Tyler Matthews is returning to Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway, the site of his 2017 track championship, to compete in Saturday night’s Solid Rock Carriers Crystal Coast 125.
Matthews, 22, from Richlands, North Carolina, has been racing full-time in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour while also competing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series part-time. In the CARS Tour, he heads to Carteret County, a track he has won at seven times, looking to extend his three-race streak of top-10 finishes – and hoping to contend for the win.
“You always want to show up at the racetrack and compete for wins,” Matthews said. “The CARS Tour is a tough deal. You travel to so many different tracks and it’s a lot of tracks we’ve never been to before. If I have been to it, it’s like one start. We’ve run pretty decent in the past few races.”
Matthews had his best qualifying run of the season to date at Langley (Va.) Speedway, a track that is a lot like Carteret County Speedway. He followed his run at Langley up with a career-high ninth-place finish at Dominion (Va.) Raceway. His strong qualifying effort at Langley gives him even more confidence about Saturday’s Crystal Coast 125.
“We had a pretty strong run at Langley, of course, it’s kind of what I’m familiar with, especially getting back here to Carteret, a track I know, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp at,” Matthews remarked. “I feel like we’re actually going to be able to gauge where our team’s at compared to a lot of these other CARS Tour teams that have run at these tracks and have a better notebook than we do.”
Matthews spent years racing on Eastern North Carolina short tracks. After spending a couple of seasons at Southern National Motorsports Park learning, Matthews had a breakout year in 2016, winning the North Carolina state championship in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, winning races at three different tracks, and winning a track championship at Southern National. In 2017, he backed that up by winning the championship at Carteret County.
Now, Matthews races at different and unfamiliar venues each week. Saturday’s race at Carteret County will be the 10th different track Matthews has competed at so far in 2019.
“It’s just been tough showing up to these tracks for the first time,” Matthews explained. “We struggle with qualifying. We’ve raced well, obviously, we’ve been pretty consistent in that aspect. It’s just not having the right track position to content for top-fives and wins and stuff. I feel like we’ve had the car to do it in some races, just haven’t quite had the track position we’ve needed. Getting here to Carteret is definitely going to help us.”
While Matthews is familiar with Carteret County Speedway, the track surface itself has changed some since his last start in October 2017. The surface has become bumpier and grittier, and Matthews has taken note.
“The track’s different,” Matthews remarked. “It’s definitely different since the last time I raced here. There are a few patches, a few bumps, but it’s the same concept. You still have to drive the car the same. You’ve just got to move your line around a little bit to miss those bumps. That’s about the only difference.”
Even with the surface changes in mind, Matthews expects his return to Carteret County to be a triumphant one.
“Winning is always going to be my expectation when I come here,” Matthews stated. “I feel like I should win every race here. We’ve run a lot of races here and contended for wins in just about every one of them so, hopefully, this CARS Tour deal won’t be different. We’ll be upfront fighting for the lead all weekend.”
As is the case for most of the drivers who have raced at Carteret County on multiple occasions, Matthews became friends with track owner Bobby Watson before his untimely passing in 2016.
“Bobby, he always looked out for the racers. He built a great racetrack for us to run out here. It will be pretty cool to run this CARS Tour race and, hopefully, we can put on a show and carry on Bobby’s legacy of putting on a great show. He was always really interactive with the fans and hopefully, we put on a good show for the fans and carry that on for him.”
Now, Matthews hopes he can score his first career CARS Tour win at Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway.
The Solid Rock Carriers Crystal Coast 125 presented by WITN-TV and Moore’s BBQ will commence on Saturday evening at 7pm. Tickets are available at the gate for $20 while kids 10 and under get in free. The CARS Tour will have a live broadcast for those unable to attend the race on their subscription streaming service, carstour.tv.