Race Weekend Central

Short Track Question: What Could a CARS Tour National Schedule Look Like?

As the 2023 Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour season winds down, the wait has begun for the announcement regarding the 2024 schedule. Many of the tracks on the schedule presumably will stay the same but others are in constant rotation and the series is always looking for new growth.

Earlier this week, the series retweeted a trending tweet asking where the series should go in 2024, and as one would expect there were a variety of answers.

Some suggested local tracks to the series like a return to Kingsport Speedway in Tennessee or Orange County Speedway in North Carolina. However, others suggested tracks outside of the southeast region that the CARS Tour calls home, like Slinger Speedway in Wisconsin, Anderson Speedway in Indiana and Stafford Speedway in Connecticut.

In case anyone didn’t know before, there is no true national touring late model stock series. The CARS Tour is widely considered the premier late model stock series of the southeast, and the NASCAR weekly series crowns a late model national champion, but that champion is decided based on points earned at driver’s home tracks, not against each other.

So, what if the CARS Tour branched out and created a national touring series for the late model stocks? Well, here is my idea for what that could look like, if it were to ever happen. 

First and foremost, the series wouldn’t have to do away with the late model stock schedule it has now and rather could create this as an entirely separate thing. Another thing to note before I get into format and tracks is that these teams are often family run or simply much smaller than your typical NASCAR teams, so a 20-25 race schedule would not be logical for teams on a smaller budget.

Instead, a better idea would be a 17-race schedule, broken down into four regional segments with a grand finale at the end, these regions being the West Coast, the Northeast, the Midwest and the Southeast. 

The West Coast

To begin the season, the series would start out on the West Coast for the first four races of this national series. There are multiple reasons you can start out west, the weather and the starting points of regional series to name a few. With many regional series not getting going heavy until the spring, the teams could possibly afford more time to be away from home if they’re not from the area.

To go along with that, the weather isn’t too hot during the early months of the year out west, whereas the Midwest and East Coast are often still pretty cold in the early months of the year. As for the tracks, my picks would be Evergreen Speedway in Washington, Tucson Speedway in Arizona, Kern County Raceway Park in California and The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Nevada.  

Evergreen is the premier track of the Pacific Northwest, home to a 0.625-mile, relatively flat oval that is no stranger to late model racing. As the only NASCAR-sanctioned home track in the region, the track contributes to the program that crowns NASCAR’s weekly late model national champion. In addition, the track also hosts the ARCA Menards West Series.

As for Tucson, the track has long been one of the staples of asphalt racing in the Southwest, even hosting the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series early on in the series’ existence. To this day the 0.375-mile track holds well-known super late model events such as the Turkey Shoot and the Chilly Willy 150.

Over in California, KCRP is one of the newer tracks, opening up just 10 years ago in 2013. The facility itself is top notch, hosting regional late model events as well as the ARCA West on the half-mile, high-banked track. The track was also recently scanned to iRacing, giving sim drivers the opportunity to race the California half-mile as well.

Lastly, the addition of the Las Vegas Bullring could potentially allow for a collaboration with NASCAR’s spring weekend at Las Vegas early in the season, providing a chance for some of the nation’s biggest stars to jump in a late model and race while also meaning that the series could potentially gain more publicity from being joined up with NASCAR.

The Southeast

The series could then take some weeks off and travel home before starting up the second portion of the schedule in the Southeast region of the country during late spring.

This would provide many of the regulars in the Southeast a chance to stay close to home while also visiting some of the best short tracks in the country. All across Florida, the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee and more are some of the most competitive late model tracks in the country, including many of the staple tracks for late model stock racing.

For the four tracks in the Southeast, I would say Five Flags Speedway in Florida, Tri-County Speedway and North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina and Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway in Tennessee would be my picks, although there are plenty of others to choose from.

Five Flags in Pensacola is no stranger to big events. The half-mile track hosts the ASA Stars National Series, the ARCA Menards East Series and of course, the Snowball Derby, one of the most prestigious super late model races in the nation. Five Flags is abrasive and would be a perfect fit for late model stock competition.

As for the two North Carolina tracks, both provide the opportunity for a combo race with the current Late Model Stock schedule, should this hypothetical national series be a separate schedule from the late model stock regional schedule we have now.

The CARS Tour event being jointly with NASCAR at North Wilkesboro draws fans and drivers alike from all over and having the event be part of a national championship would add even more to it.

