ROUGEMONT, N.C. :: The second half of the Championship Auto Racing Series (CARS) Tour season began Saturday with the Summertime Showdown 250 at Orange County Speedway. The 3/8ths mile oval consistently produces the most exciting racing – and most eventful evenings – on the touring series. Saturday night’s race proved no different.
The roller coaster evening also added drama in the season-long points chase for the tour. While the two primary contenders dueled for the victory in the Late Models, a wild race shook up the Super Late Model points.
Setzer Gains in Supers Title Hunt: Entering Saturday night, ten points separated the top four drivers in the CARS Super Late Model Tour. All four ran into trouble during the race, but ultimately Brandon Setzer gained ground in the title picture.
Points leader Raphael Lessard ran near the front of the field in his David Gilliland Racing Toyota. However, his strong run was foiled by a problem in the rear-end of the car. Lessard lost ten laps as repairs were made before salvaging an eleventh place finish on a night of attrition.
Defending series champion Cole Timm entered the evening tied for third in points with Quin Houff. Separate incidents swept up Timm and Houff, costing them valuable ground in the championship.
Houff’s night ended after 14 laps, involved in a major crash that retired six cars. Timm found the turn one wall on a lap 57 restart after contact from Matt Craig.
Of the four title contenders, only Setzer completed all 125 laps. He struggled with a poor handling race car and frequently visited pit road under cautions. By staying on track, Setzer finished seventh and gained four points on Lessard.
Late Model Race Decided By Title Contenders: Josh Berry missed Saturday’s event participating in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Iowa Speedway. Thus, the points race for the Late Model Stock Tour is down to Deac McCaskill and Tommy Lemons.
Naturally, McCaskill and Lemons battled for the win, dueling over the final laps. Lemons claimed the win, taking the lead from Stefan Parsons on lap 59 and holding off McCaskill.
In doing so, Lemons gained two points on McCaskill in the title hunt. Unofficially, McCaskill now holds an eight-point advantage on Lemons with four races remaining.
Rather than focus on the championship hunt, Lemons says his focus each weekend will be getting to victory lane.
“If we can win out, we win the points,” Lemons said on the championship. “They’ll take care of themselves. We’re only worried about wins.”
McCaskill anticipates a tightly-fought points battle all the way to the season finale, at Hickory Motor Speedway in October. With Lemons now owning consecutive wins in the series, he is carrying plenty of momentum into the final four races.
“Tommy’s just got a head of steam rolling right now,” said McCaskill. “He’s fast every week. Hats off to him, he’s got his car working good. We need to get a little bit better.”
McCaskill was part of a thrilling championship battle last season, won by Brayton Haws. Haws, McCaskill, and Myatt Snider all entered the final race within four points of each other, with Haws outrunning his competition that evening.
“Hopefully, neither one of us have any kind of bad luck,” McCaskill said. “One bad race, and you’re done. I’d like to go into Hickory as close as it was last year. That was a lot of fun.”