The inaugural trip to Franklin County Speedway for the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour was marred by several rain delays, but fans were rewarded for their patience with two thrilling battles to the checkered flag.
Bubba Pollard kicked off the evening’s festivities by passing Sammy Smith on a late-race restart to claim his third victory in the CARS SLM Tour this season in his first ever visit to Franklin County.
“We always like coming to new places,” Pollard said. “We didn’t get much practice time and unloaded with a baseline setup that we ran Pensacola with. The rain killed us from making it 100 percent tonight and we got tight towards the end. I had to work quick and fast tonight.”
Pollard earned the pole in the SLM feature with a time of 13.369 in qualifying, but he quickly lost the lead to Smith, who started on the outside pole and led the first 29 laps until a rain shower halted on-track activity for over two hours.
When the race resumed, Pollard outsmarted Smith on the restart, but a rare mistake from the Super Late Model veteran allowed Smith to retake the lead and set his own pace against Pollard and the rest of the field.
An ill-timed debris caution with just over 40 laps to go gave Pollard the opening he needed to pull out in front of Smith. Pollard had to withstand several challenges from Smith during the final 30 laps, but he kept his composure and held on for a narrow victory.
Although Smith matched his best performance in the #51 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports at Jennerstown with a second on Saturday night, he expressed disappointment in not getting a strong enough launch on the final restart of the evening to pull away from Pollard and pick up his first CARS SLM Tour win.
“[Bubba] just had a better restart than me,” Smith said. “I thought I had a good restart, but Bubba had the top and he pinched me down. It’s just frustrating because we were so close, but we’ll move on to the next one and hopefully we get a couple of wins before the season is over.”
Along with being new to Franklin County, Pollard said that the unpredictability of the track’s surface required him to be more alert about his surroundings and change his strategy so he could make up lost ground to Smith, Gus Dean and others before the end of the race.
“The racetrack was coming up and I had to straddle the car,” Pollard said. “I thought I had a right front going down, so I decided to change my line up a little bit, and that’s how I got around [Dean]. The biggest thing was hitting my marks right there in Turn 1 so I could straddle where the racetrack was coming up.”
The CARS LMSC Tour drivers hit the track not long after the conclusion of the SLM feature, which ultimately came down to a duel between Franklin County regular Mike Looney and current series points leader Jared Fryar.
Both drivers had to play offense and defense during the final five laps of the race as neither one refused to give an inch to the other, but Fryar gained the upper hand on the last lap to score his first CARS LMSC Tour victory since Dominion Raceway back in 2017.
“I can’t even believe it,” Fryar said. “I knew we were going to run second at worst, but I was going to do whatever it took to win without wrecking [Looney], and somehow I made it happen. It was wild, but it was short track racing.”
Looney led the first 69 laps of the CARS LMSC Tour feature until he got out of the groove on a restart, which allowed Fryar to briefly get out in front. Looney maneuvered his way around Fryar moments later on another restart and maintained a small, but comfortable advantage as the race entered its closing stages.
As the handling on Looney’s car gradually began to fade, Fryar knew that he would have to set up the pass perfectly in order to get past him for the win, but he finally found that opportunity with eight laps to go when Looney went wide coming off Turn 2.
A slugfest ensued between the two drivers as Fryar made contact with Looney while trying to gain the advantage, which Looney reciprocated with a massive shot going into Turn 1, but Fryar never lost his momentum and kept the lead after miraculously saving the car.
“I was mad at that point,” Looney said about his contact with Fryar. “You don’t worry about that kind of stuff when you’re mad, but I’m glad he held onto it because it would have made me look like a donkey if I dumped him. He did an excellent job driving. That car wasn’t perfect and he won with it.”
Looney eventually made his way back around Fryar and did everything possible to keep him in his rearview mirror, but a strong run by Fryar on the bottom of the track in Turns 3 and 4 was enough to give him the victory over Looney.
“I was fighting those handling issues, but I was saving quite a bit of car so I could be ready for the race at the end,” Looney said. “I don’t know how you take a car that fast and lose with it, but what a show this was for the fans at Franklin County Speedway. I just got outdrove at the end.”
Fryar’s win will boost his narrow points advantage over drivers like Bobby McCarty, Layne Riggs and others in the CARS LMSC Tour standings, but he knows there will be little margin for error as the series heads to Langley Speedway next weekend.
“The championship is still pretty far out,” Fryar said. “We still have a couple of races to go and we just have to keep doing what we’re doing. I felt like I picked up on Langley pretty quickly when we went there for the Hampton Heat, and this car ran good there, so I’m looking forward to it.”
The CARS SLM Tour will be off next weekend while the LMSC regulars battle each other in the VisitHampton.com 125 on Aug. 25, which will get underway following Langley’s local Super Trucks, Street Stocks and Virginia Racers features that will begin at 7:00 p.m.
SLM Feature Results:
- 26 Bubba Pollard
- 51 Sammy Smith
- 56 Gus Dean
- 35 Jake Garcia
- 54 Matt Craig
- 35k Carson Kvapil
- 45 Kodie Conner
- 7 Justin Crider
- 49 Jeff Batten -1
- 22 Trevor Noles OUT
LMSC Feature Results:
- 14 Jared Fryar
- 87 Mike Looney
- 88 Connor Mosack
- 22 Bobby McCarty
- 78 Corey Heim
- 19 Deac McCaskill
- 99 Layne Riggs
- 2s Jonathan Shafer
- 17p Stacy Puryear
- 1 Nolan Pope
- 4 Jonathan Findley
- 16 Chad McCumbee
- 74 Ronald Hill
- 08 Justin Johnson
- 4d Kyle Dudley
- 51 Matt Cox
- 81 Mini Tyrrell
- 19c Jessica Cann
- 2 Brandon Pierce OUT
- 17 Chris Carroll OUT
- 18 Ricky Gillespie OUT
- 63 Tyler Matthews OUT