Brandon Pierce will be the first to tell you that his 2021 season has not gone according to plan.
With only one Top 5 entering Saturday’s Aaron’s 125 at Florence Motor Speedway, Pierce put together his best performance on the year by quickly working up through the field during the last 45 laps to bring home a second-place finish.
Pierce believed he could have challenged Kaden Honeycutt for the win had circumstances been more in his favor.
“I needed a few more laps and to catch a few more breaks,” Pierce said. “On the next to last caution, I picked off four cars in two laps up top but starting on the bottom for the final restart killed me there at the end. I felt like I had a lot more tire than [the leaders] but it took way too many laps for me to maneuver my way through the field.”
Pierce was able to charge up to the front after conserving his tires during the opening 80 laps.
A 13th place qualifying run forced Pierce and Lee Pulliam Performance into using that strategy. He joined Justin Johnson, Deac McCaskill and others riding around in the back of the pack while simultaneously pushing his car hard enough to stay on the lead lap.
The assistance of a few late-race cautions bought Pierce the time he needed to pick off those who had used up their equipment. By the 105th lap, Pierce had climbed into the third position with one of the fastest cars on track.
Pierce ended up becoming a spectator to the battle for the lead between Honeycutt and Carson Kvapil. He patiently waited for the opportunity to take over the top spot himself but admitted that Honeycutt was out of striking distance by the time he finally got into second.
“I saw Kaden and Carson going at it hard and I knew they were using a lot of tire,” Pierce said. “I needed to clear Carson about two laps sooner and that could have helped me get to Kaden. With about three to go, I drove it in too deep and nearly wrecked myself. [Kaden] drove away from us and we came to the line about five or six car lengths behind him.”
While Pierce was thrilled with the run, he needed a few more laps to catch Kaden Honeycutt. pic.twitter.com/7ynnH09jxq
— Short Track Scene (@ST_Scene) October 3, 2021
A win for Pierce on Saturday evening would have been his first since Southern National Motorsports Park in 2019, where he bumped Josh Berry out of the lead in Turn 2 on the final lap.
Instead of a victory, Pierce recorded his second Top 5 finish of the year and his best overall performance since finishing third at Dominion Raceway back in 2020.
Pierce believes that he is still capable of winning Late Model Stock races on a regular basis. Although he came up one spot short at Florence on Saturday, Pierce has a renewed sense of confidence in his ability to find victory lane once again.
“We’ve had a terrible year and [Saturday] felt like a win,” Pierce said. “There are so many people who have continued to stick behind me when they didn’t have to. This one is going to hurt a little bit because I felt like I let one get away but it was still awesome to give these guys a performance they deserve.”
Pierce has two more races left on the CARS Tour calendar to build off the momentum from Florence and finish out the 2021 season on a much-needed positive note.