After many weeks of promotion, countless driver stories, awesome racing and the wrap up of the day’s events, the jury is out.
Fans approve and I, who was skeptical of the series from the beginning, was in the center of it all and left thrilled in what I saw. I know that I wasn’t the only one either, a very modest crowd braved the chilly temps in search of their Late Model fix and on this day the CARS Tour played host and it was everything as advertised.
Let’s begin with the ever so heavily debated car count issue since it’s always the first cry of judgment. Now I’m not a huge believer that you have to have a big car count to have a great race but certainly the more cars on the track, the more there is to watch. With that said, how do 30 Super Late Models and 36 Late Models suit your fancy? It did mine and what was even better was fans were treated to a 20 lap last chance race in the Late Model division because of the robust participation giving you a taste of what was yet to come.
Next to debate or argue about the series was whether bump stops, coil binding and those mean looking American Racing Tires were up to the rigorous demands from the race teams. Again, I was skeptical as many of the race teams who participated never raced on chassis with coil binding set ups or bump stops. NASCAR Late Model guidelines outlaw these set ups and are deal breakers in that series, it’s been years now since even the veterans of the sport has been on those particular set ups.
I think what we saw from the racing, all the problems in making those set ups work put all the teams on an even keel so to speak where some made speed while others will need to do more work. Bottom line, everyone was at the same level of difficulty and having experienced people on your team was crucial in your performance. As far as the tires, I personally haven’t seen American Racer tires used in over 10 years and whether or not they can meet the demands was left to be determined.
What was unique to the series and its competitors, nobody never really knew how well the tire would hold up to a one hundred and fifty lap race. With that point made, it too helped put every race team on an even keel and only a completed race would we ever know. What we knew coming into the day’s events was that the tire was said to not have the fall off that was to be expected. What we know now is that the tire performed and the majority of the teams I talked too thought the tire was really good.
Let’s jab here about the competition that the series attracted in and what it means going forward in the CARS Tour Series. In the Super Late Series, obviously the names like Kyle Grissom, Steven Wallace, Bubba Pollard and Clay Rogers are household names in the series. Whether it’s because of previous championships, timely wins, or the fact that they come from families well within the rich history of the sport or even the noted reputation of good hard racing, these guys sets the bar for the younger race talent and from what we saw, in the Super Late Model feature it was the young guns taking to school the seasoned veterans as Cole Timm surprised us all. Likewise in the Late Model feature where Southern National track champion Tommy Lemons Jr, North Carolina State champion Deac McCaskill and other veterans of the series, Mike Darne and Jamey Caudill who all are very well respected veterans of the sport saw that the young guns in that division prevail. Todd Gilliland who I believe doesn’t possess a driver’s license took advantage of some late race cautions and performed a well-executed move and run to win his feature. Most notably, against McCaskill who has more laps around SNMP then Gilliland probably has in his career young Late Model career.
Tyler Ankrum who is months younger then Gilliland who makes no excuses for his qualifying run spun in time trials ruining his efforts. Soon he’s notified he’ll have to make the race by racing the last chance feature had another twenty laps and a heat cycle on his tires but raced his way to a fifth place finish. I saw it with my own eyes that Brayton Haws came to pit road racing third with a broken valve spring and retainer during a caution. In less than ten minutes, his engine man replaced the bad parts, had that engine singing a tune when he left. At the time of the repair, the red flag was on the speedway forcing Haws to start at the tail end of the longest line and the guy still finished sixth in the race. My point is that the debate over the so called rich kids being competitive versus the so called rich veterans is for not after this race as proven that everyone in this CARS Tour Series is for real and that age does not matter.
Lastly, I just wanted to touch on the possibilities that the CARS Tour can potentially have on the existence of Late Model racing. With a talented cast of great race teams coming from both series, once again I feel Late Model racing is once again the entry level of stock car racing that it was intended to be. The rules here are simple, it’s not a complicated thing and it’s not going to vary from track to track like NASCAR Late Model teams have to deal with. CARS Tour officials are everywhere in this series, they appear to be very organized and detailed in their inspections of the cars. Not saying there is in the other sanctioning bodies but favoritism in the CARS Tour seems difficult for the conspiracy theorists to have to prove.
Like I said earlier, I was one of the first to be skeptic. A race team can actually make some money in this series. If properly promoted, sponsored and given its due chance there’s no doubt in my mind those super heads that know more about racing in NASCAR’s top 3 tiers of racing just might look at these CARS Tour guys and one day, possibly give them a chance in the sport. If you’re a Late Model race fan, you have got to give these guys a chance too. What a great night it was at Southern National Motorsports Park for the first inaugural Super Late and Late Model CARS Tour Series.
I think we got something here that seems to have that UARA Series appeal with so much potential for growth. The CARS Tour Series will invade Orange County Speedway on April 18th for the Orange Blossom 300 presented by The Grilling Store, a track which will present its own unique challenges and could quite well see another first time winner in the series.
RACE22.com is pleased to be your one stop for it all coverage of the CARS Tour Series here in 2015. Be on the lookout for exciting content relating to the series as the race season continues.