The Kvapil family is no stranger to success in the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour.
Carson Kvapil, the oldest son of 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil, first made a name for himself on the CARS Tour in 2021 by grabbing the final championship in the Super Late Model division. He followed that accomplishment up with a Late Model Stock Car title with JR Motorsports in 2022.
Saturday’s John Blewett III North-South Shootout at Caraway Speedway was a full-circle moment not only for Carson, but his younger brother Caden. At the same track where they took marquee wins in the Old North State Nationals last year, the brothers secured CARS Tour championships together, with Caden earning his first Pro Late Model Tour crown.
Both Carson and Caden wrapped up their respective titles despite coming up short of one more win to close out their stellar 2023 campaigns. Brenden Queen led wire-to-wire for his fourth LMSC Tour victory, while Kaden Honeycutt prevailed in the PLM division just over 12 hours after running a doubleheader at Phoenix Raceway.
Carson Kvapil goes back-to-back in LMSC Tour
Even though he was fresh off a convincing CARS LMSC Tour championship, Carson Kvapil did not expect anything to come easy in 2023.
Facing a much tougher driver roster, Carson never wavered while facing constant pressure. He ended his impressive sophomore LMSC Tour campaign by improving in nearly every statistical category, tallying five victories, 13 Top 5s and 534 total laps led.
“Winning a championship with the JR Motorsports guys in my rookie season was awesome,” Carson said. “I knew things were going to be quite a bit tougher this year with Bobby [McCarty] in the No. 6 ride and Brenden [Queen] in the No. 03. Those guys are so tough, but I’m satisfied to get five wins this year after getting four last year.”
With a target on his and JR Motorsports’ backs after they took the 2022 LMSC Tour title, Carson said the key to at least replicating that success was earning solid finishes every week.
Carson and his team executed their strategy perfectly. Along with their five victories as a team, there was not a single race in which Carson failed to finish during the 2023 season. The 11th place finish Carson obtained during the North-South Shootout was the only time he did not place inside the Top 10 all year.
Queen’s consistency meant Carson could not falter once if he wanted another championship on his resume. He added the hard work everyone at JR Motorsports put in each week on his No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet was pivotal in ensuring he was fast and that his car would last until the checkered flag waved.
For Carson, earning consecutive LMSC Tour titles is also indicative of the personal growth he has experienced since winning the Old North State Nationals at Caraway nearly two years ago.
“I remember being super nervous going into [last year’s Old North State Nationals] knowing how competitive the CARS Tour was,” Carson said. “That win boosted us to the championship last season. We were hoping for a better race result [on Saturday], but we held on and had a good enough car to win the championship.”
Second half surge propels Caden Kvapil to PLM Tour title
Caden Kvapil spent the entire winter waiting patiently for another shot at the CARS PLM Tour title after coming up 12 points short in 2022 to Luke Fenhaus.
Driving the same No. 96 Fenhaus enjoyed so much success with, Caden separated himself from the rest of the PLM Tour competitors with three victories and over 350 laps led. This efficiency not only helped Caden take the PLM Tour title but also the $10,000-to-win Keen Parts Challenge over his brother Carson, a separate championship shared between the two divisions.
“This means a bunch,” Caden said. “Luke Fenhaus had a ton of success with the Highlands Motorsports team last year, so to backup what they had and get our own championship is really important to me. I can’t thank Highlands Motorsports enough for an opportunity to run their car and it’s really cool for my brother and I to win titles the same year.”
A streak of inconsistent results at the start of 2023 initially had Caden feeling trepidatious about his chances of a PLM Tour championship.
Highlands Motorsports’ decision to put Caden in their backup car at the first Caraway Speedway event in June proved to be a turning point in their season. Caden led all but three laps that night to pick up his first victory of 2023 and would only finish outside the Top 5 once over the remaining seven races.
The leadership of Josh Reeves and everyone at Highlands Motorsports helped Caden find his comfort zone as he gradually chipped away at the points deficit stemming from his slow start. By the time he arrived at Caraway again for the North-South Shootout, Caden could take it easy without any opposition in the championship hunt.
Leaning on Carson was another crucial factor in Caden’s development through the 2023 season that kept him composed against powerhouse organizations like Donnie Wilson Motorsports, Rackley W.A.R. and others.
“Last year, we were always parked next to each other every race and he would walk me through on things I needed to do better,” Caden said about Carson. “He gave me pointers here and there, which really helped me a lot. I figured out the tracks a lot quicker than I normally would have and that helped out things with my own car and providing feedback.
Perfect day not enough for Brenden Queen to secure LMSC championship
Brenden Queen had to simultaneously be perfect and lucky to have a shot at stealing the 2023 CARS LMSC Tour title from Carson Kvapil.
Despite leading wire-to-wire for the second consecutive race, an 11th place run from Carson kept Queen second in points at the end of the North-South Shootout at Caraway Speedway. The energetic Queen did not show any disappointment during his victory lane celebration and instead chose to revel in another victory.
“I feel awesome,” Queen said. “It’s so hard to win in this series. We came up one win short from [Carson] this year, but we put up a battle to the end. Today wasn’t easy on him, so hopefully I put myself on the map and we keep moving forward.”
