Conner Jones has tried just about everything to find consistency in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour.
Circumstances ended up favoring the Fredericksburg, Va. native on Saturday night as he fought his way to the front of the pack and survived the onslaught of end-of-race warnings to end what had been two years of adversity in the Late Model Stocks.
“Last year was a tough year and this one has been tough so far as well,” Jones said. “I think it’s a turning point where we can really start to go out and win more races. I couldn’t do this without all the guys who worked on the car.
Jones admitted that Tri-County has become one of his favorite tracks, adding that the recent repaving of the facility’s four corners has given him and everyone else the chance to run multiple grooves, especially in the final laps.
Seeing how aggressive his competition became with each restart, Jones knew he couldn’t put in any punches while chasing his first victory. That mindset became more apparent once he came face-to-face with current LMSC Tour points leader Carson Kvapil on the final restart.
The two had already traded blows in a previous restart, but managed to fight their way forward. One last assertive push from Jones was enough for him to overtake Kvapil and pull away for a cathartic first CARS Tour victory.
“It just got to a point where you have to arm yourself and back off,” Jones said. “Congratulations to Carson, because he had a hell of a race, but he also made me run well. It’s driven me a few times, but it’s just a tough race, especially when you’re trying to get everything off the track.
As for Kvapil, the JR Motorsports driver was just thrilled to come out of Hudson, North Carolina with a top five finish.
After colliding with Connor Hall and being moved to the middle of the pack, Kvapil took advantage of quick restarts to get back to the point, but eventually had to settle for fourth after a tough race with Jones that lost him a again his position on the track. .
“It was a demolition derby,” Kvapil said of the race. “Just caution after caution. We could hold on to the lead, but two laps later we would get a warning. It was a bunch of short runs and I felt we had a better car on the long runs. [Conner] Jones just gave me a little carry on this last restart, but we were just chasing the win, so I can’t be too upset about that.
Kvapil’s eventful night didn’t even end once the checkered flag was displayed.
Frustrated with how Zack Miracle fought him off in the final sprint to the finish, Kvapil vented his frustration to the young rider by turning Miracle into an outer retaining wall on the reload lap, causing damage important to the latter’s car.
Miracle said everyone had to fight for every position with the difficulty of getting through the entire evening. While Miracle was disappointed with what happened after the checkered flag, he couldn’t help but feel elated after bringing home such a strong race.
“It was our very first podium on the CARS circuit,” said Miracle. “I can’t even describe the emotions right now, but I’m so proud of my guys. They work super hard every week. The damage is significant but we will come back to the race.
Miracle admitted he was stunned by Kvapil’s post-race maneuver. He didn’t believe his battle with Kvapil had crossed the line, but he expressed no malice towards the current LMSC Tour points leader and plans to leave Tri-County.
Conversely, Kvapil felt Miracle was inconsistent with the moves he made at the end of Saturday’s feature. He doesn’t plan to seek out Miracle for a chat and hopes the young driver will understand not to be too aggressive when fighting with others at the end of a race.
“I thought [Miracle] was racing me too hard,” Kvapil said. “The other guys gave me a door, which is kind of how you run [at Tri-County]. I can’t be too mad about it, but when a guy shoots me two lanes down aiming for third place, I’m not going to be happy afterwards.
Although he is now the eighth different driver to win the LMSC Tour this year, Jones understands there are still many areas where he could improve behind the wheel.
Jones is tempering his own expectations ahead of the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway and the upcoming LMSC Tour event at Ace Speedway, but he’s determined to add to his win total before 2022 is out.
“It gives me confidence, but only so much,” Jones said. “I feel a lot better about myself and about this racing team. To win Martinsville, we gotta do the same thing we did [at Tri-County]which is to qualify in the lead and survive the heat races.
CARS Late Model Inventory Tour
Tri County Motor Speedway
September 9, 2022
- 44 Conner Jones
- 91 Jonathan Shafer
- 32 Zack Miracle
- 8 Carson Kvapil
- 2r Braden Rogers
- 95 Jacob Heafner
- 8b Hunting Terrier
- 10 Janson Marchbanks
- 16 Chad McCumbee
- 2Brandon Pierce
- 55 Isabelle Robusto
- 4w Dylon Wilson
- 4 Hayden Swank-1
- 24 Mason Diaz – OUT
- 9 Ashton Higgins – EXIT
- 1 Andrew Grady – OUT
- 43 William Sawalich – OUT
- 15 Ryan Millington – OUT
- 08 Deac McCaskill – OUT
- 5 Carter Langley – OUT
- 77 Connor Room – EXIT
- 87 Mike Looney – OUT
- 15m Mitch Walker – OUT
- 12 Thomas Beane – OUT
- 22 Bobby McCarty – OUT
- 81 Mini Tyrrell – EXIT
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