Connor Jones has tried just about anything to find consistency on the CARS Late Model Stock Tour.
Circumstances ultimately worked in the Fredericksburg, Va., native’s favor on Saturday night as he worked his way to the front of the pack and survived an onslaught of late-race cautions to end what had been a two-year of late model stock tribulations.
“Last year was a tough year and this one has been tough so far,” Jones said. “I think this is a turning point where we can really start going out and winning more races. I couldn’t have done 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 resurfacing of all four turns at the facility has given him and everyone else the ability to run multiple channels, especially during the closing laps.
Seeing how aggressive his competition became with each successive restart, Jones knew he couldn’t pull any punches as he sought his first victory. That mindset became more apparent after he found himself face-to-face with current LMSC Tour points leader Carson Kvapil on the final restart.
The two had previously exchanged blows on an earlier restart but were able to work their way back to the front. One final push from Jones was enough for him to overcome Kvapil and pull away for a cathartic debut victory on the CARS Tour.
“It just got to a point where you have to gear up and ride hard,” Jones said. “Props to Carson because he drives a great race, but he really competes with me as well. He drove me a few times, but it’s a tough race, especially when you’re trying to get everything off the track.”
As for Kvapil, the JR Motorsports driver was just happy to come out of Hudson, North Carolina with a top-five finish.
After colliding with Connor Hall and getting mixed up in the middle of the pack, Kvapil took advantage of a quick restart to claw his way back to the point, but ultimately had to settle for fourth after a tough race with Jones saw him lost track position once again.
“It was a demolition derby,” Kvapil said of the race. “Just caution after caution. We could have held the lead, but two laps later we would have been under caution. It was a bunch of short tracks and I felt like we had a better car on long tracks. [Conner] Jones just gave me a bit of a neck on the last restart but we were just racing for the win so I can’t be too upset about that.
Kvapil’s eventful evening didn’t even end after the checkered flag was displayed.
Frustrated with the way Zack Miracle battled him during the final sprint to the finish, Kvapil took his frustrations out on the young racer by flipping Miracle into the outside retaining wall on the cool-down lap, causing significant damage to the latter’s car.
Miracle said everyone had to fight for every position with how tough the going was all night. While Miracle was disappointed with what happened after the checkered flag, he couldn’t help but feel elated after bringing home such a strong streak.
“It was our first CARS Tour podium,” Miracle said. “I can’t even describe the emotions right now, but I’m just proud of my boys. They work super hard every week. There is a lot of damage, but we will get back to racing.”
Miracle admitted he was stunned by Kvapil’s maneuver after the race. He didn’t believe his battle with Kvapil had crossed any lines, but expressed no ill will toward the current LMSC Tour points leader and plans to move on from the Tri-County.
Conversely, Kvapil felt that Miracle was inconsistent with the moves he made at the end of Saturday’s film. He doesn’t plan to seek out Miracle for a chat, and hopes the young driver understands not to be too aggressive when battling with others at the end of the race.
“Thought [Miracle] he was running too hard on me,” Kvapil said. “The other guys gave me the neck, which is how you race [at Tri-County]. I can’t be too mad about it, but when a guy stands me up from two lanes down going for third, I’m not going to be happy after that.”
Despite already being the eighth different driver to win on the LMSC Tour this year, Jones understands there are still many areas he can improve on behind the wheel.
Jones is tempering his own expectations ahead of the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway and the next LMSC Tour event at Ace Speedway, but is determined to add to his win total before 2022 ends.
“It gives me confidence, but only so much,” Jones said. “I feel a lot better about myself and this race team. To win Martinsville, we have to do the same thing we did [at Tri-County]which means getting ahead and surviving the heat.”
CARS Late Model Stock Tour
Tri County Motor Speedway
September 9, 2022
- 44 Connor Jones
- 91 Jonathan Shaffer
- 32 Zach Miracle
- 8 Carson Kvapil
- 2nd Braden Rogers
- 95 Jacob Hefner
- 8b Chase Burrow
- 10 Janson Marchbanks
- 16 Chad McCumby
- 2 Brandon Pierce
- 55 Isabella Robusto
- 4w Dylan Wilson
- 4 Hayden Swank -1
- 24 Mason Diaz – OUT
- 9 Ashton Higgins – OUT
- 1 Andrew Grady – OUT
- 43 William Savalich – OUT
- 15 Ryan Millington – OUT
- 08 Deac McCaskill – OUT
- 5 Carter Langley – OUT
- 77 Connor Hall – OUT
- 87 Mike Looney – OUT
- 15m Mitch Walker – OUT
- 12 Thomas Bean – OUT
- 22 Bobby McCarthy – OUT
- 81 Minnie Tyrrell – OUT