Race Weekend Central

Counting Cars: 3 Takeaways From The CARS Tour’s Spring Trip to Hickory

Hickory, NC- The zMAX CARS Tour Late Model Stock race was open for the taking Saturday (April 6) night at Hickory Motor Speedway, with 2023 champion and season-opening winner Carson Kvapil not racing in the field. Kvapil was busy making his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Martinsville Speedway, leaving Mason Diaz to take his place in the No 8 JRM Bass Pro Shops Chevy while the field looked to take advantage of a chance to gain points on the young star.

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Carson Kvapil Shines In Xfinity Series Debut

Before the Late Model Stock field took to the track, the zMAX CARS Tour Pro Late Models opened the show. Kyle Campbell won from pole for the second time in a row. Behind him, several cars were taken out – including Kaden Honeycutt, who declined to comment post-race – in an event filled with cautions and carnage.

Torn-up racecars were a key story of the LMSC division as well. The feature took a turn when the No. 95 of Jacob Heafner and the No. 44 of Connor Jones crashed. Jones seemed rattled after the wreck but wasn’t shaken up enough to keep him from moving through the infield to yell some colorful words at Heafner through the fence before almost getting into a scrum with team members.

In the end, young phenom Connor Zilisch took the LMSC win after a hard battle with Brenden ‘Butterbean’ Queen on a late restart. It was his first LMSC win, though the teenager also won a CARS Tour Pro Late Model race at Ace Speedway in 2023.

Here are a trio of takeaways from another memorable Hickory night with the CARS Tour.

The Thanos Of Motorsports

Zilischmania continues to run wild in 2024.

Another race, another great result. Another series, another stone collected. Zilisch has been on a tear this season in many disciplines.

He put on a clinic at Hickory. But while Zilisch seemed to cut through the field like butter, the Trackhouse Racing prospect had to fight and earn it the hard way on Saturday night.

Zilisch didn’t qualify as well as he’d like, starting in 11th place. But he methodically marched through the field while managing his tires. By lap 50 he made his way into the top five, with Queen trailing in his wake.

The 17-year-old sensation’s key to making quick work of the field was something others struggled with – passing on the top lane.

“It’s tough to race your way to the front when you don’t qualify well” Zilisch said post-race, “I saw a lot of guys struggling on the bottom. We were really tight in qualifying which led me believe we would be good in the race and it was true.”

He battled with Chad McCumbee and Queen in the later stages of the race. Zilisch secured the lead on lap 111 and held Queen off on a late restart to score his first LMSC win.

The victory is added to a 2024 resume that includes a blistering NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series pole lap at Circuit of the Americas and IMSA class wins at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring.

Brenden ‘Butterbean’ Queen Is Almost King

A handshake and good wishes to the winner were the only reasons Queen was seen in victory lane on Saturday. The fan favorite came up one spot short of winning at Hickory, a place he has called his worst track on the schedule.

While he didn’t start up front, Queen showed his speed during the race. He followed Zilisch’s No. 28 for most of the night, only taking more time to get around someone when he couldn’t roll past them in the high lane.

Queen challenged for the lead late, but his car just didn’t have what it needed to take it away in a hard battle on the final restart. He had to settle for second at race’s end but was content to have contended at a track where he typically struggles.

“We had a great restart, I was able to use the momentum up top to stay sead even with him [Zilisch],” Queen told Frontstretch’s Trenton Worsham after the race. “We had him off of turn 2 and he got into us a little, we gave it back, just couldn’t complete the pass”

“This is my worst track on the schedule so it was a statement to come here and contend for the win”.

Treyton Lapcevich Isn’t Just Bringing The (Canadian) Bacon

Treyten Lapcevich is a rookie in the LMSC division, but he’s already been a NASCAR champion.

Lapcevich won the 2023 NASCAR Pinty’s Series championship in Canada, his seven wins tying the tour’s season record. He never finished worse than sixth and broke the record for laps led in the season, averaging a finish of 2.6. To say he has hype behind him is an understatement.

The Ontario native had a quiet, but successful night in the second race of his rookie campaign. Lapcevich finished tenth after flirting with the top five for a good portion of the race.

He commented after the race about being happy with his result after starting 17th but also felt he’d left some positions on the table with a timid drive down the stretch.

“I wasn’t aggressive enough there at the end,” Lapcevich said. “I was pushed around some and got tight. Overall it’s a good night for us, good momentum, I think we’re back in the top five in the points.”

While he cruised in the Pinty’s Series, Lapcevich has faced a unique challenge adapting to the CARS Tour competition.

“In Canada I knew the feel of the car in practice to know what I needed for the race and here I’m still learning to find that with these cars,” he said. “(‘m) getting a feel for how the competition will race me. Tonight opened by eyes to that a little bit.”

If he can get a feel for the car and match the aggression when it counts, Lapcevich could quickly become a contender as the CARS Tour season rolls on.

What’s Next?

The LMSC and PLM divisions are set for a week off after an eventful night at Hickory. Action will pick back up on April 20 at Orange County Speedway.

All the action can be seen live on FloRacing.

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