In his first career Late Model start on Saturday afternoon, Kaden Honeycutt kept his car out of trouble and brought home a fifth place finish for car owner Justin Johnson in the Icebreaker at Florence Motor Speedway.
Honeycutt will be chasing a championship in the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour this year and said that his performance in the Icebreaker has provided him additional confidence in his ability to be competitive early on.
“It was a good, successful weekend,” Honeycutt said. “It was big thing for me to get a race under my belt before the start of the CARS Tour season and get everything flowing. We ran up front with Chad [McCumbee], Josh [Berry] and Matt Cox, and all of those guys have been doing this for a while, so I think everything is off to a good start.”
Before Honeycutt and his team made the trip to Florence, he laid out a simple set of goals that he wanted to accomplish in his debut Late Model appearance, which were to gain experience, earn respect amongst his fellow competitors and finish inside the Top 5.
Honeycutt’s primary advisor during the weekend was Johnson, who nearly won his first CARS LMSC Tour race at Florence in 2020 before a mechanical issue knocked him out of contention while leading with less than 60 laps remaining.
Johnson wanted to make sure that Honeycutt was properly prepared for the grueling, 14-race CARS LMSC Tour schedule and knew that understanding the proper techniques behind tire and equipment conservation at a track like Florence would get him closer to where he needed to be.
“I preached a lot about tire wear to Kaden because I don’t think I’ve done as good of a job in the last year or so myself with tire management,” Johnson said. “I gave him a little ride around the track in my personal vehicle Thursday morning and it didn’t taken him but a handful of laps until he had it figured out better than I did. The kid has got a lot of potential, and turning that into wins is our goal.”
Honeycutt showcased his talents to Johnson and the rest of the LMSC field early on Saturday by posting the second quickest time in practice behind the eventual winner in McCumbee. Honeycutt was not quite as quick in qualifying, but still managed to earn a starting position of fourth for the 125-lap main event.
When the green flag dropped, Honeycutt backed off and rode around in the middle of the pack with Berry, Bobby McCarty and others. Honeycutt began to work his way through the field following the halfway point, but he did not have the pace of Berry and McCarty, which forced him to settle for the fifth position.
Although Honeycutt knew that he had a race-winning strategy, he did not believe he executed it properly. Despite coming up short of the win, Honeycutt was satisfied with his performance against several other strong competitors and intends to perfect tire conservation as the year progresses.
“We were saving tires hard, but I think we saved them a little too hard,” Honeycutt said. “I think we ran a little too much camber in the right front and that completely wore out the inside of the tread. When I tried to go, there wasn’t much left, but I’ll remember that for next time.”
Now that the Icebreaker is over, Honeycutt and Johnson are turning their attention towards the CARS LMSC Tour season-opener at Dillon Motor Speedway. With Honeycutt enduring a busy schedule of his own, Johnson said that he will be hard at work over the next month to get his driver and the #44 GXS Wraps/Puryear Tank Lines Ford ready against another strong field of Late Models.
“Kaden has got about seven dirt races between now and Dillon,” Johnson said. “He won’t have any breaks, but I’m going to take the car myself and test it to get it better prepared for him when he flies in the week of Dillon. We’re going to test once with him and then we’ll test a couple of times before the race on Saturday. His feedback and speed were awesome, but now we just have to put it all together.”
Honeycutt’s next visit to Florence will not be until Oct. 2 for the CARS LMSC Tour. He expects a lot of difference between that event and the Icebreaker when it comes to his experience and the overall race itself, but added that properly executing tire conservation will be crucial in deciding whether or not he contends for the win.
“I didn’t really expect the race to go green for as long as it did,” Honeycutt said. “When we go back, I think the race pace will be a little bit slower than it was [on Saturday]. There’s nine months until we go back to Florence, so things will be different but we’ll try not to save as hard before we decide to hit the switch and actually go.”
Honeycutt’s first career CARS LMSC Tour appearance at Dillon will take place on March 6 for the Black’s Tire & Auto Service 125.