HICKORY, NC – A lack of fans in attendance failed to take anything away from two intense Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour races that saw Corey Heim obtain his first victory in a Late Model, while Bubba Pollard outdueled Matt Craig to obtain the win in the SLM feature.
Pollard initially struggled to gain track position at the beginning of the race, but he admitted that he got his car right where he needed it to be for him to make a charge at Craig during the closing stages.
“I kind of fell back there on low air pressure, and I needed to let my tires build up before I could take off and build some momentum,” Pollard said. “We were able to work our way up to sixth and we just picked our way through, and [Matt’s] car and my car were about equal at the end.”
After taking the lead from Kodie Conner on lap 3, Craig proceeded to pull away from the rest of the field while simultaneously saving his tires to ensure that his car was strong enough to hold off any potential late-race charges.
Pollard proved to be up to the challenge by methodically working his way through the field and through lap traffic to put himself on Craig’s back bumper as the laps wound down.
With less than five laps remaining, Pollard managed to pull alongside Craig for the lead. The duo would trade paint on several occasions and remained side by side as the white flag was displayed.
Pollard began to gain an advantage on the bottom of the track, which forced Craig to drive his car hard into Turn 3 on the final lap. Craig lost control and spun by himself in Turn 4, while Pollard cruised on to victory.
“I got a little free off of (Turn 2) on the last lap and I was trying to grab that little bit of extra throttle and I messed up,” Craig said. “I was out of control on the whole back straightaway, but that was a good race. We won the battle at the Throwback 276 last year and Bubba won the battle today, so that was good, hard racing.”
Pollard, who was tagged with a five-race suspension following a post-race altercation with Craig following last August’s Throwback 276, affirmed that he did not forget about their history and was determined to get the most out of his car and beat Craig to the checkered flag.
“I race Matt more aggressive now than ever,” Pollard said. “I’m not going to back down from him and I’m not going to give him an inch because he doesn’t deserve an inch. I raced him smart, but I didn’t race him dirty. I didn’t tag him from the back. I waited until the last lap and I was able to get a run on him.”
Once Pollard was done with his victory celebrations, the Solid Rock Carriers CARS LMSC Tour took to the track for their feature, where Corey Heim was able to pull away for the win after passing Layne Riggs halfway through the event.
Heim wanted to secure that first Late Model victory after being disqualified from two victories at South Boston and coming up short in the 2018 ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville, but he knew that he would have to be patient to accomplish that goal at Hickory.
“The first half involved a lot of riding and feeling things out,” Heim said. “I wanted to see what both [Layne Riggs] and [Ryan Millington] had, but the tires were definitely there for me on the longer run, and if I had control of the race, then I could really set sail.”
Heim led the opening 20 laps until Riggs utilized the high line to pass him for the lead. Heim would get the lead back from Riggs on a Lap 30 restart, but it would only take a dozen laps for Riggs to once again take control of the top spot.
A competition caution on lap 71 allowed Heim to regroup and make another charge at Riggs. Five laps later, Heim pulled alongside the No. 99 and took control of the lead, which he would not surrender for the remainder of the race.
Riggs did everything possible to try and gain momentum on the high side of the track, but his car got loose during the second half of the feature, which caused him to fade to fifth place by the time the checkered flag was displayed.
“We’ve been working on the setup of the car and it keeps getting free somehow,” Riggs said. “We just need to do more testing and keep working on the car, but we need to be prepared when something like that happens. This is just new to us and we’re learning along the way.”
A spin by Millington with 14 laps to go did not deter Heim, as he was able to get another great restart and pull away from the rest of the field. Gage Painter finished a career-best second in only his fourth career CARS Tour start, while Nolan Pope came home in third.
Heim credited everyone at Lee Pulliam Performance for consistently putting together great cars, but also admitted that finally breaking his winless drought in Late Models came with tremendous relief.
“That car definitely deserved to win,” Heim said. “That car has been so good to us, but we’ve just had some bad luck here and there. We should have won a bunch of big races, but getting such a big win in the CARS Tour tonight feels awesome, especially with this car.”
Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour Release
Photos courtesy of Brandon Zumbach
1) 22 Trevor Noles 14.730
2) 45 Kodie Conner 14.756
3) 26 Bubba Pollard 14.758
4) 54 Matt Craig 14.771
5) 7j Justin Crider 14.786
6) 51 Chandler Smith 14.805
7) 49 Jeff Batten 14.863
8) 35k Carson Kvapil 14.869
9) 01 Jake Crum 14.870
10) 51s Sammy Smith 14.881
11) 35 Jake Garcia 14.887
12) 9 Hudson Halder 14.904
13) 20 Harrison Halder 14.911
14) 1 Nolan Pope 14.975
15) 7c Tyler Church 14.977
16) 7 Jeremy Barclay 15.695
1) 26 Bubba Pollard
2) 51 Chandler Smith
3) 54 Matt Craig
4) 45 Kodie Connor
5) 1 Nolan Pope
6) 51s Sammy Smith
7) 22 Trevor Noles
8) 35 Jake Garcia
9) 01 Jake Crum
10) 20 Harrison Halder
11) 9 Hudson Halder
12) 49 Jeff Batten
13) 7 Jeremy Barclay
14) 7c Tyler Church
About the CARS Tour
The Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour is one of the premier short track series in the United States. Drivers compete in Late Model Stock Cars and Super Late Models at the best short tracks across the Carolinas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia. The CARS Tour can be found on Facebook at “CARS Tour”, on Twitter @CARSTour, and on Instagram as @CARS_Tour. For more information, visit www.carsracingtour.com or call their Mooresville, N.C. offices at 704.662.9212.