Three Late Model Stock Cars will turn laps at Rockingham Speedway on Tuesday for a tire test in advance of the CARS Tour returning the venerable track to life in March.
Layne Riggs, Jared Fryar, and Timothy Peters will all take to the high banked 1.017-mile track to test the durability of a General Tire branded Hoosier Tire, which has been used in the NASCAR Mexico Series, on the notoriously abrasive track surface.
Each of the drivers participating in the test are former winners in the CARS Tour – with Fryar winning the 2020 championship while Riggs was the only repeat winner in the series with triumphs at Langley and Carteret. Peters has two career starts at Rockingham Speedway, both coming in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
CARS Tour president Jack McNelly told Short Track Scene on Monday that the tire being tested on Tuesday will be the same compound the UARA-STARS Late Model series used in 2003 — that series predating the CARS Tour.
“We’re pretty excited about tomorrow,” McNelly said. “The tire decision is very important since that track has not been raced on in seven years. I hope we have the right tire, but if we don’t, we’ll go back to the drawing board and get the right tire. I think it’s very important that we get a handle on that and the aero package.”
Aerodynamics will also play a role at Rockingham Speedway since the track is over a mile in length and boasts banking of 22 degrees and 25 degrees in the corners — making it the largest and fastest track on the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour schedule.
“I have sent some directives out to the competitors that are there tomorrow and made some strong recommendations as to what they need to do to the cars because air, at a track the size of Rockingham, is very important,” McNelly said. “With these fiberglass bodies, you’ve got to make them a little bit stronger, put bracing in them so the wind does not cause a problem with caving and tearing off body parts.”
Prior to being relaunched as the CARS Tour, the X-1R Pro Cup Series raced at Rockingham five times from 2008-2011, with McNelly being the series president for a majority of those races. The Pro Cup car was a different platform.
Along with testing the durability of the tires, McNelly is also hoping to keep costs as low as possible so race teams are not burdened with costs when it comes to purchasing tires – but also says safety will be a top priority. It is part of the balancing act that is coming into play during Tuesday’s tire test.
“Rockingham is tough on tires,” McNelly continued. “That’s the other thing we have to determine. If this is the tire, we have to determine how many laps we can run safely and how many tires do we issue or let the teams buy for the event itself. I don’t want to sell a bunch of tires or have teams have to buy a bunch of tires, but we want to do it safely.”
The Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour has open tests already planned for January 23 and February 20.
Raleigh businessman, racer, and former Wake County Speedway owner Mike Stodder, and current Wake County Speedway owner Charlie Hansen, have leased out the track to host the CARS Tour race and are planning on adding some support shows alongside the CARS Tour.
“We’ve done a lot of work here and we’re excited about seeing cars on the track,” Stodder told Short Track Scene. “Tomorrow is the first true test. UARA has run there before with similar cars. I’m hoping, and we don’t feel any reason, why it wouldn’t be a success. We’re excited about getting the CARS Tour Late Models on the track for the first time and doing this tire test. It’s the first time in a long-time that race cars have been on the track.”
Earlier this year, Stodder announced in a driver’s meeting at Carteret County Speedway that he was interested in hosting the Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge at The Rock – a series Stodder has sponsored since its inception in 2017.
“Accent Imaging sponsors that series and I’m a big fan of Mini Stocks,” Stodder explained. “It’s all I’ve raced in my racing career. It’s why I participated in sponsorship and wanted to give these guys the opportunity to come race on a bigger track. At this point, I think the plan is 100 laps for the CARS Tour and 25 laps for the Carolina Mini-Stocks, but this test tomorrow is to make sure they’re comfortable there and if the Mini Stocks are even going to work from a gearing standpoint to race there.”
Travis Provost, a racer from Swansboro, North Carolina, who runs the Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge, confirmed to Short Track Scene on Sunday night that his series was also participating in tomorrow’s test and, pending the outcome of the test, he will take the next steps in bringing the four-cylinder cars to The Rock. Shane Canipe and Travis Miller, who have competed in Mini-Stock races at Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway, will participate in the tire test.
While the planned March 6 race at The Rock would be a first for the CARS Tour, Late Model Stock Cars have raced on The Rock before.
The UARA-STARS Late Model Series held races from 2009-2013, with races being won by Corey Lajoie, Brandon McReynolds, Brennan Poole, Clay Rogers, and Brodie Kostecki. NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliot has also won in an ASA Late Model race at Rockingham back in 2010 and won at the track in the Pro Cup Series race in 2013.