Saturday's AutosByNelson.com 250 had something for everyone when the CARS Response Energy Tour ran their season finale at the Virginia racetrack. Corey Heim and Craig Moore both visited Edelbrock Victory Lane, the first win for both competitors on the tour, while Jared Fryar and Bobby McCarty both claimed their first series titles in nailbiting fashion at the end of the afternoon.
SUPER LATE MODEL RECAP
Tate Fogleman led the field to green in the final super late model contest of the season after claiming the Mahle Pistons Pole Award earlier in the afternoon. The Durham, North Carolina, driver led the opening 18 circuits until Anthony Cataldi took the lead for a handful of circuits on lap 18.
An accident involving Dean Ward and Ryan Matthews slowed the field on lap 21, forcing a restart where Fogleman motored back around Cataldi to lead the field for the next 52 laps. As the race wore on, Corey Heim and Cataldi began to reel in Fogleman while the entire trio distanced themselves from the field. Heim took advantage of a slip by Fogleman in turn one to drive underneath the No. 8 Ford and set the pace for the first time of his afternoon.
With 22 laps to go, championship leader Jared Fryar had trouble in turn one, showering sparks behind his No. 14 car as it pounded the retaining wall due to a cut tire. Fryar's closest championship rival, Heim, was in position to capitalize when the incident occurred, leading the field to the restart.
Anthony Cataldi had been pressuring Heim for the race lead prior to the Fryar incident and continued to do so once the field raced back into the first turn after the green flag. Cataldi raced side-by-side with Heim for numerous laps and nosed ahead on lap 120 after nudging the No. 78 aside. Heim returned the favor a lap later and recaptured the top spot before pulling away by three car lengths.
Heim fended off the last-lap attempts by Cataldi to steal the win and captured his first career CARS Response Energy Tour victory, also the first for his Fab Specialties team. Cataldi, Brandon Lynn, Fogleman and Nolan Pope rounded out the top five finishers.
"Hats off to Anthony for racing me hard without wrecking me, we ran 1-2 almost the entire race, so I really appreciate him racing me clean," Heim said as soon as he exited the car in Edelbrock Victory Lane. "All I have to say is what an awesome job by my team to give me a great car. I burned off my right rear a little bit in the middle of the race but we're in victory lane so that's all that really matters right now.
"Going into this year, I didn't expect to be a champion or even finish top three in the points," he continued when asked about a runner-up finish in the series points. "To finish second, it's just an honor for me to finish second in any points series in my first year in super late models."
Despite his late-race troubles, Jared Fryar was able to retain his point lead over Heim and claimed his first series championship. A long-time supporter of the tour since its inception in both classes, Fryar was in tears following the race.
"It means a lot and it was tough all throughout the year, I'm just kind of speechless right now," Fryar mustered while wiping tears from his eyes. "I'm very thankful to be in this position and race for a championship and most importantly to do it with my dad and my family. It means a lot to us because my family has been racing for a long time. To win my first championship means a lot and I can't thank everyone who helps out out at the racetrack and the shop, it means a lot.
"We wanted to run all the races, finish all the races, and try to win all the races," he continued in response to a question about how real the goal of winning a title was at the beginning of the season. "When you have good finishes like that, that's what happens. It just feels good. There's a lot of hard work that goes into it and a lot of dedication, man, I'm just speechless."
LATE MODEL STOCK RECAP
Layne Riggs came into South Boston hoping to avenge last year's misfortune when a part failure ended his race prematurely and started the afternoon in successful pursuit of that goal by claiming the Hedgecock Racing Pole Position. On the drop of the green flag, however, the No. 99 Ford failed to accelerate and headed to the pits with another drivetrain failure, reminiscent of his race a year prior.
Championship leader Bobby McCarty took full advantage of Riggs' situation and rocketed to the lead in turn one, attempting to win his first race since the June event at Carteret County.
Two major incidents eliminated drivers early including a three-car melee on lap 4 and a four-car mashup on lap 24, the first of which required a red flag for cleanup.
On the lap 24 restart, Craig Moore bypassed McCarty for the race lead and took charge of the event for 12 laps until McCarty motored his way back around the No. 1 car for another 29 laps.
