The Cloer Construction 125 at Hickory Motor Speedway on Friday night drastically upended the CARS Tour Late Model Stock championship dynamic.
Layne Riggs entered the Birthplace of the NASCAR Stars with a nine-point lead over Corey Heim and 10-points over Jared Fryar.
However, both frontrunners suffered various misfortunes on Saturday night, while two-time and defending champion Bobby McCarty snapped a 2020 winless streak just ahead of Fryar by the end of the night.
The results tightened the chase for the championship considerably.
- Jared Fryar
- Corey Heim -5
- Bobby McCarty -8
- Connor Mosack -9
- Layne Riggs -10
- Nolan Pope -12
There are five races remaining on the schedule: Saturday’s Radley Chevrolet 125 at Dominion, the Mid Atlantic Classic at Orange County on Aug. 22, the VisitHampton 125 at Langley on Aug. 29, the Solid Rock Carriers 125 at Carteret County on Sept. 12 and the South Boston 250 on Sept. 19.
Riggs’ race was over before it truly began.
He posted the fifth quickest time in qualifying, and had speed throughout practice, but that pace was no longer present once he took the green flag. The No. 99 began to hemorrhage position after position and was running near the back of the field once they reached the Lap 40 competition caution.
Riggs came down pit road for his team to check tire pressures, but didn’t find anything out of the ordinary. The second generation racer suspects it was a bad batch of similar coded tires, that eventually broke the rear end of his entry and sent him behind the wall.
He finished 22nd.
“I decided I was going to run where I was at (the start of the race) and they started passing me. So, I decided to pick up the pace,” Riggs said. “I was 110 percent and still getting passed. We came down pit road to check to tire pressures 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.”
Riggs fell from the championship lead by nine points to fifth in the standings and 10 back.
Meanwhile, Heim entered the event second in the standings but developed some problems of his own. He spun from inside the top-five on Lap 59 while racing Trevor Ward for fourth place. He kept the car pointed straight up had fallen from fifth to ninth and lost much of his speed.
Heim came down pit road to make changes and raced his way to eighth from the back of the field.
“I don’t think it was the tires,” Heim said when told of Riggs’ problems. “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 the No. 77 and it was a racing deal. I dived in there pretty good and I thought he could have given me a little bit more room, but it was still an eighth-place night. We just need to be better.”
By virtue of his second-place finish, Fryar jumped over both Riggs and Heim to take the championship lead after previous finishes of 13th, third and fourth. Fryar won the 2018 CARS Tour Super Late Model championship, but did so without a win, a reality he is keenly aware of.
“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.”
Meanwhile, McCarty remains the dominant force in the CARS Tour.
His pursuit of a third consecutive championship has hit several obstacles this season, starting with a penalty in the season opener at Southern National Motorsports Park back in March. He finished 10th that afternoon.
McCarty was then involved in a intentional crashing by Josh Berry, the retaliation for a pair of previous incidents between them. McCarty had led the most laps in the Race at Ace 125 by that point but was turned into the wall by Berry.
That set him back in the championship, not that he’s counting points now that he’s back in the mix.
“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.”
McCarty won the 2019 championship by one point over Berry.
Riggs opened the 2020 season with finishes of fifth, second and fifth. He had earned the buffer, but he used that up and then some on Saturday night in the foothills of the North Carolina High Country.
“It’s going to be tough to get back up front,” Riggs conceded. “I know Jared finished second and he’s going to have the lead and it’s going to be hard to make this back up with having races canceled because of COVID-19. We are going to try hard, just like always, if that will be enough, who knows?”‘