HICKORY, N.C. — Both feature winners in Saturday evening’s Tuff Shed 250 at Hickory Motor Speedway each had the privilege of bringing home their first Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour victory.
Chad McCumbee and William Sawalich, who were victorious in the late model stock and pro late model features, respectively, also claimed poles ahead of Saturday’s on-track action and both had to survive strong challenges in the closing laps.
The similarities between the two end there, as Sawalich’s career is only just beginning in full-bodied stock cars, while McCumbee’s extensive auto racing background includes experience in all three of NASCAR’s national touring series.
Despite having plenty of success in late model stock competition such as a victory in the Myrtle Beach 400 back in 2018, a CARS Tour victory had always eluded McCumbee since making his first start back in 2015.
McCumbee utilized his experience at the abrasive Myrtle Beach to properly save his tires from the pole position, which allowed him to take advantage of late contact between Carson Kvapil and Layne Riggs so he could finally break through for that elusive first victory.
“It came down to the evolution of the racetrack tonight,” McCumbee said. “[The sealer] started coming up off the bottom and that really helped the top on restarts. Our car needed laps and every restart it took us a couple of laps to get going. When we were positioned on the inside, it just wasn’t advantageous for us but the [sealer] helped me get that momentum up top.”
After leading the first 80 laps with minimal issues, McCumbee was fully expecting to lose the lead once the fast cars stopped being conservative.
Riggs was the first one to overtake McCumbee on a restart with 49 laps remaining by powering past him on the top side. McCumbee would then get blocked by Conner Jones a couple of restarts later, enabling Kvapil to pass him for second and set his sights on Riggs up front.
The two talented young drivers engaged in a fierce battle for the lead until Kvapil made slight contact with Riggs while trying to block him off turn four. This gave McCumbee the opening he needed to re-take the lead and pull away during the closing laps.
“That was good hard racing,” McCumbee said. “These guys [at McCumbee-Elliott Racing] were the ones that kept me in it. I thought we were done but as those long runs progressed, I realized that were still in contention, so I have to thank the good Lord for getting us here and hopefully we can keep this momentum going.”
Riggs was hoping that he would come out on the positive end of his hard-fought battle with Kvapil and McCumbee for the win at Hickory.
“I just needed a little bit of a better car,” Riggs said. “Chad [McCumbee] ran a smart race and saved a little bit more than we did. We were bumping and grinding on that last restart and got pushed into the wall a bit. I hated that but this was a great run for us, our car is one piece, and the program is getting a lot better.”
Kvapil was doing everything possible to engage in a clean, competitive race with both Riggs and McCumbee but admitted that qualifying ultimately determined which of the three would celebrate at the end of the night.
“We were really done there at the end,” Kvapil said. “I thought we were in good shape near the end of the race but I started 13th and Chad [McCumbee] was on the front row. Passing 12 extra people than he did just killed the tires. I didn’t mean to get into Riggs but we had a fast car. We just didn’t have enough at the end.”
The second-place finish did serve to pad Kvapil’s lead over the rest of the CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour field after he opened the 2022 season by taking home a $30,000 paycheck in the Old North State Nationals at Caraway Speedway.
Sawalich successfully kept his car out of trouble to finish fourth in his CARS Late Model Stock Car Tour debut.
Just a couple of hours earlier, Sawalich had to hold off a hard charge from Caden Kvapil at the end of the 100-lap CARS Pro Late Model Tour feature to register his first victory driving a car prepared by Dennis and Brandon Setzer.
“I have to credit all of my guys,” Sawalich said. “While it certainly wasn’t easy, everything was compliant. It was awesome to get my first CARS Tour win at Hickory since this place is so special to Brandon and Dennis Setzer. I just can’t wait for the other races to come.”
The event was broadcast live by CARSTour.tv.
Chad McCumbee, Carson Kvapil, Layne Riggs, William Sawalich, Chase Burrow, Brandon Pierce, Kaden Honeycutt, Bobby McCarty, Andrew Grady, Carter Langley, Janson Marchbanks, Mason Diaz, Trevor Ward, Justin Johnson, Connor Hall, Conner Jones, Hayden Swank, Dylan Ward, Chase Dixon, Taylor Satterfield, Braden Rogers, Colby Higgins, Zack Miracle, Jacob Heafner, Mike Looney, Jonathan Shafer, Mike Darne