the track. The traffic caused Johnson to take the high side as Riggs clung to the bottom. Amazingly he was so caught up with lap traffic that according to Riggs, he was not aware that the last lap was displayed as he took the white.

Both frontrunners barreled past the line of traffic. Johnson careened alongside the Riggs car as the crowd got to their feet. The cars made contact in turns three and four and the final straightaway coming to the line. Johnson snagged his first-ever CARS Tour trophy as he sealed his first touring Late Model Stock Car win. He was overjoyed with emotion.

Justin Johnson sprays champagne toward the camera as he celebrates his first career CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car victory at Dillon Motor Speedway on March 6, 2021. Layne Riggs tries to fend off a challenge from Timothy Peters early in the Blacks Tire 125 CARS Tour race at Dillon Motor Speedway. (Bridger Swinimer photo)

“I hadn’t been on the high side all night, when I got back to the throttle it really shot out from under me.” Johnson broke down the winning strategy. “I dropped it down about as hard as I could, I saw Layne get a little tight off the corner it gave me a heck of a run on the backstretch. When I saw a little bit of daylight I said I’m not going hit the breaks until we hit. I know he would race me the same for the win.”

Riggs and others congratulated him in Victory Lane. Johnson had his team to thank for his first win in his first-ever weekend at Dillon Motor Speedway.

After Riggs wound up in second it was Butler, Jared Fryar and Peters rounding out the top five. Mike Looney had a strong run driving from 19th to 7th after missing it in qualifying.

After playing the tire game early Mike Looney (87) and Deac McCaskill made their way through the field but with the long green flag run early came up short finishing seventh and ninth respectively. (Jaden Austin photo)

The first race of the 2021 CARS Tour started with a roaring beginning. The rule changes have opened up parity in recent years including the elimination of the 40-lap concurrent lap competition caution rule that re-racked the field somewhat artificially in 2020. A first-time winner and an excellent field of drivers have graced the CARS Tour schedule already, as well as some new locations, including places like Dillon Motor Speedway. Ron Barfield and his group have established their presence as an integral venue for the spirit of short track racing in America.

Unofficial Results:

  1. Justin Johnson #44
  2. Layne Riggs #99
  3. Sam Butler #81
  4. Jared Fryar #14
  5. Timothy Peters #2
  6. Sam Yarbrough #95
  7. Mike Looney #87
  8. Bobby McCarty #22
  9. Deac McCaskill #08
  10. Mason Diaz #24
  11. Conner Jones #14
  12. Kaden Honeycutt #4
  13. Brandon Pierce #2
  14. William Cox III #88
  15. Jessica Cann #19
  16. Daniel Silvestri #97
  17. Mini Tyrrell #81
  18. Jonathan Shafer #91
  19. Craig Moore #1
  20. Jonathan Findley #4
  21. Joe Valento #17

Cover photo by Bridger Swinimer.