Brandon Setzer finished second to Matt Craig on Saturday night in the CARS Tour Super Late Model race at Tri County Motor Speedway but it was a moral victory in terms of the championship battle.
The 23-year-old entered the night tied with Cole Rouse but his runner-up combined with Rouse finishing sixth provided much-needed space — even if Setzer didn’t want to entertain the notion of points racing with five races still remaining.
“Yeah, that’s great, but at the end of the day, we need to collect wins,” Setzer said. “That’s what it’s all about. That’s how you get noticed. And if we do that, we’re going to beat (Rouse) in the championship too.”
Rouse was already at a slight disadvantage entering the Do the Dew 200 because he wasn’t driving his usual Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 51. An inventory shuffle meant that the 19-year-old drove the Robert Hamke Racing No. 74.
It was a transition from one iconic SLM to another — but to one Rouse wasn’t totally familiar with. Before the race, Rouse said he thought he’d finish just outside of the top-5 and that’s exactly what happened when he finished sixth.
“In race runs, we were okay but thought we were better than what we ended up,” Rouse said. “We could never find the grip off that we needed and were just loose off. We could catch ‘em in the center but just didn’t have the drive off we needed.
“So that’s something we’re going to work on next time we race with Hamke. But it was an alright day. It is what it is now.”
Rouse will finish the remaining five races with KBM and hopes to maintain the speed he found when he won at Orange County Speedway on June 25.
The next stop on the tour? Orange County Speedway on July 22.
“We’ve been really competitive,” Rouse said. “We should have a chance to win each of those. We’d like to win the championship. It just depends on how the rest of these KBM races go.”
As for Setzer, his four point lead has come with its fair share of good and bad. He swept the Super Late Model twin 75s at Dominion Raceway and captured four straight poles at Dominion and Hickory.
He also crashed at Bristol and failed to make the show despite having a guranteed starting spot. That ‘missed race’ is what allowed Rouse to catch back up.
“It’s been an up and down season,” Setzer said. “We’ve wom some races and had some bad luck. We had that crash at Bristol. This season has been a learning deal. Every time you fire it up, it’s always a little different so I’m glad we got the ball rolling tonight.”
CARS Tour Super Late Model championship leaders
- Brandon Setzer Ldr.
- Cole Rouse -4
- Nolan Pope -21
- Matt Craig -55