Orange County Speedway will play host to the inaugural Mid-Atlantic Classic on Saturday night.
The 150-lap Super Late Model event will feature several key differences from the previous CARS SLM event at Orange County, including a total purse of $50,875, in which every competitor who makes the 30-car starting grid will earn $1,000.
The winner of the Mid-Atlantic Classic will receive $10,000, which is a paycheck that exceeds every previous event in CARS Tour history, including the U.S. Nationals at Bristol that saw race winner Darrell Wallace Jr. earned $7,500.
“We are so excited to be able to bring the best Super Late Model drivers in the country to Orange County Speedway,” said CARS Tour Director of Marketing and Operations Chris Ragle. “Each race at Orange County has gotten bigger than the previous, now with $10,000 to win and $1000 to start we have seen interest beyond our expectations.”
The Mid-Atlantic Classic will also mark the first time that stage race is used in the CARS Tour. The Super Late Model race will be divided into four segments consisting of 35 laps, 65 laps, another 35 laps and a 15-lap sprint to the finish to end the race.
There will be a five-minute break to accompany the end of each stage, and all segment winners will earn a $500 cash bonus, and will start inside the Top 8 for the final stage.
Stage racing has been around in many forms in auto racing over the past several decades, including exhibition NASCAR races such as the All-Star Race and The Clash, as well as the Eldora Dirt Derby in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
However, 2017 is the first year in which stage racing has been utilized throughout the entire NASCAR season, as the Top 10 drivers in each stage receive points, and stage winners in the top three NASCAR series earn a playoff point for their respective Chase. The new format has been well received by drivers and fans in NASCAR, and many CARS Tour competitors believe that stage racing will have many benefits for the series.
“Stage racing is going to be very fan-friendly,” said CARS Super Late Model competitor Bradley McCaskill. “The format is going to give fans something to watch, instead of drivers just riding around and saving tires until the end. It’s kind of cool how the series is giving drivers an incentive to go hard and get track position for later in the race.”
Each segment break will allow teams to change tires and work on their cars. After each break concludes, drivers will line up based on how many tires they changed in the pit box, with drivers who changed no tires starting first, while drivers who changed all four tires will start in the rear of the field. This will only be the second time this season that teams have had the option to make adjustments to their cars during the race, and many of the drivers believe that pit strategy will determine the outcome of the race.
“Everybody is going to want tires, especially as the race gets closer to the end,” said three-time CARS SLM Tour winner Matt Craig. “However, if you can get track position early and get that first stage win, then that will help your starting position. There is a lot to think about, but I think it is going to be a really interesting event, and I think you’ll see some newcomers show up. Pit strategy is really going to help out the guys who normally don’t have a shot to win the race.”
A strong field of super late model teams is expected for the Mid-Atlantic Classic, including CARS SLM Tour points leader Brandon Setzer, Raphael Lessard, Bubba Pollard, Jared Irvan, and local driver Tate Fogleman just to name a few.
Although there will not be a $10,000 paycheck or any stage racing for the CARS LMSC Tour, the Mid-Atlantic Classic will serve as another chapter in the close points battle between Layne Riggs, Anthony Alfredo and Josh Berry.
Nine points only separate them, but the JR Motorsports teammates of Berry and Alfredo will have to find a way to prevent Riggs from obtaining another win at his home track if they hope to gain an advantage over him.