The exuberant celebration almost did not happen for Queen, as he and Lee Pulliam Performance were left scrambling after a rear axle failed in practice on Friday afternoon.
Through a collaborative effort that included assistance from Carson’s crew, Queen’s crew made repairs in time for him to put down a blistering, pole-winning lap of 16.733 in qualifying. With clean air at his disposal, nobody could get close to Queen as he cruised towards the checkered flag.
Even though his late-season efficiency was not enough for the LMSC Tour title, Queen considers his rookie season to be a resounding success. Now that he has experience at every track on the CARS Tour schedule, Queen is ready to build off the momentum and give Carson a run for the championship next year.
“This is so big for Lee,” Queen said. “We’re going to tracks I don’t race at, so I’ve had to lean on him a lot. My second trip to all these tracks have been better and this one [to Caraway] was way better. Now we got to put the pressure [on Carson] in March.”
What jetlag? Kaden Honeycutt goes from worst to first in the PLM Tour
Kaden Honeycutt arrived at Caraway Speedway a couple hours before the green flag having already earned Top 10s in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series West finales at Phoenix Raceway.
There was no noticeable fatigue from Honeycutt on track as he tackled both the CARS LMSC Tour and PLM Tour features in the North-South Shootout. Along with a solid sixth place run in the Late Model Stock, Honeycutt showcased his talent by driving from worst to first in the 100-lap PLM Tour race.
“That just showed how good the car was,” Honeycutt said of his PLM Tour win. “I’m very thankful of the opportunity from E33 Motorsports. They all did an excellent job working their tails off on this car. We needed a little bit more, but it didn’t matter because we still won.”
With Honeycutt being unable to practice his car on Friday due to his commitments in Phoenix, he was tasked with coming from 13th on the starting grid to the front, which he knew would be a challenge with how hot and slick Caraway’s surface was.
It only took Honeycutt 60 laps to accomplish that objective. Once he overtook Caden Kvapil for the lead, Honeycutt successfully managed what was left of his tires to hold the top spot and claim a checkered flag in his first PLM Tour appearance.
An exhausted Honeycutt reflected fondly on a weekend that also saw him grab the West Series owner’s championship and a career-best finish in the Truck Series. Honeycutt plans to regroup after Caraway mentally and physically but said the consistency from his grueling four-race stretch highlighted his versatility as a driver.
“I’m tired now,” Honeycutt said after the LMSC Tour race. “I’m going to go home, have a nice rest and come back in time for the South Carolina 400. This was a very successful weekend, we did what we needed to do by exceeding expectations in the Truck Series, winning the Pro Late Model race and almost getting a Top 5 in the hardest series in the country.”
Sharing the championship stage with each other at Caraway Speedway was a major source of pride for the Kvapil brothers.
The two have gradually matured into some of the brightest prospects in the southeast by relying on one another and using their knowledge to best many other rookies and veterans in the CARS Tour. Now they enter the offseason on top of their respective division.
Caden said 2023 primarily served as a learning experience despite being so strong in the second half of the season. By becoming more familiar with his environment and how he needed to approach each event, Caden feels confident about his outlook in 2024 regardless of how his plans materialize.
“We learned a lot throughout the year,” Caden said. “The more seat time, the better for me. I learned a lot about the cars and how the tracks race from day to night. This season really helped me a lot as a driver and allowed me to help my crew. You have to be perfect in the CARS Tour and that’s really difficult to do.”
For Carson, he does not plan to celebrate his accomplishment for an extended period. Another challenging CARS LMSC Tour season is on the horizon, which only gives Carson motivation to keep making strides and bring another championship trophy home to the Kvapil household.
“The work never ends,” Carson said. “We’re running a few more races this season, so it’s right back to shop working, working, working.”
A brief winter awaits the Kvapils and the rest of the CARS Tour competitors as teams begin preparing for what is expected to be an eventful 2024 season. Details on the upcoming year, including the release of the 2024 schedule, will be announced in the coming weeks.
- 03 Brenden Queen
- 6 Bobby McCarty
- 22 Landon Huffman
- 14 Jared Fryar
- 04 Ronnie Bassett Jr.
- 10 Kaden Honeycutt
- 21 Lanie Buice
- 2 Brandon Pierce
- 16 Chad McCumbee
- 59 Heath Causey
- 8 Carson Kvapil
- 77W Trevor Ward
- 77 Connor Hall
- 7W Dylan Ward
- 75B Coy Beard -1
- 1 Andrew Grady -1
- 95 Jacob Heafner -1
- 4 Dylon Wilson -1
- 15 Ryan Millington -1
- 8B Chase Burrow -1
- 67 Cameron Bolin -2
- 15C Logan Clark -2
- 24 Mason Diaz -10
- 32 Zack Miracle – OUT
- 81 Mini Tyrrell – OUT
- 51 Kaden Honeycutt
- 96 Caden Kvapil
- 28 Jimmy Renfrew Jr.
- 13 Austin MacDonald
- 6 George Phillips
- 15B Aiden King
- 77 Logan Jones -1
- 55 Charlie Keeven -1
- 44L Michael Lichtfeld -1
- 7CT Cory Casagrande – OUT
- 8 Rusty Skewes – OUT
- 43H Joshua Horniman – OUT
- 9 Ashton Higgins – OUT