CARS Tour reached a major benchmark on Monday with a press conference detailing its upcoming decade anniversary season but all involved know the Super Bowl of Super Late Model Racing takes center stage the rest of the week.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be watching because if nothing else, he loves short track racing, especially this time of year when there is little else to compete with it during the NASCAR off-season.
His background, however, is Late Model Stock Cars, and that’s the impetus behind JR Motorsports continuing to field a car over the past decade-plus in addition to his purchase of the series but it’s not likely that he will enter the Super Late Model arena anytime soon.
“That would be spreading ourselves a little too thin,” Earnhardt said. “As much as I enjoy those guys, I think that would be a misalignment of our interests, my interests, with what I want to do.”
How about a one-off someday?
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I think the Derby is amazing but we have our hands full as a team owner, as a series owner and our program and it’s constantly requiring attention. It’s always in need of something. To put more on the plate would get in the way of my ambitions as a series owner and driver.
“It would take away from our drivers. I already feel very blessed to be able to do more with what we’re doing with out Late Model program and I just don’t want to bite off more than we can chew.”
Kevin Harvick meanwhile, with Kevin Harvick Inc. is biting off a lot, as he does field both Late Model Stocks and a Super Late Model. In fact, he will field the car driven by Ryan Preece with Chris Gabehart as crew chief.
Harvick says the car will race the New Smyrna World Series and up to seven other shows between the World Series and Snowball Derby next year too.
He plans to watch on Sunday but there is a major conflict.
“We’re going to be racing with Piper at Trackhouse Motorplex,” he said. “We’ll watch her this weekend and go home to watch Ryan race on Racing America.”
Interestingly enough, Justin Marks ran the Snowflake 100 back in 2020 and the All American 400 a year later. He also fielded a Super for Daniel Suarez at North Wilkesboro on All Star Week in May.
“We’re looking at more because we have a guy in Shane Van Gisbergen coming over from Australia and we need to get him oval starts,” Marks said. “We need to get him exposed to as much of the oval racing culture as possible so we are looking at that and the Late Model Stock too.”
Will Marks ever come back as a driver?
“That was one of the coolest experiences of my life,” he said. “It was one of like three Late Model races in my life and I jumped in cold turkey to the Snowflake 100. The level of competition was insane and qualifying for that race, there was nothing like it.
“I qualified a tenth off the pole and I was like 17th. My wife and I were super nervous but that’s the best of everything about racing. Never say never but there are a lot better Late Model drivers than me.”
Lee Pulliam, a four-time NASCAR Weekly Series champion driver and now CARS Tour contending owner says he will be watching but not in the way you might think.
“I’m going to be in a deer stand that day,” he said. “I don’t even as much deer hunt as much as I deer watch. I just enjoy being out there this time of year. I find it really peaceful and the best way to wind down after a long season of being at the race track every week.
“But I always, inevitably, pull up RaceMonitor and I find myself watching a lot of the race that way.”
His driver, Brenden Queen, says he wants to race the Snowball Derby one day but its not in the cards right now.
“I watch the race every year and it’s just the coolest looking thing ever,” Queen said. “But for me, everyone knows we aren’t made of that kind of money. I feel so very fortunate that I get to race for Lee with John Staton’s support and I just want everything we do to be towards putting our best foot forward on the Tour and towards getting to NASCAR someday.
“If we can make it to that level one day, and the right chance opens up to race the Snowball, I would love to go and do that. It just doesn’t make sense right now.”
Two-time and reigning CARS Tour champion Carson Kvapil will be in the event driving their family car. Series regular and race winner Conner Jones is entered as well.