Kvapil Second, Earnhardt Jr. Ninth in Wild South Carolina 400 at Florence

Photo courtesy of Phillip Goodman

Ron Lemasters | 11/21/2022

Bass Pro Shops Carson Kvapil Dale Earnhardt Jr. iRacing Late Model News

The JRM duo both finished inside the top 10 in an eventful race at Florence Motor Speedway.

Track Specs: Florence (S.C.) Motor Speedway, .400-mile oval/200-lap feature

Kvapil's finish: 2nd

Earnhardt Jr.'s finish: 9th   

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 21, 2022) -- In a wild and contentious 200-lap main event at Florence Motor Speedway on Saturday night, JR Motorsports' two-car Late Model team of Carson Kvapil and Dale Earnhardt Jr. entered the final 50-lap stage with a chance to win one of the biggest fall races in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series.

When the dust had settled, Kvapil lost a final-lap battle to Brendan Queen and Earnhardt Jr. rallied from the tail of the field to finish ninth after being sent to the back on two separate occasions by NASCAR officials for incidents on track.

The race was broken into three segments, the first two of 75 laps each, with the third set for 50 laps and the run to the checkered flag. Kvapil, driving the No. 8 iRacing Chevrolet, timed in ninth for the event while Earnhardt Jr. was 27th in the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet. The gold-and black paint scheme carried by JRM's team owner threw back to one his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., drove in the 1998 NASCAR All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The surface at Florence is notoriously hard on tires, and the teams had just two fresh tires available to put on during the race. In the opening 75-lap segment, Kvapil kept his iRacing No. 8 in the top 10, patiently biding his time to keep the wear off his tires while still holding pace with the leaders.

Earnhardt Jr. battled some handling issues early, but used the brake adjusters in his Bass Pro Shops machine to help his turn and steadily rose up the order to 18th by the time lap 75 clicked off the scoreboard.

On the controlled stop at the end of Stage One, both drivers made adjustments to their cars and set out for the second 75-lap segment. Kvapil immediately kicked his pace up a notch and drove into the top five in just four laps. Earnhardt Jr. crested the top 15 at lap 92 and continued to move forward.

Kvapil advanced to third on lap 108, still riding and saving tires. By lap 125, Earnhardt Jr. had found his groove and entered the top 10 for the first time. Over the next 25 laps, the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet was one of the faster cars on the track and, following a restart on lap 143, Earnhardt Jr. reached the top five. He would remain there through the lap-150 break.

On pit road, both drivers took their two tires and fuel for the 50-lap run to the checkered flag. Kvapil was dealing with a tight condition, while Earnhardt Jr. was very happy with his track position, saying, "Man, this is so much fun."

The final 50 laps were action-packed, to say the least.

Kvapil dropped a position to fourth on the green, while Earnhardt Jr. stood sixth. Kvapil regained third a couple of laps later, and the battles for finishing positions picked up in intensity. Earnhardt Jr. fell to eighth when Brendan Queen nudged him off the bottom line with 44 laps remaining, but following a yellow flag and a good restart, he was back to fifth in short order.

With 33 to go, Kvapil took second place behind leader Sam Yarbrough and a charging Mason Diaz got to the inside of the Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet and took fifth place away from Earnhardt Jr.. It would be a sign of things to come.

With 20 laps left, Diaz leaned on Kvapil's bumper, getting the No 8 iRacing Chevrolet loose and putting Diaz in the runner-up position.

With just 13 laps remaining, Earnhardt Jr. was battling with Matt Cox for position off Turn 2 when the cars made contact. Cox spun, and Earnhardt Jr. was penalized for the contact, sending him to the rear of the field.

After a shakeup at the front involving Diaz and Yarbrough, Kvapil was back to second place and battling with Zack Miracle. The two made contact, triggering a crash that brought out the yellow again.

When the green came out again with nine laps remaining, Queen got the lead from Kvapil on the outside of Turn 2. Kvapil radioed to crew chief Bryan Shaffer that his car was very tight, but he maintained his battle for the lead with Queen.

With three laps to go, Earnhardt Jr. was battling with Landon Pembleton into Turn 1 when his Bass Pro Shops entry bottomed out. The resulting contact saw Pembleton spin, and for the second time that night, the No. 3 was sent to the rear.

On the final restart, Queen won the battle for the top spot off Turn 4 and drove to the victory with Kvapil second. Earnhardt Jr. recovered nicely over the final flurry, crossing the line in ninth position.

Kvapil faced a similar fate in this race last year, losing a tight battle with Ty Majeski for the victory over the closing laps.

Behind Queen and Kvapil came Isabella Rubusto, Cody Kelley and Matt Craig. Bryant Barnhill was sixth, with Doug Barnes, BooBoo Dalton, Earnhardt Jr. and Casey Kelley the remainder of the top 10.

Both JRM cars will be in action again on Saturday at Southern National Motorsports Park, with Kvapil in the No. 8 and Josh Berry taking the wheel in the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops machine.

Carson Kvapil, driver No. 8 iRacing Chevrolet team

"This is the second year in a row we finished second in this race, and it hurts. We really fought the car today. Right away, I thought we were going to be OK, but by lap 20 it was clear we were going to be pretty tight. I thought we had a really good iRacing Chevrolet going in, one of the best cars, and we did, but we just had to keep fighting to get the car to turn better. There at the end, we tried to free the car up on the pit stops, but we just couldn't seem to get it loose enough, which made it really tough to try to defend those last couple of laps. Overall, a big thanks to iRacing and this team at JR Motorsports, and it was a lot of fun to race with Dale."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet team

"It was wild. I had a really fast car tonight and should have run second, but I made a couple mistakes with the 51 and the 0 that cost us track position. I thought I gave Matt Cox the room he needed. Maybe not. Maybe I drove into his left rear. Then I got into Turn 1 and spun Pembelton. That was my fault. But it was a fun race. We had a really fast Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet and saved the tires so I had the speed when I needed it. It was one of the fastest cars on the track, so I can't complain. I was a little worried about qualifying, because we couldn't get the speed out of it, but it raced really well. It's a fun little race track, and they've done an amazing job with it."

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