Concord, N.C. :: The CARS Late Model Tour will resume its season on Saturday night at its own version of the Tricky Triangle — Concord Speedway in North Carolina with a pair of 100-lap showdowns.
Concord is a triangular shaped half-mile and always produces hard-nosed racing. The events were won by Bradley McCaskill (LMSC) and Steve Wallace (SLM) last season and both races provided a fair bit of drama. There’s no reason to not expect the same on Saturday night.
First, let’s take a look at the championship battles.
Late Model Stock Cars –
Deac McCaskill Ldr.
Tommy Lemons -8
Josh Berry -39
Austin McDaniel -39
Christian Eckes -48
The Late Model Stock division lost a championship contender when Josh Berry had to miss the event at Orange County Speedway. He participated in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway and was doing a rain dance hoping to compete in both but it wasn’t meant to be.
Berry fell from second and within 10 points to third and 39 points back. Realistically, his championship hopes are done but he’s set to race the rest of the season and should contend for the win in those events.
Meanwhile, Tommy Lemons has won the past two races and has closed the gap to Lemons, so even without Berry it seems the Late Model Stocks will have a competitive two horse battle over the final four races of the 2016 season.
Super Late Models –
Raphael Lessard Ldr.
Brandon Setzer -4
Cole Timm -14
Quin Houff -20
Matt Craig -34
This is the championship battle of the season across all of short track racing as four of the top-5 are within one race of the championship lead. Raphael Lessard has taken advantage of his David Gilliland Racing power this season and posted top-10s in five of the first six races.
He fell out of the race at Orange County but only finished 11th due to attrition and the low car count, but it did bring everyone closer.
Brandon Setzer is the current runner-up and four points out but has yet to win this year in CARS competition. He’s found the consistency he was lacking last season but a win would go a long way towards the title and his aspirations in the Kulwicki Driver Development Program. Defending champion Cole Timm is third in a seasons plit between Gilliland Racing and his family operation.
He’s expected to compete at least one more time this year for DGR and taking advantage of the best equipment in the business could be the key to his season.
Steve Wallace dominated the Super race last year at Concord, leading all 100 laps and will return to defend that crown. He’s scaled down his racing operation this season so a victory on Saturday could result in encouraging both motivation and addition support to pick up some more races.
Car counts have been down this season, across the entire industry, and this could be a telling race to see what CARS could look like for the rest of the year with late summer often forcing a drop in participation. The Supers are facing competition from the PASS Oxford 250 in Maine while Stock teams have a lot of options in the Virginias and Carolinas to choose from this weekend.
2015 Super car count average – 26
2016 Super car count average – 21
2015 LMSC car count average – 27
2016 LMSC car count average – 22
That’s a drop in five cars from season-to-season in both divisions. Second years have been tough as the novelty wears off new tours so it will be interesting to see how CARS combats this moving forward. Of course, this isn’t so much a tour problem as a short track challenge in general but CARS intends to be a major league of sorts for short track racing so an average dipping below 20 for either division wouldn’t be ideal.
But where there might be a lack of quantity, there is quality on Saturday night at Concord so the entertainment value is there for fans.
CARS SLM Tour Pre Entered Drivers: 4 Ali Kern, 6 Brandon Setzer, 12 Harrison Burton, 15 Christian Eckes, 15R Brad Rogers, 16 Lucas Jones, 16M Vinnie Miller, 17 Quin Houff, 33 Preston Peltier, 49 Jeff Batten, 54 Matt Craig, 66 Steve Wallace, 77 Zane Smith, 83 Joey Padgett, 84 Kyle Beattie, 97 Tanner Thorson, 99 Raphael Lessard (17 total)
CARS LMSC Tour Pre Entered Drivers: 08 Deac McCaskill, 1 Christian Eckes, 2 Myatt Snider, 7 Justin Crider, 12M Austin McDaniel, 21 Travis Swaim, 23 Terry Brooks, 25 Stephen Leicht, 25M Shaun Mangum, 27 Tommy Lemons Jr, 28 Chris Hudspeth, 31 Thomas Beane, 32 Jerry Mircle, 42 Craig Stallard, 57 Justin Carroll, 74 Ronald Hill, 88 Chris Davis, 88B Josh Berry, 98 Stefan Parsons, 99 Layne Riggs (20 total)
Event Schedule: 1 p.m. ET -3:15 p.m. practice session; 5:15 p.m. qualifying session; 6:45 p.m. fan fest; 8 p.m. green flag — LMSCs first and then SLMs. The CARS Tour event from Concord Speedway does have a PPV broadcast option and can be viewed at RaceFeedX.com.