Connor Hall makes practice laps Wednesday afternoon at North Wilkesboro Speedway. (Grace Woelbing photo)

CARS Tour Drivers On North Wilkesboro Repave: ‘It’s Fast’

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — “It’s fast.” 

That was the general consensus among the CARS Tour late model stock cars drivers who set up shop at the newly repaved North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway on Wednesday for an all-day practice session. 

On the fresh asphalt, the late models were traveling the .625-mile track about one second quicker than they did last year.

Brenden Queen, the defending Window World 125 race winner, holds the late model stock car track record on the old asphalt — 19.125 seconds. 

“There’s definitely character, so that’s something to be happy about,” Queen said on Wednesday. “Obviously the managing part on tires is probably not gonna be there, because there’s so much grip, so we just hope that the hard tire we’re running doesn’t hurt the racing. 

“That would probably be my biggest worry, just because I know how hard tires race. You typically end up having to race yourself instead of somebody else — you’re just sliding around.”

He participated in both the initial tire test the CARS Tour held at North Wilkesboro in late March, as well as Wednesday’s practice in his No. 03 Lee Pulliam Performance late model, which has combined to give him a good idea of what to expect when the series competes at the track on May 14-15. 

So, what exactly do faster lap times mean for the racing? 

“I think the racing will probably be tighter just because I think the surface is going to be so forgiving,” said Connor Hall, who currently leads the CARS Tour standings. “If you were loose on the old surface, like you were cooked because the tires wore out so fast and it was about tire management and stuff like that.

“Now I feel like it’s gonna be 125 qualifying laps and you know, whoever can just kind of man up and do the best job behind the wheel and have the best car I think will obviously win.” 

Hall finished fourth during last year’s Window World 125. 

Kaden Honeycutt — who competes part time in the NASCAR Xfinity and Truck Series — finished fifth in last season’s late model stock car race, one spot behind Hall. 

In most cases, that top five would be a source of comfort upon returning to the track, but this situation is a little different, considering the track repave. 

That’s why, for the most part, Honeycutt feels he might as well throw last year’s result out the window and focus on learning the new surface. 

“I know what to expect, especially knowing the shape (of the track) and what I can and can’t do,” Honeycutt said, referring to the uphill backstretch and downhill frontstretch that makes North Wilkesboro unique. 

He continued, “It’s going to be all about throttle time, as much as you can roll the center. If you can maximize that and keep heat out of your tires, you’ll have a good day after that.”

Honeycutt didn’t have the best introduction to North Wilkesboro last year, as he spent a lot of his practice and qualifying time fixing the car, due to issues that arose with the 40-year-old track surface. 

On the upside, Honeycutt’s practice day on Wednesday went much smoother. 

“Definitely not going to have track problems. I think it’ll be interesting,” Honeycutt said. “I think there’ll actually be a couple groove racing whenever rubber starts getting put down and more cars get on the race track. Like I said, it’s definitely fast.”

He noted that, with the new track, much of the performance will depend on who has the best motor, who can make the most of the restarts and who can keep momentum rolling in the corners. 

“Probably will be the most interesting race of the year,” Honeycutt offered.  

Thirty-seven late model stock cars made laps on Wednesday.