It’s hard to imagine, but after only three races the CARS Late Model Stock Car championship picture has three names chasing the title. Sure several drivers are still mathematically in the mix, but three racers are heads above the rest when it comes to having a chance to win the overall championship.
Deac McCaskill is the series points leader leading into this weekend’s race at Tri-County Speedway (NC). He has a win and two second-place finishes. In the first three races he has led 299 laps and he’s led the most laps on two occasions. The recent race at Hickory could have been his down fall, but he finished a strong second at what he considers to be his worst track.
“I told someone I would have been happy to come out of Hickory with a top five,” said McCaskill. “I didn’t expect to be up there leading laps with a chance to win the race. That has not been our best track and we did well this time around.”
McCaskill came home second to Josh Berry who won Hickory. Berry like McCaskill has also been on the podium in each of the first three races. He’s seven markers behind McCaskill in the championship hunt.
“We have to keep getting better here because they have got better,” said Berry. “McCaskill has been good everywhere. We get one more Hickory stop and he gets one at Southern National.”
Tommy Lemons Jr. is the third driver in the mix and he has also posted three top-five finishes in a row. He was second at Southern National after starting 18th. There only downside is time trials, where they have had to improve a total of 31 spots in the first three races.
“We were too tight in qualifying in the first two races and too free at Hickory,” said Lemons. “If we get it in the middle I think we will be alright. We use up so much coming up through the field. We just need to time trial better.”
All three drivers have had their run-ins with each other in the past, but it’s all been clean thus far.
“It’s just been hard racing,” explained Berry. “I got into Tommy at Hickory and he jacked me up at Southern National. It’s been fun and it’s going to be tough to separate from each other in the points.”
Lemons and McCaskill cost each other wins last year at Motor Mile. Both joke about it now, but a repeat show could derail them.
Hard racing requires precision and one off night could cost a driver the grand prize at the end of the trail.
“You can’t afford one bad race,” added McCaskill. “If you have one I think you are out of it. A first and two seconds and I am not really pulling away from those guys.”
Each driver has one area of weakness they will look to overcome. For Josh Berry it’s his schedule conflict with a NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Iowa on July 30. It conflicts with the second Orange County race.
“That’s going to be tough with that Iowa race,” said Berry. “It’s going to be next to imposable to make up that ground. Unless there is a rain out. I’ll be reading my Farmer’s Almanac to see if it will rain that day.”
Lemons has not led a lap this year and is 12 points off the lead. He’s the only driver among the top three that has not visited victory lane. He says his time is coming after they improve the qualifying.
“Right now I have the wrong end of the shoe,” added Lemons. “I think once we fix that we will be ok. That victory is coming. I just know it.”
McCaskill, the points leader has never raced at Greenville-Pickens Speedway and that could be his downfall. He lost the title a year ago when it came down to the final race.
“Hopefully it comes down to the final race and three of us have a shot again,” added McCaskill. “We just have to go one race at a time.”
You can’t predict the outcome, but the CARS Late Model Stock Car title will likely belong to one of these three drivers at the end of the 2016 season.
Remaining Races & Who Has the Upper Hand:
June 11th Tri-County Speedway – Deac McCaskill – Sixth last year
June 25th Greenville-Pickens Speedway – Wide Open
July 30th Orange County Speedway – Deac McCaskill – Led 110 laps in April
August 27th Concord Speedway – Advantage Tommy Lemons Jr. – Strong third last year
September 3rd Southern National – Deac McCaskill – 2016 Winner
September 17th Myrtle Beach Speedway – Advantage Tommy Lemons Jr. – Won independent show this spring
October 29th Hickory Motor Speedway – Advantage Josh Berry – Former Winner
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent – Twitter: @ElginTraylor
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com