The CARS Response Energy Tour made a major announcement on Friday evening, when they posted on Facebook introducing the Old North State Nationals, a $30,000-to-win feature for the CARS Late Model Stock Tour at Orange County Speedway (NC) for 2019.
The announcement generated a ton of excitement in the pits at Orange County, as the series is visiting the 0.375-mile facility in Rougemont, North Carolina this weekend.
“We wanted to tell our competitors, our Late Model Stocks personally first and then let them talk about it,” CARS Response Energy Tour director Chris Ragle told Speed51.com. “We wanted to do the biggest paying Late Model Stock race in history. No one’s had that as the winner’s purse before. $30,000 to win, but we wanted to make it affordable for everyone, so it’s $1,250 to start, six-tire race.”
For the series, hosting the event for its Late Model Stock competitors at Orange County Speedway was a perfect storm, supporting a division that has presented great car counts throughout its four-season history and a track that has brought out fans in droves for the series visits.
“This is a great racing race-track, Orange County,” Ragle said. “It’s a great place for fans to watch, and that’s what this race is going to be about.
“We’re averaging 24.88 Late Model Stocks a race,” Ragle added. “We only start 28. We’ve had two or three races this year where we’ve had to send guys home. There’s not a lot of tracks doing that or places doing that.
“If you look back when we first started, it was $4,500 to win, $450 to start. Their support, we’ve given back. Now they’re $6,000 to win, $700 to start. Now they’re going to have the biggest race in Late Model Stock history. That’s important for us.”
While the particulars are still being worked out, Ragle also discussed the preliminary format for the inaugural event, which will more closely resemble that of the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway (VA) than a typical CARS Tour event.
“Friday will be an optional test day,” Ragle said. “Qualifying – top five will lock in, that’s it – then heat races and last chance on Saturday, and then the big race on Sunday.”
Ragle added it was important in the series’ eyes to give Late Model Stock teams a marquee, big money race in North Carolina, which the series considers home.
“It’s huge, and we want it that way. We want this event to attract guys. We called it the Old North State Nationals. We thought about the Virginia Triple Crown, with Martinsville. We wanted something for North Carolina, our home. Orange County is like our home track. It’s a great central location. Guys from South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee can all make about the same drive, and it’s a racey racetrack.”
Layne Riggs had a smile on his face when discussing the announcement. For Riggs and his father, former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competitor Scott Riggs, Orange County is home. Thus, the Old North State Nationals will bring a huge spotlight to their backyard.
“That’s amazing,” Riggs said. “This is a great track to do it on. They’ve got the seating capacity, they’ve got the track big enough to hold cars, and the fans are always here to support.”
For Riggs, a win at his home track in Late Model Stock racing’s richest race would be a huge accomplishment, not just for the payday but for the chance to score such a big win in front of his biggest fans as well.
“That would be amazing,” Riggs said. “$30,000, from what I can remember, is probably the biggest payout Late Model Stock race ever. To get it right here, on our home turf, a lot more fans coming to this race than anywhere else we travel to. So to win it on home turf in front of family and friends would mean a whole lot.”
Former series champion Deac McCaskill had heard rumors that a big Late Model Stock event was coming for the CARS Tour, but admitted he was floored when he heard the actual announcement.
“That was a huge announcement,” McCaskill said. “I had heard rumors, but I wasn’t expecting a $30,000 purse at Orange County Speedway. That’s never really happened before.
“When you hear that kind of a purse you think of your Martinsvilles or Bristol, Richmond, places we’ve been venturing out to,” McCaskill added. “To have that big of a purse at a 3/8th mile short track is pretty impressive. I’d like to thank Jack [McNelly], the CARS Tour, Response Energy for putting something like this on. It gives us an opportunity to go after a whole lot of money. I really haven’t gone after that much before at a local short track like this. It’s going to be really neat.”
McCaskill also relishes the chance to compete in a big-money race in his home state of North Carolina. Outside of the Thanksgiving All-Star Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park each November, competitors from the Tar Heel State often must venture to Virginia or South Carolina for the discipline’s “crown jewels.”
“There’s not a lot of big money races around North Carolina,” McCaskill. “A local guy, hometown guy, I live about 30 or 45 minutes away from here. It’s really special. I feel like we’ll draw a lot of cars here. They are paying a lot of money. It’s not just the $30,000 to win, it’s $1,250 to start. I think it’ll draw a lot of cars and should be a good show for the fans. They’re going to have heat races and whatnot. It should be a really good show. This track always seems to draw a nice crowd when we come into town. It’s awesome to perform in front of such a large crowd, it makes it special when you win.
Ragle says he hopes to have a fully-fleshed 2019 series schedule published before many of his Late Model Stock teams venture to Martinsville for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 in three weeks.
“Our goal is to have the schedule up before Martinsville for both Supers and Late Model Stocks,” Ragle said.” Looking at about the same number of races, 11 or 12 for the Late Model Stocks and eight or nine for the Supers. We found that to be quite the good fix. We’re going to open with a $10,000-to-win Late Model Stock race and a $10,000-to-win Super race. We’re going to come out strong. Half the Super races will pay $10,000 or more to win.
“We’ve got a couple of other things on the Late Model Stock side that I think will be quite exciting as well,” Ragle added. “The Throwback race will happen again, the same weekend, August 3. We’ll build towards that. It’s close and hopefully we can get it put together soon.”
-By Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ZTEvans
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com