Berry, Lessard and McCaskill Claim Wins and Titles at Southern National

Deac McCaskill raises the CARS Late Model Stock Tour championship trophy after claiming his first series title at Southern National Motorsports Park on Saturday afternoon over Tommy Lemons and Josh Berry. (Kyle Tretow / CARS Tour)

Deac McCaskill raises the CARS Late Model Stock Tour championship trophy after claiming his first series title at Southern National Motorsports Park on Saturday afternoon over Tommy Lemons and Josh Berry. (Kyle Tretow / CARS Tour)

LUCAMA, NC – Raphael Lessard and Josh Berry visited victory lane in the final event of the CARS Racing Tour Season at Southern National Motorsports Park on Saturday night, the CSX Play it Safe 250 presented by MMIA. Lessard cemented his super late model championship with the victory and Josh Berry brought home the team (owner’s) championship for JR Motorsports while Deac McCaskill captured the late model stock driver’s title with a seventh place finish.

LATE MODEL STOCK RECAP:

For the first time in his CARS Tour career, Jeff Oakley led the field to green from the Hedgecock Racing pole position after setting a new track record in time trials. Championship leader Deac McCaskill started alongside and quickly fell behind Oakley in the opening laps as the Virginia driver rocketed out to an early lead of nearly half a lap at times.

As the laps wound down, McCaskill, Berry, Layne Riggs and others began to close in on Oakley as he struggled in traffic and his car visibly began to lose grip and slip in each end of the speedway. R.D. Smith, after passing Josh Berry on lap 93, looped his Toyota by himself in turn two to bring out the only caution of the race.

After the restart, McCaskill used his home track experience to motor by Oakley for the race lead but it was short-lived. Oakley powered by around McCaskill for the next 19 circuits and appeared to be en route to his first career tour win until Josh Berry found his way to second and began to stalk Oakley’s No. 11 in the closing laps. Berry made contact while getting around Oakley in turn one on lap 115 and ultimately pulled away to his fifth CARS Late Model Stock Tour win of the season and the eighth of his career, tops all time. Layne Riggs, Christian Eckes, Chris Hudspeth and Tommy Lemons, Jr. rounded out the top five.

Deac McCaskill, who entered the race with a 13-point cushion over Lemons, finished seventh and secured the driver’s title by 11 points. Berry, whose team entered the race one point behind McCaskill’s in the owner’s standings, won the owner’s title by six points.

“We had that caution and my spotter asked ‘whatcha got?,’ and I said ‘I don’t know if we got it today, boys,’ but on that restart it was like it was a different car after everything cooled down and we tightened up,” Berry explained in Edelbrock Victory Lane.  “Everyone started beating and banging, we got in the right lane and got a couple of spots pretty quick, and before you knew it I was racing for the lead. They all started checking up on the bottom and I just tried it [up high] since they laid down some stuff in it and it was better. I think Oakley started losing his right rear tire at the end and I was just trying to time it to get by him.

“Without a doubt this place has been the biggest struggle for me when it comes to racing late models and we haven’t had a lot of success here,” he continued. “This weekend did not go like we wanted. We worked our asses off is the best way to put it. These guys worked so hard on this thing and we kept digging and kept trying to get it better and stayed late last night working on it. It doesn’t always work out, but it sure makes it worth it when it does.”

McCaskill was overcome with emotion after the race when asked about his championship. Often haunted by taunts of being a one-track success, the CARS Tour championship was something he coveted since the first day the series began. Unofficially, he won the title by 11 points over Tommy Lemons, Jr.

“It was wild and a handful to drive, that last heat cycle just killed our tires, we just ran too hard and burned the right rear tire off of it. Congrats to Tommy Lemons, he was the first person over here…..” McCaskill trailed off as be began to cry after the race during his post-race interview.

“I can’t believe it,” he muttered under the muffled sobs. “I think it just hit me right now. Traveling to all these different tracks and being able to run like this — oh well, I don’t mind crying. It’s just tough. To be able to be competitive is tough to do. I can’t help but think back to Concord and Hickory and what we did there, and that saved us there. Everyone said coming to your hometown track it was going to be really easy and I never took it for granted because I knew it was going to be tough. And look at where we finished, it was probably our worst finish all year. I just really apprecaiate the CARS Tour, Jack, Chris, everyone for what they do. It’s a fun series with ten races and it’s perfect for our schedule.”

 Raphael Lessard claimed his fourth win of the season on Saturday night in the CSX Play it Safe 250 presented by MMIA at Southern National Motorsports Park. The French-Canadian sensation also captured the super late model series title in addition to his victory on-track over Brandon Setzer. (Kyle Tretow / CARS Tour)

Raphael Lessard claimed his fourth win of the season on Saturday night in the CSX Play it Safe 250 presented by MMIA at Southern National Motorsports Park. The French-Canadian sensation also captured the super late model series title in addition to his victory on-track over Brandon Setzer. (Kyle Tretow / CARS Tour)

SUPER LATE MODEL RECAP:

For the second consecutive event, Brandon Setzer put his No. 6 Ford on the pole position and reset the track record in the process with Matt Craig alongside. Setzer led the opening three laps until Craig worked his way past for the next 76 laps.

