For much of the MTP Tire 150, the strategy was to find a safe place to conserve tires, and Bobby McCarty initially had to fall out of the top-10 to make that work.
Meanwhile, Mike Looney started 18th had opted to charge forward, passing McCarty in the process, and taking the lead by Lap 50.
Another 60 laps pass, and Looney and McCarty are now running 1-2 when the race was arguably decided. Looney was caught behind Jonathan Shafer while trying to place the Lee Pulliam Performance No. 91 a lap down with McCarty threatening to take them both three-wide for the lead.
Looney didn’t lift and the contact sent Shafer around, bringing out the caution with 40 to go, and forcing race control to send the leader to the rear of the field for avoidable contact.
McCarty spent the next 35 laps pulling away to a two second lead, but that gap had shrunk to less than a second over Tyler Matthews with five to go when Jessica Cann and Jack Wood crashed at the rear of the field to bring out a yellow.
Matthews’ strategy had been more consistent, running near the top-five for the majority of the race after starting fifth, and had a shot at McCarty on the final restart.
The two veterans raced clean with McCarty winning the race by just 0.025 over Matthews.
“With the way the tires wore, it doesn’t take a lot of contact to get you off the throttle, so we chose the top and he raced me clean,” McCarty said. “He could have did what he had to to win the race but he raced me clean, and I really appreciate that.
“It was close.”
Another CARS Tour photo finish at Hickory.
This time in the Late Model Stock division
Bobby McCarty beats Tyler Mathews by 0.025 pic.twitter.com/cSvz9lkCRy
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) March 21, 2021
While there are drivers in the Late Model Stock community that have taken exception to Bobby McCarty over the years, Matthews wasn’t one of them, and he chose to race the two-time CARS Tour champion the way he’s always been raced by him.
“Me and Bobby have no bad blood, and I know there are people who would love to see him get cleaned out, but I’m not that kind of guy. I’ll do it if it’s due, but it wasn’t.
“I gave him a little nudge off (Turn 4) and gave him a chance to catch it and race hard to the line. We gave a great show for the fans and that’s what they pay to see.”
That meant something to McCarty in addition to the purse and trophy.
“It means a lot,” McCarty said. “I know I wear the black hat in this series, but I’m fine with it. I’ve been doing this since I was six years old, and I’ve been called every name in the book, but that fires me up and inspires me to be better.
“Drivers have memories like elephants, and I never go out there with the intent of wrecking them, but I cut people slack who have cut me slack, and I remember moments like this.”
While the race for the win shaped up over the final 20 laps, Looney was mired outside the top-15. There was contact with Mason Diaz that may have contributed to his No. 24 breaking a panhard bar and crashing into the wall.
Looney’s car was damaged from every corner, but the 2016 Martinsville 300 winner was still all smiles after finishing 13th with no ill-will towards race control.
“I’ve got to thank God for the blessings he’s placed in front of me,” Looney said. “Like Billy Martin and Forrest Reynolds. This team is made up of volunteers and they’re worth their weight in gold and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
“I had to use a lot of tire to get to the front, and I know Bobby is smart and has won a lot of these races, and I figured he’d saved a little bit. He picked the pace up and I got tight. Lap cars, you know, they’re having their own race and I have to brag on the talent of this field. We’re all racing side by side on this wore out race track.
“Bobby caught me trying to get through the lap cars and I had to go and misjudged, spun him around. I didn’t mean to do that.”
He had no qualms with being sent to the rear.
“I’m just happy to be living my dreams. I’m driving a race car. I’d love to be racing Cup on Sundays but I’m just happy to get to do this with these guys. It’s a blessing.”
McCarty won this race last year, when it was the third race of the season, but will have to hope to maintain that pace after a disappointing opener at Dillon Motor Speedway on March 6.
“Last year, our front suspension was off,” McCarty said. “We struggled to finish where we needed. We had good runs but it was far and few between. The balance on the set up was like a knife edge. So I think we have more forgiveness in the car and that’s what we were missing last year.”
Dillon winner Justin Johnson finished 10th, headlining a series of surprises in the back half of the field, including defending champion Jared Fryar in 11th, Brandon Pierce in 12th and Layne Riggs in 18th.
McCarty’s win leaves him in a tie with Sam Butler for the championship lead and three ahead of Johnson. It’s six back to Deac McCaskill.
Next up for the CARS Late Model Stock Tour is the $30,000-to-win Old State Nationals at Orange County Speedway in Roguemont, North Carolina.
- Bobby McCarty
- Tyler Matthews
- Sam Butler
- Deac McCaskill
- Daniel Silvestri
- Jonathan Findley
- Mini Tyrrell
- William Cox III
- Kaden Honeycutt
- Justin Johnson
- Jared Fryar
- Brandon Pierce
- Mike Looney
- Justin T Carroll
- Joe Valento
- Sam Yarbrough
- Jonathan Shafer
- Layne Riggs
- Chase Dixon
- Jack Wood
- Jessica Cann
- Mason Diaz
- Conner Jones
- Matt Leicht