MOORESVILLE, N.C. —The Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour will have new ownership when the green flag waves in March. NASCAR icons Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Justin Marks announced their acquisition of the Southeast’s premier asphalt late model series from longtime owner Jack McNelly on Monday.
“This is a dream come true for me,” said Earnhardt. “I’m a huge fan of the CARS Tour and local short-track racing. The competition, the tracks, and the drivers are some of the best around. These regional series are vital to the quality of racing you see at the top level. Jack (McNelly, CARS Tour founder) has done a tremendous job establishing the CARS Tour as a preeminent series and I’m thrilled to be part of its future.”
Aside from the ownership transition, the CARS Tour will remain unchanged. The schedule is set with 19 race weekends and McNelly and his staff will continue to oversee operations and track events.
The key addition will be the industry expertise brought by the current owners’ respective business units: DEJ Management, Jeff Burton Autosports, Inc., Kevin Harvick, Inc. and Trackhouse Racing.
The contingent will collectively aim to bolster the health and longevity of the CARS Tour by providing proficiencies in brand management, business strategy and partnership acquisition and retention.
“Owning and developing the CARS Tour has been an honor and one I’m immensely proud of,” said McNelly. “Fortunately, it’s in the best of hands with this new group. They have the passion and talent to take the tour to the next level. I can’t wait to see what this next chapter brings for everyone involved.
“I give my heartfelt thanks to all that have contributed to the success of the series over the years. It has truly been a team effort. The CARS Tour staff, officials, competitors, sponsors and fans have made this series one of the best in the country.”
Earnhardt, Burton, Harvick and Marks are all former or current drivers. Both Earnhardt Jr. and Burton grew up racing regionally in the Southeast while Marks was bitten by the short-track bug after competing in several high-profile late model races. Harvick cut his teeth in regional action on the West Coast.
“I grew up racing late model stock cars on the West Coast,” said Harvick, the 2014 Cup Series champion with 60 wins to his credit. “Late model racing has always been a passion of mine and I want to ensure short-track asphalt racing and the CARS Tour continue to grow and succeed. I look forward to sharing the responsibility with this like-minded group of racers.”
Founded in 2014 as a continuation of the former Pro Cup Series, the CARS Tour enters its ninth season this year.
Uniquely, the CARS Tour features both Pro Late Models and Late Model Stock Cars competing at the same track on the same night, becoming the first series of its kind to host two premier divisions under its banner at the same event.
“This is something I’m really excited about, not only for Trackhouse and the initiatives that we’re pursuing, but for short-track racing in general,” said Marks. “Asphalt late model racing truly is the foundation of NASCAR and bringing a group like this together will serve the racer and fan. The CARS Tour is so important to the racing scene in the Southeast, and this group can bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and passion to the series that will ensure authentic and valuable growth in the years to come.”
The CARS Tour has produced numerous notable drivers, including Josh Berry, Harrison Burton, William Byron, Ty Gibbs, Sam Mayer and Myatt Snider as well as current series stars such as Carson Kvapil, Deac McCaskill, Bobby McCarty and Layne Riggs.
“The opportunity to work with a group of partners that I have so much respect for in the sport that I love is amazing,” added Burton,. “Collectively, I believe we can contribute to grass-roots racing and the overall health of motorsports in the process. By building off the positive foundation Jack has built, I’m confident we can create a next-level experience for the competitors, partners and fans.”
The CARS Tour season kicks off at Southern National Motorsports Park (Kenly, N.C.) on March 11.