Big changes are ahead for the CARS Tour in 2022.
In a press release issued on Thursday morning, the CARS Tour announced the formation of a Pro Late Model division that will replace Super Late Models, which had been a part of the series since its creation back in 2015.
Series owner Jack McNelly said that eliminating the CARS Super Late Model Tour in favor of Pro Late Models was a tough but logical decision.
“Our Super car count has been dwindling for several years now,” McNelly said. “It just got to the point where I felt like we needed to make a change so we could have a wider range of competitors that could be with us.”
McNelly has done everything possible to try and make the Super Late Model Tour appealing for competitors based out of the southeast and the rest of the United States.
The CARS Tour has partnered with the ARCA/CRA Super Series and Southern Super Series in recent years to hold big money races for Super Late Model competitors such as the American Freedom 300 at Jennerstown Speedway and the Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway.
McNelly even put together a marquee race for the Super Late Model Tour in the Mid-Atlantic Classic at Orange County Speedway. The event paid $10,000 to the winner and attracted notable competitors in Bubba Pollard, Stephen Nasse and Corey LaJoie before being discontinued following the 2019 season.
Although the prestigious events regularly attracted over 20 cars, McNelly still struggled to bring in between 10-15 drivers for standard races. The series did have a handful of loyal regulars during its tenure like Matt Craig, who could lock up his third consecutive Super Late Model Tour title at South Boston Speedway next weekend.
Ending the Super Late Model Tour means potentially losing the loyalty McNelly had obtained from Craig and the other regulars but he is optimistic that they will join the newcomers at the start of the inaugural Pro Late Model Tour season by switching over to the crate engines utilized by those cars.
A few Super Late Model Tour team owners are already in possession of a crate engine. That list includes Travis Kvapil, who has fielded cars for his sons Carson and Caden Kvapil in the Carolina Pro Late Model Series.
To make the transition more seamless for other teams, McNelly said that the Pro Late Model Tour will follow similar rules to CRA, SSS and those used by Montgomery Motor Speedway, which he believes will also give drivers more freedom to race across the country during off weekends.
“Teams can load up on an off weekend and go to Pensacola, Montgomery or Nashville to race,” McNelly said. “Having the same rules may not be important for everybody but I’m sure we’re going to have a handful of drivers that run with us who want to run the All-American 400 and can do that without having to make any major changes.”
The new Pro Late Model division is expected to run in conjunction with the CARS Late Model Stock Tour for approximately 90 percent of the schedule, which is something that McNelly had wanted to start doing more of after Super Late Models began branching away in 2018.
Even though McNelly is looking forward to seeing fans enjoy more doubleheader CARS Tour weekends again, he sees the Pro Late Model Tour as part of a broader plan to install a developmental ladder in the series.
Providing younger drivers an outlet to gain more experience through the Pro Late Model Tour is something that McNelly knows will be beneficial towards preparing them for not only the Late Model Stock division, but also the top levels of NASCAR.
“This will be a natural steppingstone from Pro Late Models into a Late Model Stock, which is our premier division,” McNelly said. “The Supers weren’t going to move into Late Model Stocks but these young drivers can come in, run a year or two in Pro Late Models and then go into Late Model Stocks if that is what they want to do.”
McNelly anticipates an adjustment period for both drivers and fans with Pro Late Models racing on Saturday evening but he is confident that it will bolster the already-strong competition in the CARS Tour and help the series maintain its steady growth into the rest of the 2020s.
Additional details about the Pro Late Model Tour rules package and schedules for each division will be announced later in the year.