On March 28, 2015, the CARS Tour formally held its first race at Southern National Motorsports Park, a NASCAR Home Track in Lucama, North Carolina.
Since then, the series, now owned by NASCAR stars Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Justin Marks, has grown into a premier division for Late Model Stock competition in the southeast. Among the alumni that have developed their talents in the CARS Tour include 2020 NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series champion Josh Berry, along with Corey Heim, Sam Mayer, Taylor Gray and many others.
With the CARS Tour celebrating its 100th Late Model Stock event at Langley Speedway on Saturday, many of the drivers who built the foundation in that first event have either retired, moved up the developmental ladder or remain involved with the series today.
Here is a look at the top-10 finishers from Southern National eight years ago and how their careers have turned out since that day.
Todd Gilliland: After qualifying third in the inaugural CARS Tour event, Gilliland maintained solid track position all evening before making the race-winning pass with three laps remaining. It was Gilliland‘s lone CARS Tour win, but he has since built a strong career with two ARCA Menards Series West titles and three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victories. He currently drives for Front Row Motorsports and Rick Ware Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Deac McCaskill: Already an accomplished short-track competitor before the CARS Tour was formed, McCaskill earned the pole for Southern National and led 147 of the 150 laps before being passed by Gilliland. Now the elder statesman of the CARS Tour, McCaskill has tallied 10 victories in the series, along with a championship at the end of the 2016 season.
Myatt Snider: The son of NBC Sports pit reporter Marty Snider, 2015 was Myatt‘s only full-time season in the CARS Tour. He earned his only CARS Tour win at Bristol Motor Speedway during the 2017 season but has also visited Victory Lane in the ARCA Menards Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Myatt is currently a part-time Xfinity Series competitor and will run five more races with Joe Gibbs Racing this season.
Tommy Lemons Jr.: Lemons arrived in the CARS Tour having already won the prestigious ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway twice. He ran two full-time seasons in the CARS Tour and managed to claim two victories before gradually scaling back his operation over the following years. Lemons‘ last start came at Southern National in 2020.
Tyler Ankrum: Ankrum contested the entire inaugural CARS Tour schedule in 2015, earning six top fives and a pole at Hickory Motor Speedway. After moving up the developmental ladder, Ankrum claimed an ARCA Menards Series East title in 2018 before settling into the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series the following year. Ankrum has one win in the Truck Series to date and is a couple of weeks removed from making his 100th career start at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Brayton Haws: The eventual champion of the inaugural CARS Tour season, Haws put together an efficient year that saw him claim three victories, eight top 10s and lead 346 laps. Despite this, Haws never ran another race in the CARS Tour after 2015, and he only made occasional starts in dirt racing afterwards. He has not competed nationally since 2019.
R.D. Smith: Like McCaskill, Smith was already a seasoned Late Model Stock competitor when he elected to join the CARS Tour for the 2015 season. All three of Smith‘s top-five finishes in the series came that same year, but he found more short track success in 2016 with wins in the Rodney Cook Classic at Ace Speedway and the Bobby Isaac Memorial at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Stacy Compton: Compton was the only driver in the Late Model Stock field at Southern National in 2015 who had starts in all three of NASCAR‘s top divisions entering the race. With accomplishments that include two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series wins, the first CARS Tour event was Compton‘s last as a driver.
Blake Stallings: Stallings competed in all but one race during the first CARS Tour season, earning four top 10s in the process. He sustained serious injuries in a motorcycle crash the following year but quickly returned to racing, earning a victory in the Rodney Cook Classic back in 2017.
Michael Fose: Southern National was the first of two top 10s Fose earned in the CARS Tour during 2015. That season would be Fose‘s only full-time CARS Tour campaign, and he only ran one more race in the series before stepping away from racing all together in 2016.
Other notable results:
Mike Darne: Despite having past success at Southern National, Darne could only muster a 14th place run in the inaugural CARS Tour event at the track. Darne has primarily been a part-time driver, but has fielded cars for talented drivers such as Mason Diaz and Kaden Honeycutt, the latter of which has three Top 5s with Darne this year.
Christian Eckes: Driving for Sean Corr‘s Empire Racing at the time, Eckes finished a lap down to Gilliland in 19th, but he his stride not long afterwards. Along with winning both the Snowball Derby and Myrtle Beach 400 in 2016, Eckes claimed the ARCA Menards Series three years later with Venturini Motorsports after winning four races. Eckes now races full-time in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series with McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, where he has two wins in 2023.
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Tyler Dippel: Dippel failed to finish his lone CARS Tour start. He ended up winning two races in the ARCA Menards Series East before moving up to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2019. Dippel has been out of NASCAR since the start of the decade but still races at dirt tracks around the country.
Ryan Wilson: Prior to the CARS Tour, Wilson ran five races in the ARCA Menards Series during the early 2010s, scoring two top 10s. He crashed out of his lone CARS Tour start at Southern National in 2015, but he still infrequently competes in the series today, having attempted four races in 2023.
Doug Barnes Jr.: Barnes had the unfortunate honor of being the first driver to finish last in a CARS Tour race, which occurred after he was involved in a crash on Lap 19. Since then, “Air Doug” has become one of the most recognizable names in Late Model Stock competition, with Barnes earning his major win in the Icebreaker at Florence Motor Speedway earlier this year.