As what is being promoted as the richest late model stock car event in history, gets ready to go green on Nov. 27 at Southern National (N.C.) Motorsports Park, Matt McCall is ready to get back behind the wheel.
McCall, a two-time winner of the Thanksgiving Classic (2017-’18), will be looking for his third victory in the event that will pay $50,000-to-win for the first time.
Though a challenge heading into the weekend is preparation and track time.
The Denver, N.C., native’s full-time gig being a crew chief for 2012 NASCAR Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski, doesn’t allow him much time to race.
“We just try to go back when we can to race. I enjoy it, but it’s about the only race that’s opportunity for late model stock after the season,”” McCall said. “So, obviously, this year is a little bit of an outlier. There were some more races, we just didn’t do a good enough job planning ahead to try to run a couple of them.”
Without having much time inside the cockpit, McCall will be leaning on his previous experience.
“That’s the tough part, right? Because, you’re going to race guys that race every week,” McCall said. “The biggest thing is just try to go make some laps. I was able to practice yesterday for a little bit. It’s based off of experience, really, not a ton of time to do a bunch of prep work.”
Fortunately for McCall, he’ll be familiar with the car this weekend, having raced the same machine for the past several years.
“It’’s the same car we’ve had since I think we built it in 2011. It only races when I race,”” McCall said. “Me and Wendell (Davis, car owner) have that car, and that probably helps a lot. It’s the same car all the time. So, a little bit what most people would think is out of date, but we’ll see. I felt OK about it.
“I think that it’s gonna be a long race and a little bit different strategy this year, I think than it’s ever been, so we’ll see how it plays out.”
Strategy brings on a new challenge for McCall and the other 48 drivers entered into the race.
With the length of the event spanning 250 laps around the four-tenths-mile oval, McCall believes tire conservation will be the deciding factor.
“It’s just going to be tire conservation. I think that the track appears to have worn even more, the tire wears up a little bit,” McCall said. “Some of these guys that race every week, probably have a better feel for that. I don’t know if it’s necessarily saving as much tires as you would try to save at a Florence (Motor Speedway) or old Myrtle Beach style, but, in that realm of not being able to run hard the whole time.”
Each competitor is only allotted eight tires for Sunday’s race, giving the teams and drivers a lot to chew on prior to the start.
“You don’t really know where you’re gonna put your tires on,” McCall said. “That’s the biggest thing is trying to figure that out, of what you need to do throughout the race to not run too hard, to put yourself in a good spot to have good tires at the end.”
Another twist heading into the event, is not knowing when the controlled cautions will fall.
“The last time I ran, it was in 2018, and they did that controlled caution. Well, you don’t really know exactly when the control cautions are,” McCall said. “During those you can put your tires on. Well, with it being a 250-lap race and an eight-tire race, it could turn into waiting a long time to put your tires on.
“I’ve not heard if they’ve clarified how late they would do a controlled caution,” McCall added. “So I think some of it’s a little bit unknown, but I feel like the extra 50 laps definitely, changes some of it.”
Despite the massive unknowns, McCall’s success in the event will give the 41-year-old a boost of confidence, ahead of a grueling 250 circuits.
All three days of action will be produced by PitRowTV and broadcast by SPEED SPORT affiliate, SNMPark.tv.