When the Championship Auto Racing Series (CARS) announced that they had dissolved the Pro Cup Series and replaced it with dual Late Model Stock Car and Super Late Model tours, the unconventional idea seemed just crazy enough to work. And it did.

The season’s first race was held at Southern National Motorsports Park back in March and 68 cars showed up. For the Super Late Models, heavyweights such as Bubba Pollard, Christopher Bell, Steven Wallace, Stephen Nasse as well as local favorites such as Cole Timm and Zane Smith all showed up. In Late Model Stock Cars, big names such as Jamey Caudill, Deac McCaskill and Tommy Lemons, Jr. were all set to do battle.

However, even as the buzz of a “new” series wore off, the CARS Tour continued to attract 20 or more cars in both of their fields each race all the way through the finale. Every race had a big race atmosphere to it and the CARS Tour quickly became the best new thing in racing.

“Incredible year. You could’ve never told me, in a million years in February, that we would have had this many cars,” CARS Tour’s director of marketing and operations Chris Ragle said. “I think, if I did my math right, we averaged 26 Super Late Models and 27 Late Model Stocks.”

The allure of the CARS Tour was not just the car counts, but the thrilling racing action exhibited every time the series raced. The series had drama, emotion, thrilling side-by-side duels and two classic championship battles that were not decided until the final race of the season.

“The championship battles, Cole Timm, Brayton Haws, two young guns kind of came in and I was crunching the math trying to call the race and everything else,” Ragle said after the finale, held on Halloween night at Hickory Motor Speedway. “At one point, in the Super deal, went from nine to two. It was tied in LMSC throughout the night. Just a killer year. Man, it’s hard to make 2016 better than that.”

Cole Timm emerged as the breakout star and surprise champion in the CARS Super Late Model Tour race. Prior to the 2015 season, he had only won once in a Pro All Stars Series (PASS) race at South Boston Speedway. Timm won the season opener at Southern National Motorsports Park and held on from there to win the championship. On the Late Model Stock Car side, a thrilling three-way championship battle headlined the season. Myatt Snider and Brayton Haws traded the points lead throughout the year but, halfway through the season, a new championship threat emerged in veteran racer Deac McCaskill.

It looked like it would all fall in place for Myatt Snider, but it was Brayton Haws who came away with the title in the final race of the season at Hickory Motor Speedway.

“I’ll tell you what,” Ragle remarked. “At one point, I said, Cole Timm’s led all year long. From that first race at Southern National when we had 68 cars he led from there. At Hickory, it was within two points. That’s just wild. And the points battle between McCaskill, Snider and Haws, I don’t think you could get a better deal.”

The CARS Tour build a solid foundation in 2015 but now, they’re looking only to the future and growing the series even more.

“2016, got a couple new tracks, staying around 10 races,” Ragle commented. “I guess our big thing going forward that we’ll start working on is that 2016 will be a fan initiative year. We’ve got to get more fans to see this because you know and I know, killer racing.”

Series president Jack McNelly was the one who made the gamble to do away with the struggling Pro Cup Series and replace it with the unconventional dual tour. However, he doesn’t take the credit. McNelly says that all goes to the drivers.

“As I told the folks, to stand here in November and still have 56 cars in the garage area is phenomenal,” McNelly explained. “I never believed it in February that it would be but it is. It certainly nothing we did. We put the platform out there but these guys are the ones that responded.”

McNelly’s decision came at the right time. The UARA-STARS Series, which was the lone Late Model Stock Car touring series, had already essentially dissolved and Super Late Model drivers in the Southeast were lobbying McNelly and Ragle to form a Super Late Model tour as an alternative to PASS.

“We knew there was a huge void for a traveling series for the Late Models and we did have some requests for the Supers, so we just decided to roll the dice and go for both of them,” McNelly said.

They did roll the dice and they got the best possible result. The CARS Tour became an instant success and a popular, fan favorite series. Thrilling battles, intense rivalries and new superstars all emerged in 2015 and there is still plenty more to come.“At