Mooresville, NC 4/17/2017- Every major racing organization has a signature track that every driver and fan looks forward to each year. NASCAR has several of these, including Daytona International Speedway, Darlington Raceway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway, while the Verizon Indycar Series celebrates its history each year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
For the newly formed CARS Tour, it is a small, 3/8 mile oval in Rougemont, North Carolina known as Orange County Speedway.
“On a personal level, Orange County is my favorite track,” said CARS Tour Operations and Marketing Director Chris Ragle. “When the CARS Tour comes to town, you see names enter the race that you don’t normally see all year, you see the stands packed with fans, you see camping, and you just get the big show atmosphere you don’t get at a lot of other places.”
Orange County Speedway opened in 1966 as Trico Speedway, and was originally a ¼ mile dirt oval. Since then, the track has undergone numerous renovations, including a transition to asphalt in 1983, and has been a host to several auto racing organizations alongside its weekly series. The NASCAR Busch Grand National Series raced at the track from 1983 until 1994, with Jack Ingram earning five series victories, the most of any Busch Series driver.
After the Busch Series left, the speedway began to experience economic difficulties. Attendance gradually declined as the 21st Century started, and the track began to fall into a state of disrepair. Orange County Speedway was forced to close its doors in 2003, which upset many local drivers and race fans around the area.
“It’s disappointing to see whenever a local short track closes down,” said Late Model Stock Car Tour driver Ronald Hill. “2003 wasn’t the first time the track closed, and it’s been through several different owners in the past, but it never stays closed for long. It’s too fine of a facility.”
Hill’s prediction proved accurate, as Vance Agee and Melvin Stanley purchased the track in 2005, and enlisted the help of local volunteers to help repair the facility in time for its re-opening in 2006. Agee and Stanley’s investment paid off, as Orange County Speedway regularly attracts large crowds, cementing its status as one of the South’s premier short tracks. Along with its weekly series, the speedway has been hosting the Orange Blossom Special for the Pro All Star Series since 2008.
Orange County Speedway also had the honor of being one of the eight tracks on the inaugural CARS Tour schedule in 2015. It quickly became a favorite of both drivers and fans, as the multi-groove racetrack produces thrilling three-wide racing and intense battles during every event. The competitiveness of the track, combined with its close proximity to many homes and shops of CARS Tour drivers, has resulted in larger fields and larger crowds for the two CARS Tour events, effectively turning Orange County Speedway into the series’ most prestigious track.
Several CARS Tour series regulars and alumni started their racing careers at Orange County Speedway, including 10-time Truck Series winner Timothy Peters, and current LMSC Tour points leader Layne Riggs, the son of former NASCAR driver and Orange County regular Scott Riggs.
Chris Davis, who drives his family-owned #88 in the Late Model Stock Car Tour, is a co-owner of his family’s business The Grilling Store, which is also sponsoring the race. The Davis family has been a part of the pre-race festivities for Orange County since the inception of the CARS Tour, and will continue that tradition for both races in 2017.
“The Grilling Store does the Grill’n’Chill on Friday nights, where we cook for all the racers,” Davis said. “We have several grills set up, and we provide snacks for anyone who comes by after practice. On Saturday, we shift our focus towards providing for the fans, as these races always attract large crowds.”
Many local drivers are expected to join the CARS Tour regulars on April 22nd, as well as several Super Late Model and Late Model Stock Car drivers from around the country. Christopher Bell, Timothy Peters, and 2015 CARS Tour LMSC Tour champion Brayton Haws are among the past winners at the track, as well as Stephen Nasse, who recently filed an entry for next Saturday’s race.
The Thrifty Tire Service Center Puryear Tank Lines 300 will feature group qualifying and a standard 150-lap race with no pit stops for both the SLM and LMSC Tours. Brandon Setzer will try to fight off a strong field of SLM competitors in order to score his third consecutive win of the season, while Layne Riggs will hope to fortify his 13-point advantage over Justin Johnson in the LMSC Tour.
For more information on the CARS Late Model Stock Tour and the CARS Super Late Model Tour, visit www.carsracingtour.com. Be sure to stay active and social with the tour by liking “CARS Tour” on Facebook, following @CARSTour on Twitter, and scrolling through photos on Instagram @car_tour. Additional series information can be obtained by calling the CARS Tour series office, located in Mooresville, N.C., at 704.662.9212.
Sources: Brandon White/CARS Tour PR