Taylor Gray flipped the switch at the right time in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour season opener at Southern National Motorsports Park (NC), holding off former series champion Deac McCaskill for his second career win in the series.
In a race dominated by tire conservation, Gray had what he needed to keep McCaskill at bay over the final 20 laps of the event. For Gray, turning up the wick at the right time was crucial for the victory.
“In these type of races, you do have to have a flip-the-switch moment,” Gray told Speed51. “At the same time, whenever you flip that switch, you have to be conscious of how much your car can take. You’ve been running 130 laps. It’s going to be different than when you have new tires. You have to flip that switch and be aggressive, but you also have to know how much your car can take.”
When it was time to go, however, he had enough muscle to maintain his top spot. Gray and McCaskill battled side-by-side on the final restart of the race before Gray ultimately persevered.
“It’s all about being aggressive,” Gray told Speed51. “He was being aggressive, I was being aggressive. He went into one and we met each other. He stayed on my door and I pushed up to him and got tight. It’s all about getting what your car can take.”
McCaskill was pleased to come away with a second-place run on a day where he started on the pole. He was able to hang on the outside line for several laps on the final restart, thanks in part to traction compound applied by Southern National management leading up to the race, but could not take the lead.
“I just got a little free there,” said McCaskill. “I couldn’t charge the corner like I wanted to. My forward drive was still decent. All in all, it was a good day for us. Started on the pole, led some laps, led a lot more laps than I did last year.
“Hats off to the track for putting down the PJ1. You were able to hold your own for a few laps. For a moment I thought I was going to be able to pass Taylor on the outside, but that didn’t last.”
McCaskill is a four-time track champion at Southern National who was raced at the 4/10-mile oval since its inception in 1994. However, the race that played out on Saturday reminded him more of competing on the abrasive surface at Myrtle Beach Speedway (SC) during the Myrtle Beach 400 than his home turf.
“It was a crazy race, man. The pace we were running at the start was like a Myrtle Beach atmosphere. You had people going hard at the start, people riding. It puts on a good show for the fans.
“I’ve been here since 1994, man, and it’s always been throttle-down, letting it rip since lap one. I told my guys on the radio to call my times out. It’s way different. This is like a new era in the way this track is going.”
Connor Mosack rounded out the podium for the season opening race, with JR Motorsports teammate Josh Berry coming home fourth and Layne Riggs completing the top five.
The CARS Late Model Stock Tour will be back in action on March 21 at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC).
Fans who missed Saturday’s CARS Tour season opener can visit Speed51’s Race Day Now coverage by clicking here. Stay tuned to the Speed51 Network for post-race recaps of the event.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo
CARS Late Model Stock Tour Season Opener Unofficial Results