Sam and the Triple R Racing team took their No. 81 Late Model back to Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) for some Saturday night racing, but not just any race. Sam would try his hand at the CARS Tour, where some of the best Late Model drivers compete at tracks all over the southeast. It would be a true test of Sam’s capabilities and endurance. Having never run a race that came close to 100 laps, he would now run 150. Sam would have to conserve his tires, keep his brakes cool, and keep his head in the race if he wanted to be anywhere near a shot to win at the end. An anonymous person picked Sam to be the favorite to win. “He’s one that nobody is really thinking could do it being that it’s his first CARS Tour race. I think he’s got it he’s my pick to win it!”
The day started with the unveiling of Triple R Racing’s new car and paint scheme. The team worked tirelessly to make sure that the car would be ready to make its debut in time. Sporting some new colors, this was a weekend of new things for Sam. He ran his traditional red, black, and white, but felt there was something missing. If you’re gonna win, you’ve got to go for gold and that’s what Sam did to his numbers.
Sam took his car out for some practice rounds as the team tried different things to give the car a competitive edge and to find every tenth they could. Finding a setup that Sam and the team both liked, Sam went out for qualifying. The order for qualifying would be set at random. No car would have an advantage over another. Sam rolled off second and laid down his best qualifying time ever at Hickory Motor Speedway with a time of 15.111. After all 25 cars had submitted their time, Sam was locked into a respectable 11th place starting position. The Super Late Models would have their feature first, which would give Sam, his crew chief, and team owner a chance to watch and take notes. Sam would see how drivers saved tires, set themselves up for the best position for a restart going into a competition caution, and what burning the equipment up early would do to the car.
Sam was nervous before the cars took the track, but he had a confidence about him that everyone could see. He was as prepared as he could be and took the track. When the green flag dropped, the nerves stopped and Sam went to work. Battling with some more experienced drivers, Sam would lose the 11th place position on lap 2 to a car forcing his way down on him. The 13th place car was challenging him hard on the outside, but Sam wouldn’t allow him to get by. By lap 11, Sam had maneuvered his way up to 9th and was running strong. Sam’s spotter came over the radio and told him to save some tires, that he was in a good position for the time being. Sam would follow his spotter’s advice. On lap 18, Sam came up on the cars running 7th and 8th, who he was quicker than, and made a very bold decision. Sam rolled to the top groove and passed both cars on the outside like they were sitting still. Working his way up to the 6th position, he would be constantly challenged on the outside and would lose the position dropping back to 7th. Sam was happy where he was and continued saving tires. Lap 31 brought out a caution and Sam’s spotter asked how his car was handling. Sam replied, “This car is absolutely perfect! I can go wherever I need to go and my tires have plenty of life left in them.” On the restart, Sam was in 7th and down on the bottom, but the 8th place car got a massive run and passed Sam on the outside taking the 7th place spot from him. Sam bounced around between 7th and 9th until the competition caution came out on lap 71. Again the spotter checked on the car and how it was driving. Sam replied, “I think I’m in a rocket ship!! This car is amazing. I feel like I’m on a constant quick lap in qualifying and I have a ton of tire left.” Sam restarted 7th following the caution. These cautions give the drivers a chance to catch their breath and let the tires cool a little bit. This worked out perfect for Sam. On lap 72, He dove down under the 6th place car and to the spot with ease. The top 7 cars had pulled away at this point leaving a big gap. The caution comes out on lap 90 with Sam still in 6th when his spotter checks in on him once more. “Hey Sam, Hows the car, and are you having fun?” Sam replied in a very excited tone, “Jerry, I’m having a hell of a time! This is awesome!” With Sam restarting in 6th, he would be on the outside for the first time tonight. He battled the inside car for a lap or two and decided it would be better to save his tires for a late-race run instead of taking the position now. Sam bounced between 6th and 8th until lap 118. His tires were wearing out. He was sliding up the banking, but holding his line as best he could. A freight train of three cars came to his inside and sent him falling to tenth. Lap 130, a car passes Sam on the inside and a crossover maneuver is attempted, but Sam couldn’t get it to stick dropping him to 11th. Lap 136, Sam is back up to 10th when a caution comes out. Sam comes over the radio and says, “The right rear is long gone and I’m all over the place. I can make it work, but I’m going to have to run a higher line.” Sam and the crew chief discuss a strategy and the green flag is displayed. Sam clears the inside car to retain the 10th position. With two laps to go, the 11th place car looks to Sam’s inside and gives him a nudge. With his tires basically worn out, there wasn’t much he could do. Sam fell to 11th and finished there.
A solid run for this rookie driver. He went into a new tour, with a new car, and showed why he shouldn’t be taken lightly. Sam thoroughly enjoyed the longer races as opposed to the shorter ones he has been accustomed to. Sam and the team are starting to turn heads in a positive way and people are considering them to be a real contender to win each race.
Story Provided by Zack Wyatt 3 Aces Media