To earn his second career CARS Tour Late Model Stock victory, Taylor Gray and DGR-Crosley needed to outsmart and ultimately outduel the best in the discipline on Saturday afternoon at the Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina..
In a race in which several contenders, including two-time and reigning champion Bobby McCarty, repeatedly opted to fall back and ride well behind the leaders to save tires, the 15-year-old chose to stay up front alongside polesitter and 2016 champion Deac McCaskill.
When the likes of McCarty and Bradon Pierce ultimately decided to go, they ran into deep traffic and were ultimately involved in incidents that prevented them from contending in the closing stages of the race.
Gray completed the winning pass over McCaskill on Lap 40, holding the veteran off on a series of restarts over the second half of the race, fresher tires stuck in traffic well behind them. It is his second victory on the Tour, his first coming in March 2019 at Hickory.
“The first 120 laps, we were running 17 second laps and just trying to pace the field as much as possible,” Gray said. “Just saving tires and managing the gap on back is key. You’re worried about a late race caution because anything can happen. I’ve been in the right situation and the wrong situation. It just depends.
“The people who were around me were really good, really experienced. They’ve been racing Late Models for years. It’s just a matter of what position you put yourself in and how you handle it.”
In the pursuit of a second CARS Tour championship in six years, McCaskill was pleased to finish second from the pole. Once Gray got away on the decisive restart, the 42-year-old began to lose touch with the lead.
He gave credit to Gray and DGR and is excited for Hickory Motor Speedway in two weeks.
“I just got a little free there,” McCaskill said. “I couldn’t charge the corner like I wanted to. My forward drive was still decent. All in all, it was a good day for us. Started on the pole, led some laps, led a lot more laps than I did last year.
“Hats off to the track for putting down the PJ1. You were able to hold your own for a few laps. For a moment I thought I was going to be able to pass Taylor on the outside, but that didn’t last.”
The combination of a naturally abrasive surface and the TrackBite applied to the outside line made for a unique race. The top-10 raced side-by-side in a pack reminiscent of Daytona or Talladega, everyone working to make their Hoosier F45s last 150 laps.
Meanwhile, a pack that included McCarty, Pierce and Jared Fryar utilized a guaranteed caution every 40 green flag lap run to fall back to just in front of the leaders. Even if their strategy didn’t work, the visual made for an intriguing process. McCarty was sent back to the rear inside of 40 laps to go due to contact with Trevor Ward in Turns 3 and 4. He recovered to a 10th place.
“It was a crazy race, man,” McCaskill said. “The pace we were running at the start was like a Myrtle Beach atmosphere. You had people going hard at the start, people riding. It puts on a good show for the fans.
“I’ve been here since 1994, man, and it’s always been throttle-down, letting it rip since lap one. I told my guys on the radio to call my times out. It’s way different. This is like a new era in the way this track is going.”
The most fascinating battle came at the end with Connor Mosack taking the fight and securing third from JR Motorsports teammate Josh Berry. Layne Riggs recovered from a mid-race spin to reclaim fifth.
The CARS Late Model Stock Tour will return to competition on March 21 at Hickory Motor Speedway in the foothills of the North Carolina high country.
The complete results from the Solid Rock Carriers 150 can be found below.
- Taylor Gray
- Deac McCaskill
- Connor Mosack
- Josh Berry
- Layne Riggs
- Mike Darne
- Ronald Hill
- Jonathan Findley
- Jonathan Shafer
- Bobby McCarty
- Justin Johnson
- Matt Cox
- Jared Fryar
- Craig Moore
- Corey Heim
- Brandon Pierce
- Nolan Pope
- Tyler Matthews
- Chad McCumbee
- Chris Chapman
- Trevor Ward
- Gage Painter
- Tommy Lemons, Jr.
- Mini Tyrrell