Richlands, North Carolina native Tyler Matthews will have additional assistance from his friend and former competitor Wes Burton as he attempts to pursue a championship during the 2020 Solid Rock Carriers CARS Late Model Stock Tour season.
Matthews and Burton already have a solid working relationship after previously partnering up times during the last decade, but Matthews hopes that having Burton by his side will help substantially improve his Late Model program against teams like JR Motorsports and Nelson Motorsports.
“After running the CARS Tour last year and going up against that level of competition, we needed to re-evaluate where our program stood,” Matthews said. “Wes and I have had plenty of success together in the past, so hopefully we can hit the ground running at Southern National this weekend.”
Matthews emerged as one of the best Late Model drivers in North Carolina with Burton’s help, as a track championship at Southern National in 2016 helped Matthews win the North Carolina State Championship for the Whelen All-American Series that same year.
The duo followed up that accomplishment by winning a title at Carteret County Speedway in 2017, but Matthews and Burton agreed to part ways once the former received an opportunity to compete in select Truck Series events in 2018.
During the past couple of seasons, Burton has been heavily involved in assisting drivers across all the local divisions at Myrtle Beach Speedway, with some of his clients including Travis Truett, Dusty Garus and Adam McCumbee.
Burton, who has competed in events such as the All-American 400 and the Myrtle Beach 400 during his career, has considered getting back behind the wheel of a car himself, but he said that the main focus for the 2020 season is to ensure that Matthews has the best equipment available for his full-time Solid Rock Carriers CARS LMSC Tour bid.
“Races are few and far in between these days,” Burton said. “I want to run a few Super Late Model races this year, but we’re trying to find some help at our shop, and the employees we have are really behind right now. Racing just hasn’t been on the radar this year.”
Burton is looking forward to seeing how his equipment performs with Matthews behind the wheel, who is coming off a part-time Xfinity schedule with JD Motorsports that coincided with his first full-time Solid Rock Carriers CARS LMSC Tour campaign, in which he accumulated seven Top 10 finishes.
Matthews described his 2019 Solid Rock Carriers CARS LMSC Tour season as one marred by mediocrity, but he is optimistic that he can put his #63 Late Model closer to the front more frequently now that he has Burton’s experience and a handful of Xfinity and Truck Series starts on his side.
“The level of competition in the CARS Tour is actually pretty equal to both Xfinity and Trucks,” Matthews said. “The Xfinity and Truck races are longer, and you have to deal with some faster cars, but when you go back to Late Models, everything slows down for you when it comes to stuff like managing tires.”
Burton and Matthews do not expect wins to come right away with drivers such as Josh Berry, Bobby McCarty and Deac McCaskill competing at every single race, but Burton knows that Matthews will start finding his way to the front of the pack once they begin to assess and improve upon the strengths and weaknesses of their equipment.
“Tyler is a wheelman, so I’m definitely excited about the upcoming CARS Tour season,” Burton said. “Everybody wants to win a championship, but we just need to start off on the right foot and run strong during these first few races.”
Matthews believes that his best opportunities to claim his first Solid Rock Carriers CARS LMSC Tour win will come at the flat tracks of Langley Speedway and Carteret County Speedway, but he affirmed that consistency will be imperative for him and Burton throughout the year once the green flag drops at Southern National on Saturday afternoon.
“We want to win races, but in order to get there, you need to make sure your program is running Top 5 every week,” Matthews said. “We want to consistently fight for Top 5 finishes, and if we can do that, then you will always have a shot at winning one of these deals.”
Matthews will look to improve upon his performance from last year’s Solid Rock Carriers 300 at Southern National, as he stayed in the middle of the pack for most of the afternoon before finishing 15th one lap off the pace to race-winner Brandon Pierce.
Cover photo by Jaden Austin.