Tri-County Speedway will host the season opener for the CARS Tour Late Model Stock Cars this Saturday. Although the new season will feature many of the same cars and drivers, it will also feature a new twist. An all-new format will be used with 12 committed drivers who will be considered the “Touring 12” for the 2018 season.
These 12 drivers were wedeled down from 21 driver and team combinations. CARS Tour officials selected the 12 drivers based on a variety of factors including CARS Tour team loyalty, marketability, future development of the CARS Tour and its fan base, and the ability to complete the Touring 12 guidelines over the course of the season.
Layne Riggs, who was in contention for the 2017 CARS Tour championship, was named one of the Touring 12 drivers and will compete full time again this season.
“I think it’s really good. I think we get more publicity every race we go to,” Riggs told Speed51.com. “The CARS Tour does a really great job promoting the series. I think being part of the Touring 12, I’ll be able to get my name out there a little bit more for that next sponsor or team to call. They’ll see that we’ve been successful in CARS Tour and that we’ve been promoted more than usual.”
Looking back on the ups and downs from his 2017 season, Riggs believes his success will only be multiplied during the 2018 season.
“I got a lot of experience last year, we came really close to winning a championship last year,” he stated. “I learned a lot, a lot about my cars, and I learned about the drivers. I think applying it this year we’re going to be really successful.”
Growing as a driver over the past season, the 15-year-old racer has recognized where he needs to get better for the upcoming season.
“I think just be smart in the head, and just be patient,” Riggs said. “I think a lot of times last year I got impatient and made some stupid moves, and regretted them later. I think if I’m smart, and we’re good in practice and take good notes and we apply those notes, and what we learned last year at those tracks, I think we’ll be good.”
Despite coming up just short one year ago, winning a championship isn’t the main goal for Riggs. Instead, he is looking for as many wins as possible during the 2018 season.
Compared to Riggs, 2017 CARS Tour champion Josh Berry has different plans, once again running out of the JR Motorsports stable this season.
“For us I think our goal would be to compete for a championship again,” Berry said. “We’ve had a lot of success the past few years, the hardest part of winning is to be able to continue to win. We’re going to try and continue the run we’ve been on.”
The 2018 season has big plans for the Touring 12, and all drivers including Berry are welcoming the new format with open arms.
“It’s really exciting to be a part of the Touring 12,” Berry began. “The CARS Tour has done a really great job over the last couple years of getting people together, getting sponsors and racers interested in the series. This is a way of doing that. I think it’s going to give us a lot of notoriety. They’re doing a lot of great things for the racers as well, cutting costs and better pay outs. I think it’s a really great deal, for us it was a no brainer.”
Berry believes that the inaugural year of the Touring 12 will be a good year for the series, and all drivers who participate.
“As for the tour, I think this is a big year for them. They’re doing a lot of great things. I really feel like they’re going to benefit from it,” he stated. “I think they’re going to have great car counts, great racing and a lot fans in the stand, and a lot of people really paying attention to them. They have a new title sponsor along with this new program. I see them having a very successful 2018.”
Not only does Berry believe that the CARS Tour will be successful, but he also has high expectations for his young teammate, teenager Sam Mayer.
“I think Sam has proven already that he is going to have a lot of talent. Over the course of the year I’m sure we’re going to see him compete for a number of wins.”
Mayer can quickly follow up the idea of competing for wins, but remains humble as he looks forward to his rookie season.
“The competition is going to be really good for my learning,” Mayer stated. “Learning from these guys is the biggest thing I can do because a lot of the tracks that the CARS Tour goes to, I have never been to before. Tri-County, the first race, being one of them. The test was really helpful because it was my first time there and we were really quick out of the box in the JR Motorsports ride.”
Not only is Mayer looking at a full-time season with JR Motorsports in 2018, he is also preparing for an ARCA and NASCAR K&N Pro Series debut with MDM Motorsports. Mayer believes the CARS Tour talent will give him a start in preparing for those starts.
“All of the Touring 12 are good drivers and will all be competing for a championship,” he said. “Racing all those guys and having that experience, I’ll be able to take that to my K&N/ARCA career. Taking that experience is important because they drive like the K&N/ARCA guys, aggressive drivers. “
Although the inaugural year of the CARS Tour Touring 12 has yet to begin, there are already many different mouths talking about how great they believe the program will be.
-By Kendra Adams, Speed51.com Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com