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Brent Crews wins second CARS Tour race in slugfest at Caraway

It was the Big Three of the 2024 season vs the reigning Daytona 500 winner

CARS Tour

It was an equal opportunity kind of night in the CARS Tour race at Caraway Speedway.

Everyone got a chance to use the bumper, everyone received the bumper, and the Firecracker 125 was determined by who used the bump-and-run last.

That was Brent Crews in an absolute slugfest of a finish that included fellow championship contenders Connor Hall, Carson Kvapil … and to a lesser extent, Daytona 500 winner William Byron making a one-off appearance for JR Motorsports.

There was a lot to unpack from the finish:

First, Hall was driving away from Byron, Kvapil and Crews when Jacob Heafner slowed with a cut tire with eight laps remaining. Hall felt burned by the caution, especially since Heafner drew the caution and then drove down pit road once the field slowed.

Heafner was penalized for not getting off the track but the damage was done.

Hall and Kvapil have been involved in a three-year rivalry that has seen them come together on nearly 10 different distinct occasions. Earlier in the race, Hall felt like Kvapil pinched him. Kvapil felt like Hall drove unnecessarily deep into the bumper.

These facts played a factor into the finish.

Over on the JR Motorsports radio, Kvapil and company signaled that they would drive right into the back of Hall because the ground rules had been established. Bo Gurkin told Hall to expect ‘to be jacked up’ on the restart. Before taking the green, Kvapil was told ‘down the backstretch here will be your shot’ and there was a palpable sense of what was about to unfold.

Green flag.

Kvapil indeed never lifted down the backstretch and got under the Nelson Motorsports No. 22 and hip checked him in Turn 1. Hall fell behind Byron to fourth. Crews moved to the inside of Kvapil and took the lead.

Hall, undeterred, repassed Byron and got around Kvapil once he was washed up from the outside by Crews. He retook the lead and was back up front coming out of the final pair of corners when Crews got the last bump-and-run and drove to his second win of the season.

“If no one was doing it to me, that would be different,” Crews said after the race. “My whole back bumper is destroyed. Pretty much the whole race, I was getting run into, lap 60 on and really all year. I’m just tired of getting ran into and needed to do a little of it myself, especially if it’s for the win.”

And it has been that kind of season on the CARS Tour.

Byron finished second ahead of Hall on the proverbial frontstretch podium. Kvapil climbed out of his car, got dressed out and made his way over to the frontstretch. He shook hands with Byron and then had a conversation with Kvapil that basically said, ‘why do you have to race me like that.’

“I just wanted to ask why he raced like that,” Kvapil said. “He had the better car at the end. He got around us. So, I knew he did. It’s my job to protect and his job to go on offense. I just felt like his offense was a little too much. We never had a chance to race. It was me protecting the bottom and him lifting my rear tires off the ground.

“I didn’t appreciate that so on the last restart, I drove into him the way he drove into me. We had a third place car if it went green to the end but we went door to door and started beating each other up and ended up fifth.”

The frustrating thing, surely for both of them too, is that both Kvapil and Hall do respect each other and repeatedly express it to each other. Both have worked hard this year to try to communicate through these incidents from the past three years but it happened again on Wednesday and here they are again.

“He didn’t appreciate me wearing the back bumper out,” Hall said. “I felt like I was chopped a couple of times. He was parking it on the bottom. If he was tight or whatever he was fighting, that’s all good, and he’s using all his tools.”

At the same time, Hall said he was under pressure from Crews too, which is valid as all three were nose-to-tail early in that run.

“He was right there with us and I knew I needed to make my move while I had a window,” Hall added. “It seemed like Carson was bottoming out and fighting tight. I took my shot, and I thought it was worth it and I straightawayed them once I got to the lead.”

While racing like this is nothing new for Hall, Kvapil and Crews, as they have done it all year, Byron was right in the middle of everything and really struggling to determine how to race this group for the first time while also trying to win from the 16th starting position.

“I wanted to win obviously, but I don’t know how everyone races,” Byron said. “I didn’t know what positions to put myself in. Looking back at it, I wish I had just chose the bottom. The top was getting rough and there was no grip up there because of the marbles.

“I didn’t get the grip I wanted to, fell back to third, and just watched those guys push each other around. It was fun though. These cars are fun, tough to drive, and everything fades at the end. The brakes, the tires, it’s what short track racing is supposed to be like.”

Back to Kvapil and Hall … what can be done to improve their standing with each other?

“One race, we race really well together and then the next race, it’s like today and he’s a bulldozer” Kvapil said. “I feel like we’re even sometimes, on an equal playing field, and then we get used up.”

Again, Hall respects Kvapil.

“I say it all the time, that I respect Carson a lot,” Hall said. “As a race car driver as a person, the same way I respect (Brenden Queen) as a race car driver — we’re all on each other’s hot buttons racing for the lead or whatnot.

“I think there are moments, take Dominion and Carson and I were racing for fifth and I did everything I could to stay off him while passing him and this situation tonight, there’s a car pushing me and disrupting my process and I can’t always be as tactful.

“I know I upset Carson and as far as tonight is concerned, it’s over and we’re going to have to continue racing each other and I’ll try my best. I know I was the aggressor tonight but I just felt like I needed to make my move and had a car that could run away if I could just get clean air.”

Kevin Harvick was in attendance and viewed the race from both a series co-owner standpoint but also the car owner and agency representative of Crews.

Harvick, for one, said ‘we are spoiled by the CARS Tour every week’ and that ‘Crews is really really good and he will be racing on Sundays before too long.’ He also said he didn’t see anything wrong with how the leaders raced each other and that he would let the drivers police themselves on this matter.

Crews, flanked by little buddy Keelan, says he’s grateful and appreciative for Harvick’s support and belief.

“It’s really cool to have someone like that in your corner,” Crews said. “We spent, gosh, an hour before the race talking about how to save tires and that’s what he did so well. To be able to pick his brain all the time, it’s crucial, and has helped me a bunch.”

Heim uninjured in flip

The race was delayed 30 minutes to first flip over the car driven by Corey Heim and then to extract the driver.

Heim, driving for Lee Pulliam Performance, was involved in a Lap 69 crash with Jacob Heafner.

Heim came together with Jacob Heafner, ultimately pinning the Heim car on its side against the outside retaining wall.

Heim then flipped over on his lid when Heafner backed up. Heim climbed out of the car under his own power.

“I was falling back there for the most part,” said Heim. “I think I got my left-rear cut down the straightaway previous, and I was a little off pace. I guess the guy to my inside didn’t see me.

“I’m fine, just hanging upside down for 20 minutes, I was a little light-headed. I probably yelled at some people I shouldn’t have. All good. I feel fine, I’m just ready to go home.”

CARS Tour Firecracker 125
July 3 2024
Caraway Speedway

  1. Brent Crews
  2. William Byron
  3. Connor Hall
  4. Jared Fryar
  5. Carson Kvapil
  6. Layne Riggs
  7. Connor Zilisch
  8. Dylan Ward
  9. Ronnie Bassett, Jr.
  10. Ryan Millington
  11. Treyten Lapcevich
  12. Conner Jones
  13. Andrew Grady
  14. Jacob Heafner
  15. Deac McCaskill
  16. Bobby McCarty
  17. Chad McCumbee
  18. Bandon Pierce
  19. Bryce Applegate
  20. Katie Hettinger
  21. Jason Kitzmiller
  22. Mini Tyrrell
  23. Brenden Queen
  24. Corey Heim
  25. Kade Brown
  26. Heath Causey

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 also has extensive experience covering NASCAR, IndyCar and Dirt Sprint Cars.

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