Drivers and teams converged on Saturday evening to celebrate a successful, yet unorthodox sixth year of operation for the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour at the annual end-of-year banquet.
In a season where the CARS Tour was forced to work around several cancellations and postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing restrictions, series owner Jack McNelly expressed gratitude over how much was achieved in 2020 and was honored to reflect on the positives with those who maintained their commitment despite the circumstances.
“It was great to recognize the champions and so many others for their individual accomplishments,” McNelly said. “Everything was pretty short and direct to the point, but I thankful for everyone who took the time to make the trip and celebrate the season.”
During the ceremony, the CARS Tour recognized the champions from both divisions in Matt Craig, who brought home his second consecutive title in the Super Late Model division, and Jared Fryar, who became the first driver in series history to claim championship in both divisions after he held off Layne Riggs and Corey Heim in an intense battle for the LMSC crown.
McNelly also highlighted the flexibility of the CARS Tour as they attempted to find replacement venues for facilities unable to operate during the pandemic like Orange County Speedway and South Boston Speedway, with the series visiting Florence Motor Speedway and Franklin County Speedway for the first time in its brief history.
The 2021 season was also a primary topic of discussion at the banquet, as McNelly expressed excitement with the series returning to venues such as Motor Mile Speedway, Tri-County Motor Speedway and Wake County Speedway while also making inaugural trips to Caraway Speedway and Rockingham Speedway, the latter of which will close out the LMSC calendar on Oct. 30.
McNelly also talked about what the 2021 season would have in store for the SLM division, which will have a new qualifying procedure ahead of their first race at Hickory Motor Speedway called the Fast 4 Challenge. Under the format, the top four qualifiers will have the option to go to the rear of the field and receive bonus purse money if they are able to finish in any of the first four positions.
McNelly added that the Fast 4 Challenge would not be the only major change coming to the CARS SLM Tour in 2021, as he intends to make a formal announcement pertaining to race procedure in the near future.
“I didn’t tell [the SLM competitors] what it was, because we are still working through it,” McNelly said. “For the Supers, there will be a different format. We don’t have it completely worked out, but it’s going to level the playing field a little bit by putting some strategy into the game without costing teams any money.”
Through all of the changes coming to the CARS Tour in 2021, McNelly hopes to see something resembling normalcy for the series as it attempts to hold every race without any interruptions and re-establish traditions like the Throwback 276 at Hickory and the Old North State Nationals at Orange County, which were held at Greenville-Pickens Speedway to close out 2020.
Now that the banquet is over, McNelly is now turning his attention towards making final preparations for what is expected to be a busy 2021 with an 8-race SLM schedule and a record number of 14 events for the LMSC division, but he is optimistic that the CARS Tour will continue to build on the momentum it has established since its inception in 2015.
“We’ll be very busy over these next two months as we get everything tied up before the season starts,” McNelly said. “There are a few different things we still have in the works, and we’ll have some more announcements soon.”
The 2021 CARS Tour season will begin on March 6 when the LMSC Tour travels to Dillon Motor Speedway for the inaugural PeeDee 150.
If you like what you read here, become a Short Track Scene Patreon and support short track journalism!
Read more Short Track Scene:
- Why is Bubba Pollard driving a 71 now?
- Super Late Model regional promoters have discussed a national tour
- How a ragtag group of short trackers won the Snowball Derby