2024 CARS Tour Pro Late Models at Southern National Motorsports Park

CARS Tour Pro Late Models At Southern National Entry List And Storylines

CARS Tour Pro Late Models At Southern National Entry List And Storylines

The 2024 CARS Tour Pro Late Model season begins Saturday, March 2 at Southern National Motorsports Park. Here's a look at the entry list and storyliens.

Feb 28, 2024 by FloRacing Staff

One of the most anticipated seasons in recent zMAX CARS Tour history is set to begin by bookending a full slate of events for the inaugural Speed Week at Southern National Motorsports Park.

Headlining the first day of racing on March 2 will be the Egholm 100 for the CARS Pro Late Model Tour. This will be the second time the PLM Tour has competed on the .4-mile oval in Lucama, North Carolina after northeast short track veteran Mike Hopkins led 57 laps to claim the win last year.

Hopkins is making another trip down south with the goal of claiming a second consecutive PLM Tour victory at Southern National. He will have to fend off an even mix of experienced veterans and young prospects, all of whom are seeking to build some early momentum for the 2024 season.

Event Notes

Track: Southern National Motorsports Park

Location: Lucama, North Carolina

Length: .400 mile

Laps: 100

CARS PLM Tour races: 1

PLM Southern National winners: Mike Hopkins (1)

CARS Tour PLM Entry List (23 cars)

#03 Kyle Campbell, #4 Kristopher Murray, #6 Tristan McKee, #6B Brandon Lopez, #7 Justin Crider, #7C Tyler Church, #14 Chase Pinsonneault, #15 Aiden King, #15H Mike Hopkins, #19 Jessica Cann, #20 Kris Wright, #24 Jake Bollman, #29 Spencer Davis, #35 Caden Kvapil, #39 Max Cookson, #43 Nick Loden, #43H Joshua Horniman, #44 Conner Jones, #49 Jeff Batten, #51 Kaden Honeycutt, #77 Logan Jones, #96 T.J. DeCaire, #97 Dylan Garner


VIDEO: Mike Hopkins reacts after winning last year's CARS Tour Pro Late Model race at Southern National.

Mike Hopkins eager to make another trip to Southern National

Throughout his career, Mike Hopkins has made a name for himself as one of the most consistent short track competitors from the northeast.

The past year saw Hopkins make occasional ventures down to the southeast as a part-time competitor in the CARS PLM Tour. Hopkins set the tone for the rest of the PLM Tour field by winning the first two races of the 2023 season, starting with a dominant win at Southern National Motorsports Park.

“It was awesome to go to a place I’d only been once before [and win],” Hopkins said. “The ideal thing is to win everywhere you go and in every series you enter, so I was very fortunate to have everything go my way. [The CARS Tour] is up and coming with the new ownership. They’re bringing short tracks back to where they should be.”

Although Hopkins previously competed in the now defunct CARS Super Late Model Tour, he said the surging popularity of the sanctioning body was a main catalyst behind him wanting to do more races with them, this time in the PLM Tour.

Not many tracks from Hopkins’ home region can compare to the size of the facilities both divisions of the CARS Tour normally compete on. The larger tracks in the southeast always keep Hopkins vigilant whenever he races on them, which in turn makes him more versatile as a driver.

For Hopkins, Southern National is one of the most unorthodox tracks he has competed on across the United States. To obtain a second straight victory against another stout field on Saturday, Hopkins said it will be imperative to balance out aggression and patience around Southern National’s layout.

“[Southern National] is really unique,” Hopkins said. “You can drive the guts out of it, but you really can’t. It reminds me of [Five Flags Speedway], you have to be disciplined with how you get into the turns. There’s a lot of creativity to it, and once you figure the track out, it’s such a fun place to race.”

Highlands Motorsports begins pursuit for third straight title with T.J. DeCaire

When he agreed to drive the No. 96 for Highlands Motorsports in 2024, T.J. DeCaire knew there would be high expectations placed upon him.

Highlands Motorsports has claimed a CARS PLM Tour championship each year since the inception of the series with Luke Fenhaus and Caden Kvapil respectively. DeCaire believes he can reach the same heights that Fenhaus and Kvapil did but is currently focused on an efficient first weekend with his new team at Southern National Motorsports Park.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” DeCaire said. “There’s a lot of nerves going into this first race since the CARS Tour is a pretty big deal. I have a lot to look forward to with a great group of guys behind me.”

A member of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, DeCaire previously ran four PLM Tour events with his family-owned car during the 2023 season. Consistency followed DeCaire at nearly every track, as he scored three top 5s and led 14 laps at Dillon Motor Speedway.

Southern National presents a new obstacle for DeCaire, as the 17-year-old Land O’ Lakes, Florida native has yet to turn a competitive lap at the facility. DeCaire hopes preseason testing with Highlands Motorsports at Southern National will help him get acclimated to the track, but he has also been studying plenty of film ahead of the Egholm 100.

The goal for DeCaire is to lean on crew chief Josh Reeves for advice while simultaneously keeping an open mind on how Southern National will change during race day. Coming away from Southern National with a strong performance is something DeCaire believes will set the tone as he and Highlands Motorsports chase another PLM Tour title.

“Opening up with a win would be great to start the season off strong,” DeCaire said. “The competition [in the PLM Tour] is going to be hard to beat. We’re points racing, so every spot matters. If we can’t get a win, then I need to get as many points as I can.”

Dylan Garner ready to chase PLM Tour Rookie of the Year

It has been nearly a year since the last time Dylan Garner attempted a race with the CARS PLM Tour.

Now fully regrouped for 2024, Garner is taking his No. 97 Global Emission Systems/Kooks Headers Chevrolet back to Southern National Motorsports Park for the Egholm 100, where he hopes to kick off a successful bid for PLM Tour Rookie of the Year by improving upon a 21st place finish from his first visit to the track.

“At Southern [National] last year, we had a radiator cap bust on us and didn’t notice it until the end of the race,” Garner said. “We kind of burned up a motor and that took us out of it for a little bit. We got it all back together now and have made a lot of improvements over the offseason, so everything is looking pretty good.”

Garner got his start in motorsports out on the West Coast by making a handful of starts in the ARCA Menards Series West and SRL Spears Southwest Tour. Although he loved the West Coast, Garner knew the best way to step up his performance was to move across the country and start racing in the southeast.

Adjusting to the competitive culture of short track racing in the southeast has not been without obstacles for Garner. Despite this, Garner has remained committed towards building up his program and believes enough strides were made during the offseason for him to start consistently competing for Top 10s.

Southern National provided Garner a taste of home last year, as he compared the track to a miniature version of Kevin Harvick’s Kern Raceway with its banking and high speeds. The relative familiarity with Southern National has Garner optimistic he can put together a strong run on Saturday and establish momentum for the rest of 2024.

“My main goals are to run all the laps we can and finish races,” Garner said. “Of course, we always want to win, but this is the big leagues. We’re taking a softer approach on our goals while we’re getting going here because last year was such a learning curve. A top 15 would be awesome to start, but we want it to at least be known that we’re here to compete.”

The Egholm 100 is sandwiched between features for the Charger, Bandolero and Any Car divisions at Southern National. On-track action begins at 3:30 p.m. ET, with the Egholm 100 set to get going at approximately 4:30 p.m. ET. FloRacing will have live flag-to-flag coverage.