HICKORY, N.C. – Matt Craig led nearly every lap of Saturday’s CARS Super Late Model Tour opener at Hickory Motor Speedway, but he didn’t have the honor of leading the most important one.
Instead that honor went to Carson Kvapil, who snookered Craig on the final lap to steal his first series victory.
Wheeling the No. 35 super late model prepared by his father, 2003 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil, the younger Kvapil spent nearly the entire 100-lap distance chasing Craig.
Kvapil was never more than a few car lengths away from Craig throughout the race and he really began to close the gap in the final 10 laps. With five laps left Kvapil was right behind Craig and hounding him for the lead.
On the final lap Kvapil made his move, moving below Craig coming out of turn two. Craig gave up the position and pulled the crossover on Kvapil, diving back under him as they raced into turn three.
They came out of turn four side-by-side, with Kvapil beating Craig to the finish line by .010 seconds to earn his first CARS Super Late Model Tour victory.
“I was on him the last two laps,” Kvapil said. “I gave him a shove him in the center and got him up the track a little bit and got under him and just piled into (turn) three. I think we both did. I washed up the track and he crossed me over, so I cut back down and got the run down the straightaway.”
Craig was left frustrated in the immediate aftermath of the finish and briefly confronted Kvapil in victory lane, where he had some choice word for the 17-year-old.
“My right-rear (tire) was giving up. I ran really hard,” Craig said. “They’ve got their program going pretty good, but I saw him fly in on my left side. I knew if I didn’t try to back out of the hole and try the crossover, he was going to fence me off of (turn) four. He barely made the corner with me out there, so he was definitely going to run into me.”
Kvapil said he didn’t understand exactly why Craig was upset.
“We were both going for the win. We’re both going to drive it into the corner,” Kvapil said. “I know he’d do the same thing to me. If I was on the outside he wouldn’t just let me have the win. I’m sure he’d do the same thing. I don’t really get it. I don’t think I did anything wrong.”
Ryan Moore finished third, followed by T.J. Duke and Northern invader Garrett Hall.
Carson Kvapil, Matt Craig, Ryan Moore, T.J. Duke, Garrett Hall, Justin Crider, Ben Rowe, Michael Ritch, Jeff Batten, Jacob Perry, Mike Hopkins, Jeremy Barclay, Kodie Conner, Brandon Setzer.