An eventful Blue Ridge 250 at Tri-County Motor Speedway on Saturday evening featured plenty of twists between the two respective championship battles in the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour.
Brenden ‘Butterbean’ Queen managed to cut into Carson Kvapil’s sizable advantage in the CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour point standings with his third victory of 2023, a race that saw him put together a dominant wire-to-wire performance.
The 75-lap CARS Pro Late Model Tour feature was anything but procedural, as Caden Kvapil was the beneficiary after Gavan Boschele was penalized for intentionally wrecking Ashton Higgins for the win. Kvapil’s evening also featured plenty of obstacles such as a collision with Katie Hettinger, which effectively ended her title aspirations.
Brenden Queen keeps championship hopes alive
Brenden Queen’s most recent trip to Tri-County Motor Speedway for the Old North State Nationals in August was a crucial turning point in his championship pursuit.
A near-perfect race for Queen was derailed when he ran out of fuel with less than 25 laps remaining, which caused him to lose significant ground to Carson Kvapil in the CARS LMSC Tour standings. Being able to celebrate with his Lee Pulliam Performance crew at Tri-County on Saturday provided Queen plenty of catharsis.
“It feels so good to come back and get that redemption,” Queen said. “We wanted it bad in August and I honestly thought we were going to get it. Things didn’t work out, but that’s racing. Tonight makes up for [the Old North State Nationals.]”
Queen immediately set the tone for the rest of the LMSC Tour field in qualifying by going to the top of the board on his dead lap. The time that ended up giving Queen his fifth pole of 2023 was a 15.301.
Once the green flag waved, nobody in the 29-car field could match the pace of Queen’s No. 03 Best Repair Company Toyota. Queen credited his strong night to his car owner Lee Pulliam for putting together an efficient setup, along with his spotter Anthony Warren for helping him manage his comfortable lead.
Even though Queen still needs plenty of circumstances to fall his way in the championship, he enters the season finale at Caraway Speedway with an optimistic mindset. Queen is proud of everything he has accomplished with Lee Pulliam Performance in 2023 and knows everyone on his team is going to give it their all for one last title push.
“Winning takes care of points,” Queen said. “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. One thing is for sure, [Kvapil] didn’t lock it up. We made them go to Caraway and have to sweat. There have been so many good nights and close nights this year, but we’re going to keep digging until it’s over.”
Stellar season for Mason Diaz continues with runner-up finish
A career season for veteran Mason Diaz in the CARS LMSC Tour continued at Tri-County Motor Speedway on Saturday.
Diaz methodically climbed his way from a 15th-place starting position to finish just a few seconds behind Brenden Queen in second. While Diaz would have loved to claim his second victory of 2023, he said passing so many cars on track highlighted the strength of his No. 24 Solid Rock Carriers Chevrolet.
“It was a positive evening,” Diaz said. “I wish we were one spot better, but I think we were the only car that drove all the way through the field. We slowly but surely started working our way forward and there’s not a scratch on the car.”
With so many cars finding grip in the top line at Tri-County, Diaz took it upon himself to carve out his own groove on the bottom.
Diaz spent plenty of time in the bottom groove during the Old North State Nationals in August figuring out how to find speed on the rest of the field. He believed his night could have turned out better with better track position from qualifying, as using the bottom groove caused Diaz to use up his right front, leaving him with very little to challenge Queen for the win.
Now with six Top 5 performances in six of his last eight races, including his first career LMSC Tour win at Hickory Motor Speedway in July, Diaz is satisfied with how 2023 has turned out following an inconsistent opening stretch. The speed in his car has Diaz confident he can end the year with one more triumph at Caraway Speedway in a couple of weeks.
“It’s been a great season,” Diaz said. “We should have had seasons like this in the past, but it’s been fun and a blast. I’m excited to finish things off at Caraway, which is where all this momentum started. Hopefully we’ll get one more there.”
Tumultuous night for Caden Kvapil ends in victory lane
Through circumstances within and outside his control, Caden Kvapil left Tri-County Motor Speedway in full control of the CARS PLM Tour championship lead.