McCarty's luck began to sour on lap 65 when, while leading, his car shot up the track in turn one and dramatically slowed with a flat right front tire, the result of a broken wheel on his AutosByNelson.com Toyota. McCarty was able to keep the car out of the wall to avoid further damage but was assessed a one-lap penalty by officials for intentionally stopping to bring out a caution.
To wrestle the title away from McCarty, Lee Pulliam needed some help in the form of bad luck from his rival and on the restart, he quickly made his way forward into the top three in pursuit of the race win. McCarty, however, had fortune on his side as a lap 67 caution for Colin Garrett permitted him to receive the free pass and earn his way back to the lead lap.
Timothy Peters stole the lead away from his Nelson Motorsports teammate Brandon Pierce on the lap 68 restart and led the next five circuits until Mini Tyrrell and Ronald Hill tangled in turn four, ending the day for both competitors and drawing the second red flag of the day for water barrel cleanup after Tyrrell smashed into them at the turn four pit entrance.
Coming to the restart, Timothy Peters suddenly darted down the track and accidentally made contact with his teammate Pierce after Peters realized he had a flat left rear tire. Though the damage to Pierce's car seemed minor, Craig Moore was able to drive around the No. 2P on the restart to take the lead for the second time on lap 73.
Moore, Deac McCaskill and Lee Pulliam began to pull away from the field in the final 50 laps to settle the race amongst themselves, but Moore began to prove himself as the better of the three. Moore was out to substantial lead when Charlie Watson and Mason Diaz wrecked in turn three, causing the final restart of the afternoon with only nine laps to go.
After choosing the outside lane on the restart, Moore quickly executed his way through the gearbox and into the lead once again on the exit of turn two. McCaskill hounded the No. 1 for nine laps, tapping the back bumper lightly multiple times but never moving Moore out of the way, allowing the new father a chance to win one for his newborn son whow as home watching on TV with his mother. McCaskill, Pulliam, Josh Berry and Brandon Pierce rounded out the top five.
"First off, I want to thank God because I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. I'm dedicating this win to my main man, Dusty. We lost his dad last week and this one is for him, he was riding with us," Moore said in Edelbrock Victory Lane. "We hated that caution came out because we felt like we had the race won. The car was good on the high side, but we got tight with probably 20 or 30 to go. With these tires, and on this racetrack, you're able to maintain on the outside and it doesn't bother me a bit to run up there. This is great, man, we've been fighting and trying so hard.
"I'm going to tell you, you're racing with the best of the best here. Peyton Sellers and Philip Morris were the only two guys we were missing," Moore explained as he continued. "A couple of guys had some bad luck, and I really hate that, but I still feel like we had a really good car. My car was just too tight on the bottom, so the top really suited me better and on a couple of those restarts we really got pinched on the bottom. It just wouldn't get going and after about five laps it was good. I just have to thank so many people, and my wife is at home with my newborn baby. I'm mad she didn't come because I wanted her to be here and I really felt like we had a good shot at this, but I'm thinking about her first and foremost."
Bobby McCarty finished an uncharacteristic ninth in the final rundown, but it was enough to guarantee himself the championship over Lee Pulliam. It was McCarty's first championship in late model stock competition and the first tour title for team owner Barry Nelson who fields cars for three drivers in the CARS Tour.
"'Oh, no!,' is exactly what went through my mind," McCarty explained after the race. "I was more worried that a suspension part broke. Once I found out it was a tire, I felt like we were going to be ok. We fired off really good on the new right front, but it wouldn't hold. The new right front and the old right rear just weren't working together. I couldn't move around enough to make passes and get back through the field. We just had to dodge wrecks after that and hold on.
"I'm so thankful to everyone who's a part of this, I can't thank them enough, I really can't," he continued. "This is definitely at the top. I haven't won a championship in late model stocks, I've won one in limiteds, but to win it in late model stocks and a tour like this one, it means the world to me."
The CARS Response Energy Tour kicks off their 2019 season at Southern National Motorsports Park on March 9. The dual-division show will be the first twin big-money event in tour history, paying $10,000 to win the feature events in both late model stock and super late model competition.
For more information on the CARS Tour, visit their website at www.carsracingtour.com. Fresh content and updates can also be found on the series Facebook page (@carstour), Twitter (@carstour), Instagram (@cars_tour), Snapchat (@carstour) and Youtube channel (/carstour). The series Roku app is also available for installation to see live and on-demand events by following the instructions available at www.carstour.tv.
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