The CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour championship picture is starting to take shape with seven races completed on the 14-race schedule.
Four drivers are currently separated by just seven points, with two-time CARS Tour champion Bobby McCarty showing the way over Kaden Honeycutt, Justin Johnson and Jared Fryar.
McCarty believes that he has the speed to claim an unprecedented third title in the CARS Tour but said that consistency will be imperative while dealing with a tight battle in the point standings.
“So far this has been a decent year,” McCarty said. “We started off slow at Dillon but have run just about Top 4 every other weekend. We’ve had a few mishaps but other than that, everything has gone well for us.”
With 2020 being an off season by his standards, McCarty worked tirelessly over the offseason with Nelson Motorsports to regain the competitive edge he possessed over his fellow drivers the year before.
The results were immediate for McCarty, who nabbed a victory at Hickory Motor Speedway and two additional Top 5s to build a 15-point lead in the standings after five races.
That sizeable advantage for McCarty was erased at Langley Speedway when an ill-handling car forced him to settle for a dismal 17th-place finish.
McCarty’s misfortunes ended up benefitting Honeycutt, who suddenly found himself in the middle of the championship fight after leading all 125 laps at Langley for his first CARS Tour win.
Honeycutt’s recent streak of success, which includes third-place finishes at Caraway Speedway and Dominion Raceway to go along with his win, have given him confidence in his ability to challenge for a title.
“Our plan was to win races and win a championship,” Honeycutt said. “We got off to a rough start but we’ve turned things around pretty quickly. Three really strong finishes over these last few races have really boosted us and we don’t plan to break something that’s already fixed.”
Honeycutt said that working closely with his car owner in Johnson was crucial in helping him overcome some of his early struggles and get more comfortable in his first year driving Late Model Stock.
“[Justin] has definitely pointed me in the right direction,” Honeycutt said. “I’ve learned a lot on my own naturally but the whole organization has done an amazing job and we plan to keep rolling through the rest of the year.”
While Honeycutt has been appreciative of the advice Johnson has provided, he understands that he will likely have to outduel his car owner to win a CARS Tour championship.
After briefly retiring in 2019, Johnson is enjoying the best season of his career with two victories and five Top 5s that have put him just three points behind McCarty in the standings.
Sitting seven points behind the trio of McCarty, Honeycutt and Johnson is Fryar, who has quietly put together another solid season with five Top 5s through seven events as he looks to defend his championship from 2020.
Although McCarty is more focused on winning races than pursuing his third title, he admitted that accomplishing the former is more challenging than ever due to the parity prevalent in the CARS Tour.
“The competition this year has been unbelievable,” McCarty said. “It’s really hard to win these races because everything has to be perfect. One little thing out of line can take you out of contention, which makes me really glad we picked up our performance this year.”
Despite the close competition, McCarty is confident that he can knock off several more wins over the second half of the season with everyone at Nelson Motorsports putting in a tremendous amount of effort towards making better cars.
“We have to keep dotting our I’s, crossing our T’s and go to work,” McCarty said. “We’re running up front but it’s always disappointing when we don’t win. A few of these races have gotten away from us this year, so now is the time to start sealing the deal.”
McCarty, Honeycutt, Johnson and Fryar will receive plenty of tests as they battle each other for the championship with the CARS Tour set to visit diverse tracks like Wake County Speedway, Tri-County Motor Speedway and Rockingham Speedway.