A clear, but cold Saturday morning greeted the drivers of the CARS Response Energy Late Model Stok Car Tour and Limited Late Model Tour as they shook down their cars at Tri-County Motor Speedway in preparation for the Do the Dew 100 next weekend. The track welcomed a variety of competitors that ranged from defending race-winner Josh Berry to four-time Whelen All-American Series champion Lee Pulliam, all of whom looked to get ahead of the competition early with a strong test session.
Before the drivers took to the track for the first session of the day, the CARS Tour made another step forward in its development by announcing that Response Energy Drink would become the first official presenting sponsor in series history. The Abingdon, Virginia based company will have female models pass out free samples during the race and will provide entertainment for fans, while the series will looks to spend their increased budget on advertising in order to bring more people out to the track.
The CARS Response Energy Tour also took time to promote its newly formed Touring 12 program, which is designed to provide benefits to a select number of teams who run the full Late Model Stock Car Tour schedule. All of the Touring 12 drivers took part in a group photo session and all took questions from the media before climbing behind the wheel of their cars, with the lone exception being Justin Johnson, who was sidelined after his primary car was destroyed during a practice session at Myrtle Beach Speedway in February.
Once the noise ordinance lifted at 12:00, it did not take long for Late Model drivers to take advantage of the open track. Harrisburg, North Carolina native was one of the first to show some early speed, as he clocked in a fast lap time of 16.401 during the first session of the day. McDaniel came close to victory several times during the 2017 CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour season, and will look to improve upon his career best finish of eighth at Tri-County when the series returns on Saturday afternoon.
As the afternoon progressed, defending CARS Response Energy Late Model champion Josh Berry had found his way to the top of the charts with a time of 16.400. Bobby McCarty would later dethrone Berry from the top of the practice charts, as he would lay down a lap of 16.375 in the #12 AutonsByNelson.com Late Model normally driven by two-time ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winner Timothy Peters.
The final Late Model session of the afternoon saw the speeds gradually pick up as the sun came down, but it also featured some different names at the front of the field. Berry still found himself in the Top 5 with a time of 16.360, while McCarty’s teammate Brandon Pierce was able to surpass Berry by posting a 16.337. Denver, North Carolina native Ryan Repko would be the one to lay down the fastest lap of the entire afternoon with a 16.313 as the day started to wind down.
Among the usual names of Berry, Repko and others at the front were a handful of other drivers who displayed strong speed going into the Do the Dew 100 on Saturday. Christopher Denny, who is a regular driver at Orange County Speedway, was consistently fast throughout the entire session and ended the day with a fast time of 16.404. Denny’s best finish in four prior CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour starts is 15th at Hickory Motor Speedway in 2016, and the Timberlake, North Carolina driver will have to fight off a host of other talented drivers in order to have a shot at victory.
Carson Kvapil, the son of former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil, took his first official laps in the CARS Response Energy LMSC Tour on Saturday afternoon in preparation for his series debut next weekend. Kvapil’s fastest laps of the session came near the end of the day, when he put up a lap of 16.405 in his #35 Late Model, which was good enough for sixth in the final practice session.
Less than a dozen drivers showed up for the Limited Late Model test session at Tri-County, but many drivers still managed to find a way to the top of the board. Zach Bruenger, who made one NASCAR Xfinity Series start back in 2015, was one of the fastest LLM drivers throughout the day, but Gage Painter managed to upstage Bruenger by putting up a lap of 16.649 to lead all other drivers at the end of the day.
None of the drivers will have much time to regroup for the CARS Response Energy Tour season-opener at Tri-County, which is now less than a week away. Approximately 20 drivers are expected to enter the 75-lap LLM feature, while over 30 Late Model competitors are expected to battle it out for the $10,000 grand prize at the end of the 150-lap Do the Dew 100 on Saturday afternoon.