Kvapil Third, Dale Jr. Eighth in Strong Florence 400 Late Model Field

Photo Courtesy of Blake Harris/H3 Photography

Ron Lemasters | 11/20/2023

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The JR Motorsports duo picked up a pair of top 10s over the weekend in South Carolina.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 20, 2023) -- Both Carson Kvapil and Dale Earnhardt Jr. put on stirring performances in the final big race of the JR Motorsports Late Model season on Saturday night at Florence (S.C.) Motor Speedway, with Kvapil finishing a strong third and Earnhardt Jr. a solid eighth in the 250-lap fall classic.

Kvapil the two-time and defending Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour LMSC champion, started his No. 8 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats & ATVs Chevrolet 11th in the 250-lap classic and Earnhardt Jr. was 26th in the order in his white No. 3 Bass Pro Shops machine.

Racing 250 laps on the abrasive track surface is an exercise in saving tires, and both drivers did so up until the break. A number of caution flags - including one for a car that flipped into Turn 3 for a red flag - slowed the running to the point that NASCAR officials decided to move the planned break at lap 125 back to lap 100 to allow teams to add fuel and tires.

At that point, Kvapil had moved to eighth in the No. 8 and Earnhardt Jr. had climbed to 12th in the rundown. Both cars took tires and adjustments for the 150-lap run to the checkers. NASCAR officials also declared that if it became an issue, another red-flag stoppage would be added to ensure teams had enough fuel for the end.

On the restart, Kvapil moved up to sixth and Earnhardt Jr. had cracked the top 10, both drivers still saving for the finish.

With 75 laps remaining, it was go-time, and Kvapil began to move his way toward the front. Running sixth at lap 167, Kvapil passed polesitter Josh Berry for fifth and took fourth place at lap 179 with a pass of Kaden Honeycutt. Earnhardt Jr. was 12th.

At lap 212, the caution waved for an incident on track, and NASCAR officials called for the fuel stop promised earlier.

That set up a 38-lap shootout to the end.

On the restart, Kvapil chose the top and got ahead of leader Kade Brown. Earnhardt Jr. got a solid start and moved up to ninth.

Kvapil held the top spot for nine laps before Brown returned the favor on another restart, putting the second-generation driver down a spot to second. Earnhardt Jr. had risen to seventh just in time for another yellow.

On the final restart of the night, Kvapil took the top lane and passed Berry again for third, putting him behind Brown and Honeycutt. The latter, knowing Kvapil had beaten him on a previous restart, took the top lane and held it, preventing Kvapil from making the move for position.

Over the remaining distance, Kvapil battled from third and Earnhardt Jr. ran as high as seventh and as low as 10th before making a pass for eighth just nine laps from the checkered.

"We got lucky right as the caution came out," Kvapil said. "On the restart (where he took the lead), I got the top line rolling and had momentum. I couldn't run the bottom at the end, was just too tight all day. I got a good start, had more speed. He (Brown) barely got by us on one of the runs and he chose the top to block my runs. I fell back to third. We were better than the 10 car (Honeycutt), but I couldn't make any moves on him. Track isn't wide enough. It was a good day overall. I should have finished second and had a shot to win it, but I'm happy with the result."

The top line was the key all night for Kvapil and the Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats & ATVs Chevrolet. "I was worried at the beginning of the race," he said. "We were struggling. Coming through the field when we got to third or fourth, but getting those early and getting to the outside produced a good finish for us."

For Earnhardt Jr., the eighth-place finish was one better than in his first start last year, and he was happy with it for the most part.

"I have to qualify better," he said. "I came here during Darlington week and qualified really good and raced OK. We knew we weren't going to qualify well. I have to figure out how to get a little more speed out of it in qualifying so I don't have to work so hard. I think you could have dropped us anywhere in the top 10 there and we'd have finished there at the end. Everyone was running as hard as they could there at the end and everyone in the top five was pretty even. It turned out to be really good."

How good?

"I think we could have run second," he said. "I don't know that anyone could have beaten the 23 (Brown), he was really fast. I think I was about the same as Carson and those guys. It's hard to pass. The top has come in really well here, you can hold people off if you're running well. That makes it hard to drive through the field in the last 20 laps.

"Everybody saved about the right amount of tire. They all took off and were running about the same times. I have to learn that top a little bit. I'm just happy to be competitive, we had great cars. Both cars were in Bass Pro Shops colors and I know Johnny (Morris) was watching. Hope he had fun, and we had some good finishes.

"It's so much fun. Running 250 laps is a lot but I had fun. A lot of great energy all weekend long. I'm pretty happy. Wish I could get up there and challenge for a win one of these days, but I have to run a few more races to be able to do that."

Brown led Honeycutt and Kvapil to the checkered, with Berry and defending race winner Brenden Queen the remainder of the top five. Landon S. Huffman led the second five in sixth, with Jacob Heafner, Earnhardt Jr., Connor Zilisch and Carter Langley the rest of the top 10.

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