For fans of the Championship Auto Racing Series (CARS) Tour, Tyler Ankrum is a familiar name after his top-five points finish in the series’ Late Model Stock championship. Ankrum will once again be participating in the ten race CARS Tour campaign, but this time behind the wheel of the a Super Late Model.
Ankrum, a 15-year-old orginally from California, had several strong performances in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour’s inaugural season. Ankrum collected six top-five finishes and three podium placements last season.
Two of Ankrum’s strongest runs of 2015 came at Southern National Motorsports Park, the site of this weekend’s series opener. In the inaugural CARS Tour event, Ankrum rallied from a qualifying mishap to win the Last Chance Qualifier and race his way through the field to a fifth-place finish. Later in the season, Ankrum tallied a season-best finish of second place on the 0.400 oval in Lucama, North Carolina.
In the final race of the 2015 CARS Tour, Ankrum provided a preview of his 2016 plans, participating in the series’ Double Duty Dare and making his CARS Super Late Model Tour debut. Since then, Ankrum has driven the Super Late Model in a handful of events, including the Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National and New Smyrna Speedway’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in February.
Ankrum finished fifth in the 125-lap Super Late Model portion of the Thanksgiving Classic, while adding a fourth-place finish on opening night at New Smyrna. So far, Ankrum is pleased with his transition to the faster machinery, likening it to his background in open-wheel midgets.
“The transition is going very well,” Ankrum told Short Track Scene. “Actually, the super late model is more my kind of wheelhouse. Coming from midgets and quarter-midgets, it’s all about that fine line and not having a whole lot of steering wheel into it, a lot of speed, a lot of power, always on the ragged edge. I’m having a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to this upcoming season.”
Ankrum is excited about his progress thus far in the Super Late Model, but anticipates he has plenty more learning left to do.
“You know, being in the Super for such a short time, I’ve learned a lot. I’m very excited, but it’s about that experience. When I showed up at the race track with the late model, I felt like we were able to win as long as I did my job. It’s going to be that little bit of a learning curve this year in the super late model, but I’m going to have to learn a lot faster race with these other veterans.”
Ankrum acknowledged one of the challenges of moving up the ladder is not just the change in machinery, but also the change in competitors. Ankrum hopes he can quickly earn the respect of his new peers in Super Late Model racing.
“When you race the late model stock for a year and a half, two years, you get used to running with guys like Lee Pulliam or Deac McCaskill,” Ankrum said. “You earn their respect. So now it’s like starting back at base one, and you have to re-earn some respect. I’m very excited and I just want to see what happens in 2016.”
Ankrum will have plenty of opportunities to earn that respect and display his ability this season, saying he hopes to race the Super Late Model in several different series and events.
“We have a lot going on,” Ankrum said on his 2016 plans. “We’re running CARS Tour Super Late Model series, and quite a bit of CRA, and possibly some Southern Super Series.”
The CARS Tour’s initial entry list for the #CARSTour300 at Southern National includes some stout opposition in the Super Late Model ranks, including defending series champion Cole Timm, Thanksgiving Classic Super Late Model winner Brandon Setzer, and previous CARS Tour winners such as Quin Houff and Zane Smith. With a strong showing at a track that has been good to Ankrum in the past, he could add himself to the list of contenders in the highly competitive series.
Photo By: Drew Hierwarter/MotorsportsPhoto.com