Carson Kvapil, Mike Hopkins take victories in historic night at Hickory Motor Speedway

The largest field ever assembled in the history of the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour for the Tuff Shed 250 at Hickory Motor Speedway gave fans everything they asked for and more.

A total of 29 cars took the green flag for the 100-lap PLM Tour race while the LMSC Tour had to narrow down a 41-car entry list to 32 through the introduction of a last chance qualifier. Intense racing dominated an evening that culminated in two of the best finishes the CARS Tour has seen in its nine-year history.

Familiar faces ultimately took home checkered flags in each event. Carson Kvapil strengthened his points lead in the LMSC Tour with his second win in three races, all while Mike Hopkins survived two green-white-checkered attempts for another victory in the PLM Tour.

Carson Kvapil barely hangs on for second straight win

A dominant run for Carson Kvapil in the Tuff Shed 250 nearly came to an end on the last lap.

Connor Hall had gradually erased Kvapil’s advantage during the final 26 laps, forcing Kvapil to go on defense. Hall managed to reach Kvapil’s bumper in Turn 3 and nudged him out of the groove, but the defending CARS LMSC Tour champion edged Hall in the ensuing photo finish.

Kvapil described the closing moments of the LMSC Tour feature as nerve-wracking but rewarding.

“I knew [Hall] close and we were matching [on lap times],” Kvapil said. “One mistake from me and he’d be right there, so I was trying to be consistent. I started to come off the bottom with about five to go and I was driving as hard as I could. He tried to give himself a shot to win it at the end, but all in all, it was a good race.”

Through three races, the LMSC Tour championship outlook bares many similarities to the 2022 season.

Even though Kvapil has one more win at this point compared to the previous year, he has once again established himself as the title favorite. Despite this, Saturday’s Tuff Shed 250 showed just how close the front of the LMSC Tour field is with Hall applying relentless pressure on Kvapil for the victory.

A few months removed from his Throwback 276 win at Hickory, Hall’s second place run came after he grinded his way through the field from a starting position of ninth. He was conservative with his tires and believed his car was just as strong as Kvapil’s, but ultimately ran out of time before making the move he wanted.  

“We started further back in the field than we wanted and had a loose car,” Hall said. “I thought we managed enough tire and were very equal with [Kvapil] during the last few laps. Right at the end, I was able to force the issue and catch him, but everything kind of worked against me. It’s always harder being the chaser compared to being the leader.”

Hall said his second in the Tuff Shed 250 was a step in the right direction for him and Chad Bryant Racing following a disappointing run at Florence Motor Speedway but knows wins will be imperative to chase down Kvapil for the championship.

Just like last night, Kvapil understands he will have to play defense to stay in front of a deep, competitive field on the LMSC Tour. Having been in this position before, Kvapil feels more confident in his own ability to defend the LMSC Tour title but stressed the importance of perfectly executing on every race weekend.

“It’s the same thing as last year, we’ve got to be consistent,” Kvapil said. “You can’t make any mistakes and we have to finish all the races. Our performance so far this year has been superb, even better than last year, but it’s all about consistency. That’s what it takes to win the CARS Tour championship.”

Mike Hopkins stays perfect on 2023 PLM Tour season

The second win for Mike Hopkins in the CARS PLM Tour proved to be much more challenging than his first.

Facing opposition from young prospects in Brent Crews, Connor Zilisch and Isabella Robusto all night, Hopkins had to stay vigilant behind the wheel and ended up visiting victory lane again, but not before spinning off the front nose of Crews at the end of a heated battle to the checkered flag.

Hopkins admitted to being anxious knowing he would have to settle the PLM Tour feature over a green-white-checkered finish, but he was not going to give Crews or Zilisch any breathing room during those two laps.

“I just kept digging,” Hopkins said. “I’ve never gotten one [at Hickory] and I wanted it bad. I didn’t want to see that [late caution] but I can’t thank these Port City [Racecars] guys enough. I also can’t thank the fans [enough because] that was a show at the end.”

Hopkins originally wasn’t even on the entry list for the Tuff Shed 250.

A veteran driver from Hermon, Maine with victories in the ACT Late Model Tour and the Pro All Star Series, Hopkins intended to run sporadically in the PLM Tour during the 2023 season but elected to test his luck at one of the southeast’s most historic tracks with 28 other competitors.

Hopkins had finished inside the Top 5 on four different occasions at Hickory prior to his triumph in Saturday’s Tuff Shed 250. While he was overjoyed to finally park in Hickory’s victory lane, Hopkins said the evening was more significant with his car owner checking a notable accomplishment off his resume.

“This is such a cool place and we’re right in the heart of NASCAR country,” Hopkins said. “Gary Crooks, who owns Port City Racecars, has been coming down to North Carolina for 28 years and has never gotten a win [at Hickory]. I’m pretty proud to get him his first win.”

