After being absent from the series for nearly a year, Late Model veteran Stacy Puryear will return to the Solid Rock Carriers CARS LMSC Tour on Saturday evening at Franklin County Speedway, where he will pilot his familiar black #17 with Solid Rock Carriers sponsorship.

Puryear has never competed at Franklin County during his long career, but he is looking forward to getting back behind the wheel and contend for a win after spending most of the 2020 season away from the track due to circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were looking for a place to go,” Puryear said. “Places like Orange County, South Boston and Ace haven’t been able to run, and Dominion is a little too far for us. Kirk Ipock of Solid Rock Carriers wanted me to run some CARS Tour races, which is what we did most of last year anyway, but we just wanted to get back to racing.”

Puryear had made select CARS LMSC Tour appearances since the series’ inaugural year in 2015, but he decided to go for a championship in 2019 with Jimmy Mooring, who had helped Puryear win a handful of races and the pole for the 2018 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway in the first two years of their partnership.

Despite scoring four Top 10s in 2019, Puryear was dissatisfied with his performance in Mooring’s cars and elected to depart the program following the Solid Rock Carriers Crystal Coast 125 at Carteret County Speedway, where he finished 18th after a mechanical failure on Lap 82.

Puryear wanted to keep driving for Mooring and keep building off some of their previous triumphs, but he believed that leaving on good terms and going back to his own equipment was the best decision for Mooring’s program and his own company in Puryear Race Parts.

“Jimmy was a great guy,” Puryear said. “[Puryear Race Parts] was suffering from racing so much and the car flexed itself out. I told Jimmy that the car was done and asked him to build another chassis, but with him being new to racing, I don’t think he quite understood what I was telling him. We couldn’t go to the track and not be a Top 5 car, because when I run good, it helps my business.”

With several tracks being unable to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, Puryear has only competed in one race so far this year in the Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway. Puryear made a charge through the field after a late-race accident with Greg Edwards to salvage a ninth-place finish.

The lack of available competition has been disappointing for Puryear, who was planning to help develop the career of his stepson Caleb Dyer during a full-time campaign at South Boston, which has yet to hold a single race in 2020 and will not award any track championships.

Puryear was optimistic that Dyer would get to take part in his first race of 2020 last weekend at Franklin County, but a handful of laps in a test session would be all the time he got on track, as inclement weather resulted in the cancellation of the 100-lap Limited Late Model feature.

While Puryear watched Dyer navigate the tight turns around Franklin County, he also analyzed the layout of the 3/8 mile oval and expects Saturday’s AutosByNelson.com 250 to be an eventful race dominated by close-quarters action and attrition.

Puryear believes that local drivers like Mike Looney and Kyle Dudley will be up at the front alongside CARS LSMC Tour championship contenders like Layne Riggs, Corey Heim and Bobby McCarty, but he affirmed that getting his #17 Solid Rock Carriers Chevrolet working on the top line will be crucial in deciding whether or not he is able to contend for a win.

“Hopefully the outside groove can come in good enough so there will be some side-by-side racing,” Puryear said. “Burt Myers was able to pass a lot of people on the outside in a Modified race and some of the Sportsman guys from Bowman-Gray were able to run side-by-side in the opening laps, so there will be some exciting stuff.”

If he avoids trouble at Franklin County on Saturday night, Puryear intends to contest the remaining four races on the CARS LMSC Tour schedule along with prestigious races like the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 and Rodney Cook Classic at Ace. He has also not rule out returning to Franklin County later this year for a planned $10,000 to-win LMSC race.