After spending the last two seasons learning and growing in the crucible of Late Model Stock Cars across the Southeast, 16-year-old Tyler Ankrum is making the move to a full-time Super Late Model ride to pursue the CARS Tour Super Late Model title in 2016. He enters the season with the goal of winning races and becoming what he calls a Super Late Model “wolf.”
Ankrum kicked off his Super Late Model career during the final CARS Tour event at Hickory last November and now feels as though he’s ready to give his full attention to the Super Late Model ranks.
“Last year I had a lot of fun at Hickory racing double duty there,” said Ankrum during CARS Tour media day. “This year you’ll see me racing full-time in the Super Late Model for sure and maybe racing the Late Model Stock in the CARS Tour as well.”
After winning national championships in the Quarter Midget ranks, Ankrum moved to the Late Model Stocks, competing primarily at South Boston Speedway in Virginia. In 2014, he was named the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Rookie of the Year in the state of Virginia.
One year later, Ankrum took the show on the road, running the full CARS Late Model Stock schedule. He finished fifth in the point standings for the inaugural CARS Tour championship while earning six top-five finishes.
His second major outing following the Super Late Model start at Hickory was running the 50th World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrana Speedway (FL). Ankrum showed speed throughout the week and appeared to be in good shape to win during the second night of racing before being involved in a crash. His bad luck in Florida continued latter in the week when he suffered an engine failure.
Despite the bad luck, Ankrum said that his team learned a lot from the experience that they hope to transfer over to start of the CARS Tour season.
“It was a long week that’s for sure. We wrecked on the second night after leading the first 15 laps and we ended up having a blown motor,” recalled Ankrum, “It was inspiring just to work a little bit harder, but it was tiring.”
Ankrum is now looking forward to returning to familiar settings with the CARS Tour.
“I’m excited to get back out, especially with the CARS Tour,” he said. “Every time I show up at the race track I feel like I’m home, that’s what I’m looking forward too.”
Even with a Super Late Model win being at the forefront of his goals, Ankrum is still treating the year ahead as a learning experience. He also thinks there is still much to learn by running a few Late Model Stock races.
“It’s like running with two packs of wolves,” explained Ankrum. “When you first start out in Late Model racing, you got the Bubba Pollard’s or the Deac McCaskill’s. You go, ‘Wow those guys are really good and really fast,’ but after a while you stop worrying about that because you end up becoming a wolf.
“That is the most important thing running both classes, you can learn from multiple veterans, and you can obtain so much for the long run when you are going to (NASCAR) Xfinity Series or ARCA.”
Ankrum will kick off his 2016 CARS Tour schedule this upcoming weekend at the series’ season opener Sunday, April 3at Southern National Motorsports Park (NC). Speed51.com will have live Trackside Now coverage of the event.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, LI, MA) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com