Likewise, if the Old North State Nationals were to stay at its scheduled spot of Memorial Day weekend at Tri-County, this would provide the opportunity for the CARS Tour’s biggest money race to be part of a national schedule as well.

Lastly, Nashville Fairgrounds has long been one of the most storied short tracks in the Southeast, sitting in downtown Nashville in its current configuration since 1958. The track, like many others on this list, is no stranger to big late model events, hosting the annual North South Challenge and the All-American 400.  

The Northeast

The series could then head up to the Northeast in the summer months, where late model stock competition is no pushover to super late models. The Northeast is home to the ACT (American Canadian Tour), another regional late model stock competition, and would provide a chance for the northern teams to have some home-track advantage.

Four tracks I would choose for the northeast are Stafford Speedway and Thompson Speedway in Connecticut, Thunder Road Speedbowl in Vermont and White Mountain Motorsports Park in New Hampshire.

Both Stafford and Thompson are outstanding facilities that put on big events, with Stafford sitting at half a mile and Thompson at .625 miles. Stafford is home to the modified crown jewel Spring Sizzler, while also hosting the ACT as well as the Camping World SRX Series four times in the series’ history. Thompson hosts the NASCAR Whelen Modifieds and the ACT, as well as the Icebreaker for the Pro All Star Series.

Up in Vermont, Thunder Road Speedbowl is one of the most well-known quarter-mile short tracks in America, as well as one of the nicest. The high-banked quarter-mile was founded by Ken Squier and is home to some of the biggest late model stock races in the Northeast.

Along with hosting the ACT series itself, Thunder Road is also home to the Memorial Day and Labor Day Classics, as well as the biggest of them all, The Vermont Milk Bowl.

Finally, White Mountain Motorsports Park is also home to multiple ACT events, as well as their own Late Model Stock track championship. White Mountain typically runs their programs on Saturdays while Thunder Road runs theirs on Thursdays, providing the opportunity for a doubleheader weekend and one less week on the road for the out-of-town teams. Not to mention, the backdrop of the New Hampshire track is beautiful.

The Midwest

In the final section of the schedule, the series would head to the northern part of the Midwest to some of the finest short tracks in America. Although this region of the country is typically considered to be super late model country, not late model stock car country, many of the tracks in the region would put on a show with late model stock cars.

Four that come to mind are Berlin Raceway in Michigan, Slinger Speedway in Wisconsin and both Anderson Speedway and Winchester Speedway in Indiana. All four host big-time late model events and all four are household names in the late model and short track community.

The Battle at Berlin, Slinger Nationals, Redbud 400 (Anderson) and Winchester 400 are some of the biggest races of the year for super late models and always put on great racing, so there’s no reason the late model stock cars couldn’t duplicate that. 

Slinger and Anderson are both high-banked, quarter-mile bullrings that put on great nose-to-tail racing, while Winchester is one of the fastest high-banked, half-mile tracks in the country. Throw in Berlin, which comes in as a unique 0.4375-mile oval that is anything but a typical oval with its odd shape and multiple diverse grooves and you have a great four-race stretch of racing.

The Championship

Finally, to finish off the season, the series could head back to the Southeast for one last race. Virginia is considered by many to be the late model stock car capital of the country, home of the Virginia triple crown between Langley, South Boston and Martinsville speedways.

South Boston would be my pick for a CARS National grand finale, as the track has history, puts on great racing and is right in the heart of late model stock country as we know it for the CARS Tour. 

Now, for all of this to be worthwhile for the teams, there would have to be a significant increase in purse and with that will have to come publicity and sponsorship, but with the new ownership group of the CARS Tour, who knows what the future holds.

One can only imagine big things with the big names in charge, but time will tell. This is just a glimpse of what a national schedule could look like, not what it will, as it may never happen. For now, we wait on the 2024 schedule and wonder what else the future holds.

About the author

Chase_folsom_ROVAL_2022

Chase began working with Frontstretch in the spring of 2023 as a news writer, while also helping fill in for other columns as needed. Chase is now the main writer and reporter for Frontstretch.com's CARS Tour coverage, a role which began late in 2023.  Aside from racing, some of Chase's other hobbies include time in the outdoors hunting and fishing, and keeping up with all things Philadelphia sports related.

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DoninAjax

That would be a lot of travel expense for all the teams because of limited budgets.

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