Teenage rookie Gage Painter is looking ahead to his first season in the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour, in which he plans to learn from the best and hopes to beat them.

The 14-year-old from Statesville, N.C. is a multi-time winner in Late Model Stock Car competition and a former Limited Late Model champion in Hickory Motor Speedway’s Big 10 Challenge.  Throughout the years, he has looked up to former CARS Tour champion Josh Berry. He is now looking forward to racing with Berry and the elite competition that the CARS Tour attracts.

“Josh Berry has helped me a lot through my career,” Painter said. “He is an idol I look up to and I look forward to racing with people like him and Bobby McCarty and Lee Pulliam.  I look forward to racing against them and all the opportunities I will have to learn.

“It’s an honor just to be able to say I’ve raced in the CARS Tour.  I believe it’s one of the premier short track series in the country.”

Painter hopes he can win races in the CARS Tour, primarily later in the season, but his main objective at the start of the season will be to learn and log laps.

“My expectations are that we’re going to go out and try our best,” Painter said.  “If the opportunities come, we’re going to try to win, otherwise we’re going to try to have solid finishes.  A solid finish would be a top-five with no damage, keeping the car in one piece. Hopefully we can start chasing wins later on in the year.” 

Last year, Painter competed in the Late Model Stock Car portion of the Throwback 276, starting 15th and falling out early due to mechanical problems.  Saturday’s Solid Rock Carriers 300 at Southern National Motorsports Park will be his second career series start and his first start at the four-tenths mile track in Wilson County.

Gage Painter on track at Hickory Motor Speedway. (Andy Marquis photo)

“It’s my first race at a new track for me, and I would love to finish the race and have the car in one piece,” Painter said.  “A top 10 would be nice, but a top five would really be incredible.”

Gage’s father, Jerry, grew up in dirt track racing. That love was passed down to Gage, who began racing when he was just five years old and hopes to continue racing for much of his life.

“My dad grew up in dirt racing and being around him led to opportunities for me to race go-karts and Quarter Midgets,” Painter said. “I raced Quarter Midgets from when I was five until I was 10, then Mini Outlaws on dirt until I was 12. After that,  I went into a Limited Late Model.”  

“Racing something has been part of my life since I was a little kid and I would love to continue racing for as long as I can. Opportunities will come and go and I’m going to take all the opportunities that I have and use them and work hard at them.”

Painter says he hopes to race in the NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series, but wouldn’t mind if he spent much of his career in the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour.

“I would love to be able to race in the Truck Series someday.  I would be grateful to race in NASCAR, even if it’s just a handful of starts.  I would be happy racing in the CARS Tour too,” he said.

While Painter’s focus is on learning and running consistently, the ultimate goal is to win. Any victory for Painter would carry significant meaning.

“It would be an incredible honor,” Painter said.  “A first win is always full of emotions because it shows how hard you and your team have worked. Just to be racing with these guys is an honor.”

Saturday’s Solid Rock Carriers 300 presented by SRI Performance will be held at Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina. The green flag will fly at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online in advance for $20 or at the gate on race day for $25. For those unable to attend the race, a live broadcast will be available on CARS Tour TV