On an evening when Bobby McCarty secured his first CARS Late Model Stock Tour championship, the spotlight shined brightest on an upset winner to close out the series’ 2018 campaign.
Craig Moore, a two-time track champion at Orange County Speedway (NC) who had never finished better than third on the CARS Response Energy Tour, held off former champion Deac McCaskill and Late Model Stock Car racing legend Lee Pulliam to take the win in the 125-lap feature event.
“This is one of the biggest wins ever for me,” Moore told Speed51.com in victory lane. “I’ve got a couple of track championship at Orange County, which are pretty special, but at the end of the day you’re racing against the best of the best here, man. When you beat Lee Pulliam and Deac McCaskill, man, that’s a total accomplishment for me. I’m so stoked about it.”
Before tonight, Moore had four top-five finishes in 19 starts on the CARS Tour, with three coming at his home track in Rougemont, North Carolina. Interestingly enough, the lone exception was at South Boston last year – a track that had plagued Moore in his career prior to joining the CARS Tour and the facility’s 2017 repave.
“For so many years, before they repaved it, we never even finished a race here,” Moore said. “We probably came five or six times in my life, and I’ve been racing a long time. We came last year, had a bad qualifying run and finished fifth.
“To win at a track that I really didn’t like, I guess I have to say I like it now.”
Moore led briefly between laps 25 and 36 during a battle with McCarty for the top spot. McCarty regained the lead on lap 37, seeming destined to close out his championship season with a fifth CARS Tour victory.
However, McCarty’s coronation parade hit a bump in the road when the right-front wheel broke on his machine.
“We raced with the 1 of Craig Moore, and we came out on top and were leading the race,” McCarty said about the issue. “I was just riding and keeping my pace. I went off into one and it just fell over and went straight up the track.”
This opened the door for a new group of competitors, including Brandon Pierce, Timothy Peters, and Craig Moore. However, Peters fell by the wayside after contact with Pierce under caution, allowing Moore to inherit the lead.
From there, Moore held off McCaskill and Pulliam to secure the win, including one last stand when the caution flew with nine laps to go for an incident with Mason Diaz and Charlie Watson.
To survive the chaos and attrition and hold off two greats of Late Model Stock racing, Moore believed he had help from above.
“With nine to go, I said a prayer to myself,” Moore said. “We lost a dear, dear friend of mine last week. I really feel like he was riding with us those last nine laps and looked after us.”
While Pulliam battled valiantly to challenge for the win, his hopes of the CARS Late Model Stock Tour series title were dashed by the attrition. With McCarty able to finish on the lead lap in ninth position, McCarty’s points lead was safe despite Pulliam’s efforts.
Aware of the situation, McCarty simply battled to survive to the end of the race.
“After [the broken wheel] it was just survival,” McCarty said. “The right-sides just never worked together.” “It definitely wasn’t pretty but we got the job done.”
“I knew too many cars had fell out of the race at that point,” Pulliam acknowledged. “He had to finish 21st or worse and I had to win the race. At that point, too many cars had fell out. That’s just part of it.
“We gave a valiant effort and gave 200 percent,” Pulliam added. “We had a good car there at the end of the race, we just got a little too tight. If we had been a little bit freer, we would have had something for them. We got up there, led a lap. If I could have just cleared them I think I would have been okay in clean air. Every time I’d run deep down to second I’d get an aero push. It was a heck of a show for the fans. If they don’t enjoy that, they won’t enjoy nothing.”
McCarty joins Brayton Haws, McCaskill, and Josh Berry as CARS Late Model Stock Tour champions. The series will return to action on March 9, 2019 at Southern National Motorsports Park, with a $10,000 winner’s share in both divisions for the season-opening event.
Race fans who missed the CARS Tour season finale can relive the action by clicking here to view our Trackside Now updates from the event presented by PFC Brakes.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor - Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
CARS Tour Late Model Stock Unofficial Results
November 3, 2018 - South Boston Speedway (VA)