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Observations: CARS Tour 250 at Hickory Motor Speedway

Through nearly a season and a half of operation, the CARS Tour remains one of the best tickets in short track racing as evidenced by the Race to End Hunger 250 on Saturday night at Hickory Motor Speedway.

Even with a slightly shorter field for both the Late Model Stocks and Super Late Models, fans were treated to two fun and exciting races. Raphael Lessard charged through the top-5 over the final 30 laps to score his first career Super victory while Josh Berry proved why he’s “Mr. Hickory” in out-dueling Deac McCaskill with a battered Late Model Stock.

In fact, Berry winning in a machine that looked like it was tossed in a race car blender is one of the more enduring traits of the discipline. While the Late Model Stock race was a bit of a crashfest, the fan in me still appreciates cars that can be abused and still driven to the front like Berry did in the closing laps.

Berry and McCaskill are two of the best in the recent history of the discipline and it was a pleasure to see them duel head-to-head. It would be a shame if Berry has to miss the race at Orange County on July 30 due to an XFINITY conflict because he and McCaskill have already established themselves as the championship favorites.

Here are some other observations from Hickory:

– I’m not sure what to make of the low car counts last night. There were 23 Supers and 19 Stocks, especially puzzling for the latter given that neither Motor Mile Speedway nor South Boston Speedway were running its weekly shows.

The Super side was more understandable given that several of those drivers competed in the NASCAR Truck Series event at Kansas the night before, with defending race winner William Byron actually going to victory lane. There was also a CRA Super Series event at Anderson that drew other cars away including regulars Zane Smith and Dalton Sargeant.

But still, the Late Model Stock side was missing some heavy hitters, so hopefully this was just a blip in the big picture.

– Raphael Lessard is really freaking talented. That’s a story that I’ve been touting since his near victory at Orange County last month but he backed it up with his first career victory on Saturday night. David and Michelle Gilliland both told me at Talladega that he was a special talent and we’ve seen it over the first three CARS tour events.

It was cool to see how much attention the 14-year-old had garnered in that a French Canadian TV crew was on-site at Hickory to chronicle their countryman’s first victory in CARS Tour competition. Even ARCA Racing Series team owner Billy Venturini, who joined us in the television booth had nothing but compliments for the youngster. He added that Toyota has high hopes for him if he continues to develop at this current pace.

– Steve Wallace arguably owes Cole Timm, Vinnie Miller and Jeff Batten an apology. The David Gilliland Racing drivers of Lessard and Alex Guenette roughed him up early in the race but it wasn’t anything uncharacteristic of Hickory.

Wallace then spent the next two green flag runs trying to run both the 98 and 99 cars off the track. He successfully shot Guenette up the track off a restart and the field stacked up behind him. It culminated with the three car crash that destroyed Timm’s car — the defending CARS Tour Super Late Model champions.

Venturini didn’t hold back his observations in the broadcast booth and he didn’t hold back on Twitter either.

– And lastly, if you missed it, tempers flared during the Late Model Stock feature after a three car battle between Matt Piercy, Justin Crider, and Ronald Hill ended with a hard crash. Crider gave Piercy the bird and called him a typical promoter’s kid.

All told, this race had everything you would want out of a short track race.

Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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