Despite sweeping the first two races on the PLM Tour calendar, Hopkins still plans to take a race-by-race approach with his schedule but does plan to keep visiting the series as it continues to grow under the ownership of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Justin Marks.

Potential history for Isabella Robusto ends in heartbreak

Since the inception of the CARS Tour in 2015, no woman has taken a checkered flag in any division of the series.

That milestone was nearly achieved by Isabella Robusto in the 100-lap CARS PLM Tour feature at Hickory, who enjoyed the best run of her career until two laps remaining when contact with Mike Hopkins caused her to crash hard into the inside retaining wall.

Robusto emerged uninjured from the crash and climbed into her Late Model Stock moments later, but she was not happy with the way Hopkins raced her as they battled for the win.

“I had [Hopkins] trapped behind a lapped car,” Robusto said. “He tried to clear himself before he got trapped and got into my front tire. Something broke and it shot straight towards the wall. I hate it for my guys because we definitely had the car to win.”

Robusto’s evening had already been eventful prior to the contact with Hopkins.

After starting in the eighth position, Robusto utilized her Late Model Stock experience at Hickory to methodically climb through the field until she reached the back bumper of leader Connor Zilisch. As Zilisch checked up for the lapped car of Rusty Skewes, Robusto got into his back bumper, turning him sideways on the frontstretch.

Robusto was not penalized for the contact and spent the rest of the PLM Tour feature attempting to put as much distance between herself and Hopkins. Those efforts proved to be in vain, as Hopkins ended up celebrating the win while Robusto and Donnie Wilson Motorsports were left with the pieces of a battered car.

Although the promising night ended in a disappointing 19th, Robusto got the experience she had been looking for in a Pro Late Model at the beginning of the week and will look to bounce back from Saturday’s heartbreak over the remaining 11 races.


Following a thrilling Tuff Shed 250, both divisions of the CARS Tour will get some rest before heading to Altamahaw, N.C. for the series’ first visit to Ace Speedway on the 2023 season. The race will be streamed live on FloRacing.

For more information on the CARS Late Model Stock Tour and the CARS Pro Late Model Tour, visit 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.

LMSC Results:

  1. 8 Carson Kvapil
  2. 77 Connor Hall
  3. 10 Kaden Honeycutt
  4. 16 Chad McCumbee
  5. 08 Deac McCaskill
  6. 24 Mason Diaz
  7. 95 Jacob Heafner
  8. 57 Connor Zilisch
  9. 43 William Sawalich
  10. 03 Brenden Queen
  11. 15 Ryan Millington
  12. 44 Conner Jones
  13. 98 Cody Kelley
  14. 2 Brandon Pierce
  15. 9W Charlie Watson
  16. 1 Andrew Grady
  17. 8B Chase Burrow
  18. 4 Dylon Wilson
  19. 97A Colby Howard
  20. 75 Landon Huffman
  21. 55 Isabella Robusto
  22. 32 Zack Miracle -1
  23. 67 Cameron Bolin -1
  24. 42 Carson Brown -4
  25. 81 Mini Tyrrell — OUT
  26. 04 Ronnie Bassett Jr. — OUT
  27. 99 Layne Riggs — OUT
  28. 09 Riley Gentry — OUT
  29. 14 Lanie Buice — OUT
  30. 6 Bobby McCarty — OUT
  31. 23 Kade Brown — OUT
  32. 9 Ashton Higgins — OUT

PLM Results:

  1. 15H Mike Hopkins
  2. 24C Brent Crews
  3. 25 Connor Zilisch
  4. 54 Matt Craig
  5. 26 Dawson Sutton
  6. 81 Katie Hettinger
  7. 15B Luke Baldwin
  8. 9 Ashton Higgins
  9. 5B Gavan Boschele
  10. 7 Tristan McKee
  11. 96 Caden Kvapil
  12. 27 Lee Tissot
  13. 15 Brett Suggs
  14. 43H Josh Horniman
  15. 49M Luke Morey -1
  16. 8 Rusty Skewes -1
  17. 24 Jadyn Daniels -1
  18. 97 Dylan Garner -1
  19. 28 Isabella Robusto — OUT
  20. 13 Austin MacDoanld — OUT
  21. 43 Nick Loden — OUT
  22. 44L Michael Lichtfeld — OUT
  23. 44 Justin Whitaker — OUT
  24. 48 Jeff Batten — OUT
  25. 6 George Phillips — OUT
  26. 03 Kyle Campbell — OUT
  27. 2 Hudson Canipe — OUT
  28. 77 Logan Jones — OUT
  29. 5 Zac Fowler — OUT