Kvapil, Dale Jr. Draw a Bead on North Wilkesboro Late Model Prize

Ron Lemasters | 5/16/2023


The CARS Tour takes on North Wilkesboro Wednesday night, where Kvapil won last season.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (May 16, 2023) -- Last year, the JR Motorsports duo of Carson Kvapil and Dale Earnhardt Jr. turned North Wilkesboro Speedway green with envy, finishing first and third, respectively, in the inaugural Window World 125 for CARS Racing Tour Late Model Stock Cars.

This year, they'll try to recapture that magic with the entire field--plus a few drivers like NASCAR Cup Series champions Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski among others--aiming at changing the narrative.

In a sea of Sun Drop green, Kvapil dominated the 125-lap event, winning a shootout over the final laps with Mason Diaz. Earnhardt Jr., who brought back the Sun Drop colors from his Late Model past, got stronger as the evening went on and rallied to third place at the finish, closing on the lead duo and igniting an already raucous sellout crowd of better than 20,000 fans.

This year, with all the improvements that Speedway Motorsports has done in preparation for the annual All-Star Weekend, Kvapil expects a big improvement in the recently resurrected facility.

"I'm expecting to see a lot more green in the stands," Kvapil said, referring to the Sun Drop colors from last year, which Earnhardt Jr. ran last year and will compete with again this week. "It was pretty awesome to see so many people there last year and they packed it full. I'm sure they're going to do that again, and they've added stands and redone most of the facilities. It's really nice. The track surface hasn't changed much, and they patched it a bit. They made everything really nice. It's going to be a really good show for the fans."

Kvapil has done his best to make the "show" a foregone conclusion thus far in the CARS Tour Late Model Stock series, winning the last three races after finishing second in the opener. His North Wilkesboro triumph last season sparked his run to the title as well.

What are his chances at winning four straight?

"It's pretty hard to win four in a row, but we might as well go for four, right?," Kvapil quipped. "There's going to be a bigger target on the rear bumper of this Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats & ATVs Chevrolet, for sure, just because we have won three out of four. The people we race with, 99 percent of them have a lot of respect and race really clean. I don't think we need to worry about that. We all want to win the right way and most of the guys we race with are class acts."

That said, Kvapil realizes that he's facing bigger and better in this year's edition.

"I think this year is going to be a little tougher," he said. "The Cup guys that are running, obviously Dale…and this year's competition in the CARS Tour is a little bit better than it was last year. There are a few cars that are running really well that weren't here last year. I think the racing is going to be awesome, the whole week is going to be good for the track and all the fans are going to like it."

Several NASCAR Cup Series drivers—like Kevin Harvick, Ross Chastain, Chase Briscoe, Brad Keselowski and Daniel Suarez—are entered, as that will be addition practice for the NASCAR All-Star Race set for the weekend.

"It's a little bit of added pressure for all of us, me especially, for winning the race last year, with all the NASCAR guys and more fans than last year. We'll keep doing our normal deal, running well, Bryan (Shaffer) gives me a great Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats & ATVs Chevrolet, and as long as I don't make any mistakes, I think we'll have a pretty good run. Obviously, I hope we can go back-back-to-back, but a good consistent finish is what I'm looking to achieve."

For Earnhardt Jr., the task will be similar to last year's race in that he'll be at the center of most of the attention. His drive to third place in the 125-lap feature was orchestrated by Josh Berry, a past master of the Late Model Stock Car and winner of 95 events in the JRM Late Models. Berry will reprise his role as crew chief again on Wednesday night.

That's important, he said.

"Just driving the Late Model car will be fun," he said on his massively popular podcast, The Dale Jr. Download. "Josh is going to come out and help me again. Spending time with him in that environment is going to be fun. That's something that he is one of the best ever in, and I'm trying to lean on him as we get better."

As a co-owner of the CARS Racing Tour, Earnhardt Jr. also wants to see what his fellows in the NASCAR Cup Series think about the racing.

"I'm excited to see what the other guys think about it," he said. "I'm looking forward to talking to them to see what they think about it, because I'll be honest with you, it's not going to have the same power as that Cup car. It's going to be way down on power compared to what they race, and tires will be completely different. They'll probably appreciate the tire because it's a bias-ply and much more forgiving. You can move the car around a lot more. When we run the race and they've experienced racing in the CARS Tour, I'm eager to get their feedback, what they like and what we can do better."

As for his own performance, the two-time Daytona 500 winner is looking to have a good outing in the No. 3 Sun Drop Chevrolet.

"Last year, I hadn't raced a Late Model in about 20 years, and it went really, really well," he said. "Having run a few more races, I know it's not always going to run really, really well. Hopefully we have some fun and that's all that matters. I'm not so much nervous about having the result, it's about having a good showing and making a good account of myself and having fun doing it."

The Window World 125 will be streamed live on www.FloRacing.com at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 17. In addition, JRM's Twitter feed will have flag-to-flag coverage.



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