Championship leader Raphael Lessard took advantage of Craig’s mistake in slower traffic to take the lead on lap 80, but a caution on lap 94 for Jake Crum’s stopped racecar reset the entire tempo of the race. On the restart, Lessard bobbled but still jumped back to the point while Setzer and Craig battled behind him, making contact which put Craig’s car into the outside wall and brought a caution on lap 97 for debris from Setzer’s machine. Cole Timm led his only laps immediately after the ensuing restart until Lessard muscled his way back around on lap 99.

Behind Lessard, the field jockeyed for position in the closing laps with various race strategies playing out as the field raced closer to the checkered flag. Setzer, who fell back after the contact with Craig, made his way around Cole Timm for second with less than 25 laps to go and began to reel in Lessard for the lead, but time eventually ran out. The French-Canadian sensation won his fourth race of the season by a 1.524-second margin over Setzer, Timm, Tate Fogleman and Lucas Jones.

“I didn’t think we would end like this at all,” said Lessard about his four-win season, a performance that ties him for second on the all-time win list with fellow Toyota protégé Christopher Bell. “I thought we would have some top five finishes or something like that, but I never thought we could get some wins. I have to thank David Gilliland Racing, they worked so hard to get my car ready and get my car perfect like this weekend.

“My car was amazing tonight, I can’t thank my crew chief, Seth Smith, enough,” he continued. “It’s just amazing and a great opportunity to get the win like this with CSX here and on the car, it’s just amazing. I can’t thank everyone enough. My car was very fast, but I thought my car was a little bit better, and Brandon Setzer was very fast. I don’t know what happened on the restart, but I didn’t mean to do it at all, and he did an excellent job. It was very nice to race against those guys this year.”

Setzer’s runner-up performance solidified his second place ranking in the season standings with Matt Craig, despite missing a race, finishing third.

“I didn’t think we would end like this at all,” said an ecstatic Lessard in Edelbrock Victory Lane. “I thought we would have some top five finishes or something like that, but I never thought we could get some wins. I have to thank David Gilliland Racing, they worked so hard to get my car ready and get my car perfect like this weekend. My car was amazing tonight, I can’t thank my crew chief, Seth Smith, enough. It’s just amazing and a great opportunity to get the win like this with CSX here and on the car, it’s just amazing. I can’t thank everyone enough.

“My car was very fast, but I thought my car was a little bit better, and Brandon Setzer was very fast,” he continued. “I don’t know what happened on the restart, but I didn’t mean to do it at all, and he did an excellent job. It was very nice to race against those guys this year.”

The 2017 season opens for the third go-round of the CARS Racing Tour on March 11, 2017, at Concord Speedway, followed two weeks later by their first visit to Dominion Raceway in Thornburg, Va. For more information on the CARS Tour, visit their website at www.carsracingtour.com. Fresh content and updates can also be found on the series Facebook page (/carstour), Twitter (@carstour), Instagram (@cars_tour) and Youtube channel (/c/carstour). The series Roku app is also populated regularly with content from CARS Tour events and special productions.

NOTES OF INTEREST:

  • Raphael Lessard became the first foreign-born champion to win a CARS-sanctioned event since the series’ former Hooters ProCup days when Mario Gosselin won the title in 1997.
  • Career best runs were the order of the day for many drivers behind the winners. Layne Riggs (2nd) and Chris Hudspeth (4th) brought home career best runs in the late model stock race while Tate Fogleman (4th) and Chase Purdy (6th) all captured career best efforts in the super late model contest.
  • For the first time in series history, the tour was accompanied by a support division – the US Legend Cars International Bandolero cars. Parker Frazier took the win in the 15-lap contest, his second straight win in Bandolero competition at SNMP.

THE FINISHES:

CARS Late Model Stock Tour
CSX Play It Safe 250 pres. by MMIA
Southern National Motorsports Park – November 12, 2016
POS NUM DRIVER LAPS REASON OUT

  1. 88b Josh Berry 125
  2. 99 Layne Riggs 125
  3. 1 Christian Eckes 125
  4. 28 Chris Hudspeth 125
  5. 27 Tommy Lemons, Jr. 125
  6. 11 Jeff Oakley 125
  7. 08 Deac McCaskill 125
  8. 24 Mason Diaz 125
  9. 88 Chris Davis 125
  10. 16 R.D. Smith 125
  11. 42 Craig Stallard 125
  12. 9 Bruce Anderson 125
  13. 74 Ronald Hill 124
  14. 1m Craig Moore 105 Mechanical
  15. 17 Stacy Puryear 85 Mechanical

CARS Late Model Stock Tour
CSX Play It Safe 250 pres. by MMIA
Southern National Motorsports Park – November 12, 2016
POS NUM DRIVER LAPS REASON OUT

  1. 99 Raphael Lessard
  2. 6 Brandon Setzer
  3. 98t Cole Timm
  4. 8 Tate Fogleman
  5. 16 Lucas Jones
  6. 97c Chase Purdy
  7. 54 Matt Craig
  8. 67 Clay Jones
  9. 56 Gus Dean
  10. 14 Jared Fryar
  11. 54g Todd Gilliland 124
  12. 28 Jared Irvan 123
  13. 2 Garret Archer 123
  14. 49 Jeff Batten 123
  15. 01 Jake Crum 123
  16. 21 Mike Darne 100 Mechanical
  17. 16m Vinnie Miller 96 Mechanical
  18. 98m Jody Measmer 93 Mechanical

 

Media Contacts: 
Chris Ragle
Tony Stevens

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