In the day and age of large scale race teams competing at lower levels, it is always a feel-good story when a family-operated team can prove they have what it takes. After a successful 2016 race season, Justin Carroll of Concord, North Carolina and his team are ready to give the “big guns” a run for their money as they plan on contending for the 2017 CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car (LMSC) championship.
“I feel like we are in the best position we have ever been in to really contend for the (CARS Tour) Late Model Stock Championship,” Carroll told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Every CARS race we have ran we have finished 6th or better and even managed to lead some laps at the final Hickory race last season.”
“The beginning of 2016 actually started off pretty well, but then it was all down-hill from there until Greenville-Pickens (SC) when we hit rock bottom,” Carroll explained. “The car was just horrible. Not long after, we started working with Jason (Stanley) and really started to build some momentum starting with our wins at Hickory.”
Last season’s success started with a pair of twin victories at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) in two 40-lap main events in the Bojangles Late Model Stock class. It was not long after that the team made their decision to take their first shot at Martinsville (VA) for the Valley Star Credit Union 300. Carroll was named one of the “Rookies of the Race” as he started 19th and finished eighth in his first start at Martinsville.
Shortly after, Carroll ended his season with another run with the CARS Tour at Hickory where he finished fourth after leading laps near the end of the race.
“I was always told that in order for me to be the best I have to race with the best and I really feel that the CARS Tour has some of the best competition out there right now,” he stated. “We wouldn’t be able to do this without our sponsor Industrial Battery Chargers Inc. (IBCI) and my family who double as my crew.”
Carroll is excited for this year of firsts and really emphasized the excitement of his sponsor as well.
“They (IBCI) have been with us since the beginning. This will be the first year we really go for a championship let alone the CARS Tour championship. At the same time, IBCI is also celebrating their 40th Anniversary, so it is a big year for all of us.”
The 2017 season kicked off March 1 with a “Media Day” for the CARS Tour which invited drivers and fans to meet the faces of the touring series. The first race is March 11 at Concord Speedway (NC) which also could be considered Carroll’s home track.
“It works out really well that the season opener is at Concord Speedway being that it is my home track,” he said. “We have some unfinished business there as well. We ran a CARS Tour race there last season and really had a chance at winning it just made some mistakes at the end of the race. “
The North Carolina native is looking for consistency and solid runs as they get ready to take on some of the best short track racers in the hunt for the 2017 CARS Tour championship.
Carroll now has even more motivation to prove himself as he was recently selected as one of the 15 semifinalists for the Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP). This program assists in the financial needs of drivers all over the country who are racing in remembrance of the late Alan Kulwicki.
Drivers in the program will be evaluated on on-track performance, social media, professional presence and community outreach throughout the season. He must first make it through a set of phone interviews which will decide if he is one of the seven finalists competing for the grand prize of $54,493 after a guaranteed $7,777. These numbers are based off of Alan’s racing number “7”.
“We are thrilled to be part of the semi-finalists and hope to be one of the seven selected for the KDDP,” Carroll commented. “It is awesome what everyone at the program is doing to help short-trackers like myself that don’t have endless funding. It’s awesome that they help the drivers with their off-the track success as well.”
This is the program’s third year with short track hot shoe Ty Majeski being the inaugural champion in 2015. Alex Prunty was crowned the 2016 KDDP champion after a strong season one year ago.
Fans can follow the start of Carroll’s season on Speed51.com’s Trackside Now during the CARS Tour season opener at Concord Speedway this weekend. Fans can also keep up with all things KDDP as Speed51.com is the official media partner for the program.
-Story by: Hannah Newhouse, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Hickory Motor Speedway