The Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour made their annual stop at South Boston Speedway Saturday night (Oct. 7) for the Autos by Nelson 250 presented by Virginia is for Racing Lovers. The event marked the sixth visit to the track and in the end it was Deac McCaskill picking up the win.
Both the late model stock cars and the pro late models were in action Saturday night and both races put on action from the drop of the green. Strong fields of 29 cars for the late model stock cars and 16 cars for the pro late models lit up the 0.4-mile Virginia track, with side-by-side action from wire to wire in both events.
In the end, the annual trip to South Boston for the CARS Tour was one to remember, as a familiar face finding success, new faces for the series and a first time winner would highlight the night. Here are three takeaways from “SoBo” as the series looks ahead to Tri-County Speedway on Oct. 21.
Veteran McCaskill Outlasts Riggs for a Much Needed Win
If there’s anyone who knows what it takes to win in the CARS Tour, it’s Deac McCaskill. McCaskill won the season opener at Southern National Motorsports Park and the 2016 series champ had 10 career wins with the series prior to this weekend, including the inaugural race at South Boston for the series back in 2017.
McCaskill started off great in qualifying, just missing out on the pole and clocking in second fastest behind Layne Riggs, granting him a front-row starting spot. At the drop of the green McCaskill got the jump on Riggs and managed to grab the lead from the polesitter on lap 1. McCaskill cleared Riggs and led throughout the entire first run, but never pulled away and endured multiple challenges from Riggs and Bobby McCarty.
A caution on lap 18 bunched the field back up and McCaskill once again got a great jump on the restart. Despite this, McCarty still gained ground on the bottom and almost stole the lead at the start-finish line as the two raced side by side for multiple laps, but ultimately McCaskill would not surrender the lead to the No. 6.
Another yellow on lap 34 brought the field together once again and gave McCarty and Riggs another shot at stealing the lead from McCaskill. With another great jump, McCaskill held them both at bay and began to pull away from the three-car battle behind him for second. McCaskill held a steady lead throughout the middle portion of the race, until a caution and restart on lap 74 brought Riggs back to McCaskill’s inside once again.
A frenzy of cautions led to a late-race shootout as the final 30 laps were a constant battle between the two. Apparent rubber build-up started a fire under McCaskill’s No. 08 with around 25 laps to go, but the performance of the No. 08 was never affected.
Riggs never fell farther back than a car length or two from the bumper of McCaskill and got as far as having a fender up to the left-front tire of McCaskill multiple times, including in the final corner, but could never rip the lead away from the No. 08 as McCaskill took the checkered flag for the second time this season after leading all 125 laps on the high side of the racetrack.
This marked the first time McCaskill has won multiple races in a season since that 2017 season when he won his first race at South Boston with the series, and puts McCaskill tied with McCarty for second in all-time series wins with 11. The win also further extends McCaskill’s lead in all time top fives and top 10s and inches him ever closer to Josh Berry’s record for most laps led.
The win was something McCaskill needed, not only for himself but his family-owned team. Following the win in the season opener, McCaskill’s season has been riddled with bad luck, with four finishes outside the top 15 including a crash at North Wilkesboro and an overheating issue at his home track of Wake County.
A win with all his family in attendance is exactly what McCaskill needed to get things turned around for the end of the year and bring some confidence into next season. McCaskill has always been a fan favorite and proved why Saturday night with his family victory celebration.
The Hermanator Takes on the CARS Tour
Another story from the night was the first ever CARS Tour start for a household name, “Hermanator” Kenny Wallace. The 60-year old longtime racing veteran had previously stated that he had wanted to race in the CARS Tour for quite some time and after joining forces with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Wallace was granted that opportunity.
Having previously been scheduled to race in the Old North State Nationals at Tri-County way back in May, the new date after the race was postponed did not line up with Wallace’s schedule, so the team decided on South Boston as the new site for Wallace to make his first start.
Driving the No. 36 for JR Motorsports, Wallace was never flashy but consistent throughout the weekend.
It was off track that Wallace made a lasting impact on the night. Before qualifying, Wallace caught up with Brenden Queen for a segment known as “The Butterbean Experience.” The two had plenty of laughs talking about everything from rev chips, Waffle House and plenty more. During pre-race, Wallace gave the command to start engines while also doing his famous jake brake imitation into the FloRacing microphone.
On the racetrack, Wallace qualified 24th in a field of 29 cars and kept the car clean throughout the racetrack. Wallace fell back a few positions early on, but worked his way back up to 21st by the night’s end as the last car on the lead lap. Wallace said after the race that one of his goals was to stay on the lead lap and he did just that.
In an interview with NASCAR Roots after the race, Wallace thanked Earnhardt for the opportunity to run in the CARS Tour, ultimately said that his dream was fulfilled and that he is officially retired from asphalt racing.
Obviously Wallace is still very active in the dirt racing world, but it’s neat to see Wallace dip into the asphalt world again, even if he’s past his prime years of competition in the discipline. Having Wallace run a one off is great for the series, adding a bit of publicity and hopefully opening the door for more drivers to look for some of the same opportunities, especially since Earnhardt seems to be open to providing them.
Nick Loden Grabs First Career Pro Win in a Thriller
Not lost in the night was a thriller of a race for the pro late models, their first time in action since way back at Tri-County Speedway on Aug. 19. It was a great race throughout between Cole Butcher, Caden Kvapil and Nick Loden, but ultimately it was Loden picking up the win at the end, the first of his career.
Loden started off the afternoon with his first career CARS Tour pole award, beating out Butcher for that honor. However both Butcher and Kvapil managed to get around Loden on the start and Loden would slip back to third. Loden stayed in the fight, making multiple attempts at getting back around Kvapil for second in the first stint of the race.
Following a lap 35 competition caution, Butcher, Kvapil, Loden and the fourth-place car of Austin Macdonald ran nose to tail for multiple laps, as all of the cars seemed to be very evenly matched.
None of the three trailing cars were able to make moves on the bottom side of the racetrack as the middle was the dominant lane. Loden did manage to get to the inside of Kvapil at one point but was unable to make the pass before the second competition caution on lap 70.
After three attempts at a restart with 30 laps to go due to crashes further back, Loden was able to work to the outside of Kvapil for the second spot and set his sights on Butcher for the lead. Hard racing between the trio of Butcher, Kvapil and Loden, including being three wide in turns 3 and 4 at one point, allowed Loden to finally clear Butcher for the lead with 14 laps to go.
A yellow bunched the field back up with five laps to go in the 100-lap event, giving Butcher and Kvapil one last shot to steal the lead back from Loden. Butcher doored Loden up the racetrack on the restart and cleared Loden off turn 2, and Loden returned the favor in turn 3 to get back to the inside of the No. 28.
Loden cleared Butcher coming to three to go, and Butcher gave one last ditch effort to move the No. 43 out of the way the following lap, but that’s as close as the No. 28 would come.
Loden managed to hang on for the final two laps, picking up his first career CARS Tour victory. The win was a huge one for a team and driver with four DNFs in six starts on the season and should set Loden back on track for the rest of the season.
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