Deep rookie classes permeated both divisions of the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour in 2023, yet two drivers managed to separate themselves from the pack.
Earning MPM Marketing LMSC Rookie of the Year was Cameron Bolin. A past track champion at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, Bolin kept his red No. 67 Chevrolet out of trouble for most of the 2023 season to finish 17th in points as the division’s top rookie.
Katie Hettinger faced almost no resistance from her competition as she cruised towards Bilstein PLM Rookie of the Year honors. In her first season with Anthony Campi Racing, Hettinger tallied seven Top 5 finishes before placing second in the point standings to Caden Kvapil.
Both Bolin and Hettinger come from racing backgrounds and had plenty of experience to rely on as they navigated the highs and lows of being a rookie in their respective division.
Cameron Bolin finds comfort zone in rookie LMSC Tour season
For Cameron Bolin, being able to obtain the MPM Marketing LMSC Rookie of the Year award was a humbling experience.
Despite lacking the funding of his counterparts on the LMSC Tour, Bolin and his small operation persisted through adversity to gain experience with every passing race, which allowed them to end 2023 with two Top 10 finishes.
“It really means everything,” Bolin said. “There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment to know we fulfilled what we set out to do. All of us feel good knowing we established our footing in the CARS Tour in some way.”
An 18th place finish to open the year at Southern National Motorsports Park provided Bolin plenty of optimism about his prospects in the LMSC Tour.
The rest of the year would not see the consistency Bolin had envisioned when he first joined the series. He recorded an average finish of 18.5 and four DNFs, but those shortcomings made the successful weekends more rewarding for Bolin, who tallied a career-best finish of eighth at Caraway Speedway in June.
One factor that kept Bolin’s confidence high was the mentorship of NASCAR Xfinity Series veteran Josh Williams. The knowledge Williams provides has helped Bolin make marginal gains with his own program while simultaneously relating to Williams’ own struggles with competing in underfunded equipment.
“Josh and I fight the same battle,” Bolin said. “He doesn’t drive the best Xfinity Series equipment and I for sure don’t drive the best Late Model Stocks. We bounce off each other a lot, and we were both as happy as could be after I qualified 12th at North Wilkesboro. We just do the best we can with what we have.”
While Bolin would have loved to be up at the front more frequently in 2023, the main lesson he took from his Rookie of the Year campaign was to embrace the small wins.
The parity prevalent in the LMSC Tour left a small margin of error for Bolin when it came to finding speed, but it also made him appreciate every step his team made in the right direction. Bolin’s goal over the offseason is to work diligently with Williams and his crew to see if they can make the necessary progress to qualify inside the Top 10 on a regular basis.
Bolin intends to run another full campaign in the LMSC Tour next year, where he is determined to keep making strides and showcase that he can hold his own again the best Late Model Stock competitors in the southeast.
“We have to remember where we came from,” Bolin said. “The tone of my career has been ‘we’re not supposed to be here’. We weren’t supposed to win the track championship at [Greenville-Pickens] or the Rookie of the Year, but we did. All we can do is keep pushing through it and strive for more improvement.”
A year of growth yields consistent results for Katie Hettinger
Katie Hettinger made plenty of history in her first full-time season with the CARS Pro Late Model Tour.
Among the milestones Hettinger accumulated in 2023 included becoming the first woman in the CARS Tour to win a Rookie of the Year and lead the championship standings across either series. While she would have preferred a PLM Tour title, Hettinger was more than satisfied with her season.
“Even though I didn’t win the championship, it means a lot that I’m the first female to win Rookie of the Year,” Hettinger said. “We really wanted that title, but being able to come out of the season with some kind of award and a second-place points finish was really cool for me and my team.”
When Hettinger joined Anthony Campi Racing over the offseason, she felt confident about her chances to claim the PLM Tour championship with the cars provided by the organization.
The key to finding consistency for Hettinger involved spending as much time with Campi and his team as possible. Hettinger’s commitment to improve ended up translating onto the track, as she led the PLM Tour championship standings for most of 2023 up until late in the summer.
Although momentum shifted away from Hettinger as the season progressed, she came away from 2023 believing she had matured as a driver, adding the Bilstein PLM Rookie of the Year award reflects that growth.
“I learned a lot about my race craft,” Hettinger said. “I had to make sure I was driving everyone as clean as I could. When it comes to championship points racing, [clean racing] really matters. I didn’t want to rough anyone up to make sure we didn’t have any enemies.”
Hettinger plans to keep building on the momentum from 2023 as she takes the next step in her development. Her schedule for next is still uncertain, but Hettinger wants to stay involved in Pro Late Models while also competing in more Late Model Stock events.
There are still many aspects Hettinger knows she needs to improve upon, but she has never felt more assured when it comes to her capabilities behind the wheel. With a solid 2023 in the PLM Tour behind her, Hettinger’s goal is to show everyone she can win races and one day make it to the top levels of NASCAR.
“All of this really helps my confidence,” Hettinger said. “We fell short of a championship, but we did have a lot of success, which helped me build confidence as a female driver in this sport. I belong here and having other people I race against tell me that really means a lot.”
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 704-0662-9212.