Despite enduring an inaugural season marred by tragedy and uncertainty, R&S Race Cars emerged as a legitimate contender in Late Model Stock competition with their own program and by supplying cars to various other organizations.
Marcus Richmond, who founded R&S Race Cars alongside former Late Model competitor Steve Stallings, admitted that the 2020 season was far from an easy experience for him and his employees, but believes that the relationships created during the year will help the company prosper moving forward.
“We had a lot of new customers that were interested in our cars,” Richmond said. “There were some pretty big bumps in the road, but with everybody’s help and God’s blessing, we were able to overcome those bad times. We didn’t get the win that we wanted to with the house car, but I feel like this was a really good first year.”
Having been friends with Stallings since the turn of the century, Richmond was approached by him during the 2019 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 about an opportunity to buy A&E Race Cars. Richmond immediately jumped at the offer to join Stallings on his business venture that would turn A&E into R&S.
Richmond said that he and Stallings set out to provide the modern-day standard of auto racing in a manner that is simultaneously cost-effective through R&S, with the duo amassing a clientele that included Nelson Motorsports, Justin Johnson, Justin Carroll and Jimmy Mooring, who fielded a car for 2020 Solid Rock Carriers CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour champion Jared Fryar.
“We made some improvements on what [A&E] was doing,” Stallings said. “They had a great product already, but we had some pretty talented guys building those cars. We’re very happy about the product that we put out the door.”
Richmond and Stallings were also determined to put together a Late Model program that could compete with the likes of Sellers Racing Inc. and Lee Pulliam Performance on a weekly basis, and tabbed five-time NASCAR national champion Philip Morris to contest a full schedule as he pursued another championship.
While auto racing in the United States was briefly suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Morris elected to step away from Late Model competition following the sudden passing of his son Blake, leaving Richmond and Stallings to come up with a quick backup plan after making extensive preparations to chase a NASCAR championship with Morris.
“Even though I was very disappointed, I completely understood the reasoning,” Richmond said. “Philip and I had been talking for over ten years about getting back together, and I felt that I was finally ready to do that this past year. I was really looking forward to doing a couple of seasons with him, but that all ended up going away. Me and him together could have really accomplished a lot of big things.”
With Morris’ departure, the #19 house car saw a variety of different drivers get behind the wheel of it once race tracks began to open back up, which included Stallings’ son Blake, along with Sammy Smith, Deac McCaskill and two-time CARS Super Late Model Tour champion Matt Craig. R&S ended up shifting their focus towards the CARS LMSC Tour while also competing in a handful of standalone events.
R&S’ first outing as an organization at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in May nearly netted them a victory with Ty Gibbs piloting the house car. After starting in the second position, Gibbs quickly took the lead on the seventh lap and proceeded to pull away from the rest of the field, but Gibbs ended up falling out of contention after a right front tire went flat on his car.
“I knew it wasn’t even going to be a race once we got going,” Richmond said. “I can’t help but think about how awesome it would have been to win our first race out. That would have solidified my dreams and Steve’s dreams, but it didn’t work out.”
Stallings was also hoping that one of the many drivers in the No. 19 would be able to visit victory lane in 2020, but he affirmed that the season was a successful one for R&S in regards to the house car and supporting their customers despite some of the issues the team dealt with both on and off the track.
“Jared Fryar beating Mike Looney in the CARS Tour race at Franklin County was pretty epic,” Stallings said. “My son Blake ran the house car at Langley and drove from the back up to fourth place, but he got shuffled around and finished sixth, so those two things definitely stand out quite a bit.”
Richmond expressed his gratitude towards everyone that supported and partnered with R&S through a difficult 2020 season. He added that more changes are taking place at R&S ahead of the 2021 campaign, but he is optimistic that the organization will find more success with their customers and the house car.
“The big thing is that we’re moving shops,” Richmond said. “I closed down the shop in Concord and moved all of the equipment to Virginia. We have everything up and running there, and we’re currently building some chassis for different customers. We’re rolling, but we’ve got a lot of busy days ahead of us.”
Richmond wants to have a full-time driver for the No. 19 that can contest 10-13 races along the Mid-Atlantic, but has not ruled out the possibility of using a rotating list of competitors or taking part in the 14-race CARS Late Model Stock Tour schedule.