It wasn’t the Throwback 276, but it was a return to the status quo with Bobby McCarty winning a CARS Tour race for the first time in 2020 on Friday night in the Cloer Construction 125 at Hickory Motor Speedway.
The victory marked a reversal of fortune for the two-time and defending champion, who has suffered a myriad of challenges in his pursuit of a three-peat this summer.
It started with a challenging season opener at Southern National in March, where he finished 10th after being sent to the rear for contact with Trevor Ward.
McCarty dominated the next race at Ace Speedway in June, but was involved in a controversial incident when Josh Berry intentionally crashed him in retaliation for a pair of previous incidents between the two, and he finished 18th. CARS Tour suspended Berry and he hasn’t raced with the series since, opting instead to chase the NASCAR All American Series championship.
He finished eighth at Hickory on June 13 — leaving him sixth in the championship standings and 22 points out of the top spot.
Not only did McCarty reverse the trend on Friday, he did so in dominating fashion, leading all 125 laps from the outside pole.
“I feel like one got away from us at Ace,” McCarty said. “To come back and win here like we did. Leading every lap at Hickory isn’t easy. It’s rough on the tires. For us to do it this way, says a lot about our car, and my team stayed on me a lot about not sliding the tires.
“Real team effort and I can’t thank my guys enough. It was a real shot in the arm for us and hopefully we can keep this momentum up as we head for Dominion.”
McCarty held off pole sitter Mini Tyrrell over each consecutive restart and never looked back. Jared Fryar picked off Tyrrell for second inside of 10 laps to go and they closed out the podium. The race was the replacement event for the Throwback 276, which was canceled due to COVID-19.
Fryar finished second after starting 13th.
“I knew we were going to struggle in qualifying because we did last time,” Fryar said. “It’s still frustrating to not qualifying that well. We had a good race car. We caught some lucky cautions and we caught traffic the way we needed to.
“I’d like to have seen one more caution there at the end to see what we could have had for (McCarty) but I’m very happy with a second place and a clean car that we can take to Dominion.”
The 1-2 finish for McCarty and Fryar was well-timed in the big picture as it coincided with the struggles of the championship frontrunners.
Layne Riggs entered the weekend with a nine-point championship advantage over Corey Heim. Riggs was uncompetitive from the start, suffering from what his No. 99 team deemed a tire problem, that eventually broke the rear end and forced him out of the race.
Riggs qualified fifth and never had the speed under him.
“I decided I was going to run where I was at and they started passing me so I decided to pick up the pace,” Riggs said. “I was 110 percent and I was still getting passed. We came down pit road (under the first caution) to check to tire pressure and everything looked fine.
“I think several guys were having some tire problems with this batch. It’s just a shame because we had a good car and this bad batch of tires, our rear end broke.”
Heim also struggled, spinning from inside the top-five on Lap 59, and having to race back from the tail of the field before finishing eighth.
“I don’t think it was the tires,” Heim said. “It was the same batch number from practice so it should have been the same. Realistically, I think we had about a fifth-place car. We weren’t quite as good as the last time we came here.
“The thing in Turn 4, we were racing (Trevor Ward) and it was a racing deal. I dived in there pretty good and I thought he could have given me more room, but it was still an eight place night. We just need to be better.”
Those results allowed Fryar to leap frog both Riggs and Heim to take the championship lead entering Round 6 next Saturday night at Dominion Raceway in Virginia – not that he’s counting points this early.
“I’ve won a CARS Tour championship before in the Super Late Model and we did it without winning a race,” Fryar said. “I want to win races and I feel like we’re close to winning races. The old saying goes: Win races and that’s how you win championships.”
That’s how McCarty feels, too.
“I want to win races,” McCarty said. “With everything going on this year: We lost some races that shouldn’t have happened. At this point, I don’t care about the points. I want to put as many win stickers on the car as we can before the end of the year.”
The results can be found below.
- 22 Bobby McCarty
- 14 Jared Fryar
- 81 Mini Tyrrell
- 77 Trevor Ward
- 16 Chad McCumbee
- 81b Sam Butler
- 88 Connor Mosack
- 78 Corey Heim
- 2s Jonathan Shafer
- 1 Nolan Pope
- 51 Matt Cox
- 2 Brandon Pierce
- 19 Blake Stallings
- 08 Deac McCaskill
- 3 William Cox III
- 12p Gage Painter
- 4 Jonathan Findley -1
- 19c Jessica Cann -1
- 74 Ronald Hill -1
- 44 Justin Johnson OUT
- 57 Justin Carroll OUT
- 99 Layne Riggs OUT
- 63 Tyler Matthews OUT
- 1m Craig Moore OUT