Race Weekend Central

Counting CARS: 3 Takeaway’s From the Championship Finale at Caraway

SOPHIA, N.C. – The 2023 Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour season came to a close Saturday afternoon (Nov. 3) at Caraway Speedway, as both the Pro Late Models and the Late Model Stock Cars were in action for the North-South Shootout. 

While Caden Kvapil had already locked up the Pro Late Model championship due to Katie Hettinger’s suspension, the Late Model Stock championship battle was still alive between Brenden “Butterbean” Queen and Carson Kvapil. Butterbean did everything he could to steal the title away from Kvapil, picking up his fourth win of the season, but it was ultimately not enough and Kvapil was crowned the champion. 

With that, the 2023 CARS Tour season has come to a close and new champions have been crowned. With new beginnings on the horizon for 2024, the 2023 finale will be most remembered for the Kvapil brothers sweeping the series championships. Here are three big takeaways from the CARS Tour season finale. 

Carson Kvapil Completes the Repeat

Plenty of drivers have left everlasting marks on the sport of late model racing, and in particular the CARS Tour. However, the list of multi-time CARS Tour Late Model Stock champions is a very short and prestigious one: Bobby McCarty, and now Carson Kvapil.

Just one year removed from his first championship in the JR Motorsports No. 8, a campaign that saw four wins and the 2022 series championship, Kvapil has reached the mountain top again, but not without a fight. 

Kvapil made a mistake during his qualifying lap on Friday afternoon (Nov. 2), leading to the No. 8 rolling off 14th in Saturday’s finale. At the drop of the green flag, Kvapil began to make some headway, slowly working his way through the field one by one. 

Throughout the middle portion of the 125-lap feature event, Kvapil ran just inside the top 10, running as high as seventh. From that point on, Kvapil began to fade again, falling back to 16th before coming home in the 11th position as the checkered flag flew. Despite championship rival Queen winning the race, Kvapil only needed to finish 16th or better, and the 11th-place result to end the season was enough for Kvapil to capture his second consecutive series title. 

As good as Kvapil was in 2022 on his way to his first title, he was even better during the 2023 defense campaign. The 2023 series champion finished in the top 10 in every race leading up to the championship finale, before the streak ultimately ended with the 11th-place result at Caraway. Kvapil racked up five wins, four poles and 13 top fives during the 2023 season.

Close, but No Cigar for Butterbean

As the checkered flag flew on the 2023 season, Queen picked up his fourth win of the season and his third in the past four. Unfortunately for Butterbean, this wouldn’t quite be enough and the late-season comeback would fall less than 10 points short.

Heading to Caraway, Butterbean knew exactly what they him and the team needed to do to have a shot and they executed flawlessly. Queen picked up the pole award on Friday night after laying down the exact same lap time as Landon Huffman and being awarder the tiebreaker. At the drop of the green on Saturday, it was more of the same.

Queen picked up right where he left two weeks ago at Tri-County, jumping out to the lead on lap 1. Queen never faltered once throughout the race and although Huffman and McCarty stayed with the No. 03 on a couple long runs at one point. Butterbean was able to withstand the restarts and went on to lead all 125 laps for the second race in a row.

With wins at New River All-American, Tri-County and now Caraway, Butterbean ended the season on a tear, with those three wins coming in the final four races of the season. Throw in the early-season win at North Wilkesboro and 2023 was a four win season with six poles for the No 03 team.

Once again, Queen and the No. 03 team knew what they had to do to win the title at Caraway and they did their part. They won the pole, led every lap and won the race, there’s nothing more they could’ve done.

With that being said, the entire No. 03 team deserves to hold their head high as they prepare for the 2024 season. Butterbean has already announced he will be back in the No. 03 for Lee Pulliam Performance next season and the sky’s the limit for this pairing as they look to ride this hot streak into next season. 

Caden Kvapil Completes the Family Sweep

Thanks to Caden and Carson Kvapil, we now have the first set of brothers to ever win CARS Tour championships, not to mention in the same year. Following the incidents at Tri-County between Caden Kvapil and Hettinger, Hettinger was suspended for the season finale, so it was already known that Kvapil had the 2023 Pro Late Model championship locked up.

The title was made official on Saturday following Kvapil’s second-place result at Caraway. Kvapil started the finale 100-lap feature of the year from the pole, and managed to lead the first 51 laps of the event before losing the lead to Kaden Honeycutt on a restart.

Despite staying right on the back bumper of Honeycutt’s No. for the remainder of the 100-lap feature, Kvapil was never able to get back around Honeycutt for the lead and was forced to settle for second in the season finale.

The season was definitely full of success for Kvapil, with no shortage of dramatic moments along the way. Kvapil and the No. 96 team were able to pick up three wins on the way to the 2023 title, along with eight top fives in 13 starts on the season.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing however, as the team faced adversity multiple times, including a last-lap incident at Wake County with Giovanni Ruggiero that cost the No. 96 team the win in that race, as well as the run ins with Hettinger at Tri-County before Kvapil would ultimately still win the race.

2023 was a breakout year for Kvapil with the Highland Motorsports No. 96 and they were rewarded with a well-deserved title at season’s end. 

With that, we look forward to 2024, to what could be the most competitive season yet for the CARS Tour. With Solid Rock Carriers set to leave the series, there will be a new title sponsor in 2024 and the series schedules for next season should be coming out in the coming days.

As for 2023, the record books will say “Kvapil, Kvapil” and it won’t be a typo. Caden and Carson Kvapil are officially the first two brothers to ever win CARS Tour championships and will forever be the first ones to accomplish those titles in the same season. 

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