Bradley McCaskill (07) races to the inside of Tommy Lemons, Jr. during the season opening CARS Tour race at Tri-County Motor Speedway on March 10, 2018. Corey Latham Photo

The CARS Response Energy Late Model Stock Car Tour will tackle the first of its four new venues for the 2018 season on Saturday when the series visits Wake County Speedway in Raleigh, North Carolina. The quarter-mile bullring opened in 1962 as a dirt track before switching to asphalt in 1987, and has gained notoriety for its weekly racing series that has attracted many famous drivers during its long history, including Dennis Setzer, Randy Renfrow and 1975 Daytona 500 winner Benny Parsons.

Unlike the other new tracks on the 2018 CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour calendar, which include Ace Speedway and Carteret County Speedway, many competitors in the division have never taken laps at Wake County prior to this weekend. The only driver in the series’ inaugural Touring 12 program who has an extensive background at Wake County is Knightdale, North Carolina resident Bradley McCaskill, who believes the Solid Rock Carriers 123 presented by JEDCO Lawncare will be one of the best races in series history.

“I was definitely excited when they made the announcement,” McCaskill said. “I know it will be a huge event for the series, as Wake County usually draws a huge crowd. I know a lot of people are questioning it going in, but I think they’ll change their mind when they get to the track. It’s going to be a really exciting race.”

McCaskill was a part of Wake County’s first attempt to attract a major auto racing series to the facility when he participated in the Pro All Star Series-sanctioned Capital City Clash 125 in 2008. In a small, but talented field that included long-time ARCA veteran Mark Gibson, McCaskill would find himself in the garage early after being involved in an accident, and ultimately finished 12th out of the 12 cars entered.

The PASS South Super Late Model Series returned to Wake County three more times between 2009 and 2012, with McCaskill only electing to compete in the 2009 race, in which he once again finished last in the 25-car field after encountering issues on the first lap of the race. Although McCaskill has spent more time at other tracks in recent years, his strong family ties to the track makes this weekend’s race much more important to him.

“I grew up at Wake County,” McCaskill said. “My dad has raced there, my uncle has raced there, and Deac raced there years ago as well. Growing up, that’s how I thought all racing was until I ventured out to other tracks, but it’s definitely a tight bullring, and you have to get up on the wheel and dig.”

McCaskill’s return to Wake County will continue his first full season in the CARS Tour after appearing sporadically in both the Late Model Stock Car Tour and the Super Late Model Tour over the past three years. McCaskill has only made a combined 14 starts between the two series, which includes two Top 10’s in the SLM Tour, and a victory in the LMSC Tour that came at Concord Speedway in 2015.

McCaskill’s 2018 season got off to a rough start in the Do the Dew 150 at Tri-County Motor Speedway, where he was forced to retire from the race with 26 laps to go after suffering a broken radiator. The CARS Response Energy Tour’s next race at Myrtle Beach Speedway proved to be a much better showing for McCaskill, as he remained in the Top 10 for most of the race after starting in the fourth position, before bringing his #07 Renfrow Air & Heating Late Model home in sixth.

McCaskill enters the Solid Rock Carriers 123 presented by JEDCO Lawncare 26 points behind Bobby McCarty in the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour standings, but understands that Wake County presents an opportunity for him to gain ground on the rest of the competition. With the quarter-mile track being the shortest that either division of the CARS Response Energy Tour has ever raced on, and with approximately 20 drivers expected to enter for the race, McCaskill knows there will be more emphasis on drivers using patience and saving their equipment for the closing stages.

“At most places, you have to take care of your tires, but at Wake County, you have to take care of your car,” McCaskill said. “It’s a tight track to race on, so chances are you’re going to get into somebody. It’s not the first time the track has had more than 20 Late Models for a race, so it can be done, but that makes it much more important for everyone to take care of their front end and focus on car conservation.”

The Solid Rock Carriers 123 presented by JEDCO Lawncare will also serve as the season-opening race for Wake County, as Enduros, Mini Stocks and Southern Ground Pounders will all share the track with the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour. McCaskill and the rest of the Late Models will take to the track for single-car qualifying at approximately 5:20 pm on Saturday before the green flag for the 123-lap Late Model feature kicks off the evening’s festivities at 7:30 pm.