Tires are the talk of the town at the Thanksgiving All-Star Classic.

Two races will take place on the third and final day of the marquee postseason event at Southern National Motorsports Park, as a 125 lap Super Late Model race will precede the traditional 200 lap Late Model Stock feature. In both fields, drivers up and down pit road emphasized the importance of protecting their tires in today’s race.

For the Super Late Models, the 125 lap race will be run without an intermission, which means the four tires on the car at the start of the race will have to go the distance. Several contending drivers emphasized that conserving those tires will be key.

“We might not have to ride quite as hard as the PASS races,” said Jared Irvan, a Pro All Stars Series South series winner in 2015. We just have to keep it straight, keep the tires underneath it.”

Tyler Ankrum ran both of the CARS Late Model Stock Tour events at Southern National in 2015, but is running in the Super Late Model race this weekend. He said the extra horsepower in the Super Late Models will make tire conservation especially crucial.

“These Super Late Models have so much power that tire conservation is so much more important,” said Ankrum. “You’re not gonna be able to go and lead the race green-to-checkered because these cars are so fast and this track is pretty hard on tires considering how smooth it is. It’s just the speed you carry around this place.”

Brandon Setzer qualified on the pole for today’s Super Late Model feature, looking for another win in what has been a breakthrough season for the Newton, N.C. native. One of those 2015 victories came in the CARS Super Late Model Tour race at Myrtle Beach Speedway, another track notorious for abusing tires.

“We didn’t do nothing but race trim in practice,” Setzer said. “I think we’ve got a pretty good setup. I think the key is to just keep the tires. Saving tires will be big.”

The Late Model Stock drivers echoed those sentiments for their feature later this afternoon. There will be an intermission at the halfway point of the 200-lap race, but there will still be 100 laps of racing after that break to decide the winner of the $8,000-to-win event.

Chris Davis, making his first start in a 200-lap race, noted that will the biggest adjustment for him in the event.

“I’ve never raced a 200-lap race,” Davis said. “We don’t really have a strategy, so we’re going to figure it out as we go. Just try to keep our nose clean. Stay smooth and stay consistent, be there at the end, and you’ll be pretty good.”

Myatt Snider, coming off a victory in the UNOH Battle at the Beach, hopes his success last weekend at Myrtle Beach will carry into today’s race.

“This place is definitely bad on tires,” Snider said. “You have to be careful with how you drive in just about every way to make sure you conserve the most amount of tires. That’s probably what the top guys, including myself, are going to try to do. We’re going to run as fast as we can without pushing the car too hard and killing the tires.”

Haley Moody, a former track champion at Southern National in the Limited Late Model division, noted she saved her tires during last night’s heat races to give herself an advantage in the first half of today’s feature.

“We weren’t running hard at all yesterday,” Moody said. “I knew we didn’t have a good car, so we were just riding around. I think we’ll have better tires to start the race than the rest of them, and we’ll make some adjustments to make the car better.”

TRACK CHAMPIONS CHAT: Tommy Lemons, the 2014 Late Model Stock track champion at Southern National, was the dominant car on Saturday for the Late Model Stock field, qualifying on the pole and winning his heat race. However, Lemons is focused entirely on today’s feature event.

“We had a pretty good night,” Lemons said. “Qualified on the pole, won the heat race. Those don’t pay anything, though, just gotta be there tomorrow.”

Lemons is particularly driven after a second-place finish in last week’s UNOH Battle at the Beach. While most drivers would celebrate such a strong run in a marquee event, Lemons was particularly upset at losing a race he felt was his to win.

“Last weekend, I felt like we had a really good car,” Lemons added. “Just gotta put that behind us, and go for the win tomorrow. That’s what we’re here for.”

To his outside at the start of the race will be another former track champion at the Lucama, N.C. circuit, Deac McCaskill. The four-time track champion noted that while he is starting on the front row, starting the race in the outside line is disadvantageous for the November event.

“The outside [line] comes in in the summer time, and then it sets up and for some reason just goes away,” said McCaskill. “We’re going to have our hands full on the outside tomorrow. We’ll go after it, ain’t nothing you can do about it.”

This year’s track champion, Jonathan Findley, is experiencing a bit of an adjustment this weekend. The Thanksgiving All-Star Classic rules call for a traditional Late Model Stock car, compared to the hybrid rulebook utilized in 2015 at the 0.400 mile oval intended to draw both Late Model Stock and Limited Late Model teams.

“We’ve been struggling a lot this weekend,” Findley said. “Didn’t have the greatest car when we first showed up, but we got it better. Just need to work on my foot, keeping the drive off and keeping the tires on it. It’s a big difference from a 450 [horsepower] to a 500. I think we’ll be good today.”

Findley, starting 14th in the race, hopes to gain some positions early in the race and put himself in position later in the event.

“I’m going to try somewhat to the front,” Findley said. “Hopefully, I can go to the front a little bit. Last night in the heat race I rode around for about 10 laps and then started picking people off. Hopefully we can do that today. If not, we’ll just ride around and make our way there once people start dropping off.”

Follow along: Live flag-to-flag updates of today’s Thanksgiving All-Star Classic will be available at the Southern National Motorsports Park track website. Post-race coverage will also be available here at following the conclusion of today’s action.


Super Late Models

1. #6 Brandon Setzer
2. #71 Nick Robinson
3. #16 Jared Fryar
4. #58 Tyler Ankrum
5. #2 Jared Irvan
6. #75 Chad Finley
7. #55 Kevin Floars
8. #41 Jamey Caudill
9. #99 Mike Darne
10. #05 Alex Fleming
11. #M3 Shelton McNair
12. #17 Clay Rogers
13. #17 Kevin Jeffreys
14. #24 Mason Diaz
15. #2 Sarah Cornett-Ching
16. #67 Curtis Venable
17. #77 Logan Jones

Late Model Stocks

1. #27 Tommy Lemons, Jr.
2. #08 Deac McCaskill
3. #5 Lee Pulliam
4. #2 Myatt Snider
5. #77 Connor Hall
6. #55 Mark Wertz
7. #10 Nick Smith
8. #1 Mike Darne
9. #67 Danny Edwards, Jr.
10. #03 Brenden Queen
11. #44 Justin Johnson
12. #13 Cliff Daniels
13. #4 Jonathan Findley
14. #88 Chris Davis
15. #29 Robert Bruce
16. #41 Scott Wise
17. #63 Tyler Matthews
18. #50 Haley Moody
19. #97 Brian Henderson