Kvapil’s journey to victory lane saw him come from the back of the field twice, with the latter occasion stemming from contact between himself and Katie Hettinger while battling for the lead. The fact that he managed to earn his third win of 2023 despite the adversity came as a major surprise for Kvapil.
“There’s a lot of emotions,” Kvapil said. “I thought we had no chance starting dead last, but coming out of all of it in Victory Lane feels amazing. I know everyone was hating on me in the stands because me and Katie got together and caused a big wreck, but there was really nothing either of us could have done.”
Hettinger, who had led the most laps in the PLM Tour feature prior to the crash, was attempting to re-take the lead from Kvapil on the outside line after losing it on a restart. Kvapil got slightly loose underneath Hettinger and the two made contact, which caused Hettinger to lose control and collect several other cars in the ensuing pileup.
Kvapil was penalized for causing the accident before suffering more damage after Hettinger chose to retaliate on the following restart. With only a handful of laps at his disposal to charge to the front, Kvapil did everything he could to minimize the damage from a difficult evening that started with an ill-handling car in qualifying.
The last lap crash between Ashton Higgins and Gavan Boschele for the win provided Kvapil the miracle he needed to salvage the night and park the No. 96 Concord Wealth Partners Chevy in victory lane again. With such an arduous outing now complete, Kvapil is ready to decompress and close out the PLM Tour title at Caraway Speedway.
“We’re just going to go into [Caraway] like every other race and try to win,” Kvapil said. “Now that we have a big gap, we just have to play it smart. Katie is likely still going to be very upset, so we’ll have to be smart around her and just be there at the end.”
A long and grueling season for both CARS Tour divisions comes to a close during the North-South Shootout at Caraway Speedway on Nov. 4, where Carson and Caden Kvapil look to become the first set of brothers to claim series titles in the same season.
FloRacing will provide coverage of all the on-track action.
For more information on the CARS Late Model Stock Tour and the CARS Pro Late Model Tour, visit www.carsracingtour.com. Be sure to stay active and social with the tour by liking “CARS Tour” on Facebook, following @CARSTour on Twitter and scrolling through photos on Instagram cars_tour.
Additional series information can be obtained by calling the CARS Tour series office, located in
Mooresville, NC, at 704.662.9212.
- 03 Brenden Queen
- 24 Mason Diaz
- 22 Landon Huffman
- 08 Deac McCaskill
- 51N Stephen Nasse
- 6 Bobby McCarty
- 15 Ryan Millington
- 16 Chad McCumbee
- 95 Jacob Heafner
- 8 Carson Kvapil
- 20 Joshua Dickens
- 23 Kade Brown
- 7W Dylan Ward
- 21 Lanie Buice
- 57 Connor Zilisch
- 81 Mini Tyrrell
- 43 William Sawalich
- 77 Connor Hall
- 8B Chase Burrow
- 5C Gio Ruggiero -3
- 4 Dylon Wilson -3
- 67 Cameron Bolin – OUT
- 04 Ronnie Bassett Jr. – OUT
- 1 Andrew Grady – OUT
- 45A Bryce Applegate – OUT
- 15C Logan Clark – OUT
- 2 Brandon Pierce – OUT
- 51 Timothy Peters – OUT
- 09 Riley Gentry – OUT
- 96 Caden Kvapil
- 18 Chase Burda
- 6 Brandon Setzer
- 77 Logan Jones
- 28 Brent Crews
- 55 Charlie Keeven
- 74 Ryan Moore
- 15B Aiden King
- 43H Joshua Horniman
- 7T Tyler Church
- 27W Kris Wright -1
- 9 Ashton Higgins – OUT
- 25 Gavan Boschele – OUT
- 81 Katie Hettinger – OUT
- 43 Nick Loden – OUT
- 26 Dawson Sutton – OUT
- 7C Justin Crider – OUT
- 8 Rusty Skewes – OUT
Note: Results are unofficial