A week ago, Matthew Craig won the Pretoria Race Alliance season-opener at Southern National Motorsports Park.
The internet wanted to give him an asterisk until Saturday afternoon when he followed it up with a flag-to-flag flawless victory in the CARS Tour Super Late Model season opener.
“I think this one feels better because we had [Bubba] Pollard, [Trevor] Noles, [Stephen] Nasse,” Craig said after the race. “Last week I had a few comments on Facebook, Twitter, no competition last week. I don’t think you can say that this week. Good competition, good cars, but my car was dialed in.”
Craig, a three-time PASS South champion and the defending CARS Tour champion, led every lap from the outside pole on Saturday afternoon. More impressive is that while the rest of the field utilized several different tire conservation strategies, Craig just set sail and turned laps dialed down to about 75 percent.
No one had anything for him.
“That PRA race last week gave me a really good idea in my mind how hard to push my car in this race,” Craig said. “I felt like those guys were going to slow behind me but when they turned it up, they couldn’t really catch us.”
The closest contender was perhaps Bubba Pollard, who was eliminated seven laps from the finish due to running something over and puncturing a tire. The elimination of Pollard allowed pole sitter Trevor Noles and Stephen Nasse to complete the podium.
The race was largely single-file, drivers conserving their tires for the entirety of the race — 150 laps on four Hoosier F45s.
“I feel like I was running the Myrtle Beach 400 in my Late Model Stock,” Noles said.
While Craig was satisfied with how the race played out as the winner, everyone else chasing him wishes the race would have been six or eight tires instead.
“I know everyone wants to save money, but look at the haulers here, and surely these teams can afford two extra tires,” Noles said.
Pollard was considerably blunter.
“That race sucked,” he said in passing. “Yeah, we needed a six-tire race.”
Nasse agreed with that sentiment.
“That would have helped the field out tremendously,” Nasse said. “Not only me, but everyone. Craig probably could have made do on four tires, but god knows the rest of us needed two more.”
Nevertheless, Craig opens the season with two wins for the first time in his career, and now looks to make it three in a row in two weeks at Hickory Motor Speedway. He won the Throwback 276 the last time the CARS Tour raced in the foothills of the North Carolina high country.
“I’ve never started a season with two wins right off the truck,” Craig said. “That’s pretty cool. We’ve got Hickory coming up. That’s a good track for us. Last time we were there, we won. This is my 20th win, but I’ve never won three in a row. We’ll give it a try at Hickory.”
The Super Late Model results can be found below.
- Matt Craig
- Trevor Noles
- Stephen Nasse
- Travis Braden
- Carson Kvapil
- Kodie Conner
- Mike Hopkins
- Hudson Halder
- Mike Speeny
- Austin McDonald
- Jeff Batten
- Sammy Smith
- Gabe Sommers
- Bubba Pollard
- Jeremy Barclay