Built in 1962 as a dirt track before being converted into an asphalt oval for the 1987 season, Wake County has remained a hotspot for short track racing even as North Carolina’s capital of Raleigh continues to grow around it. Names like Benny Parsons, Ken Schrader, Randy Renfrow and Ryan Blaney have all turned laps around the quarter-mile bullring.
With fresh pavement having been recently put down at Wake County, Saturday’s GXS Wraps 100 will provide high speeds and plenty of challenges as Katie Hettinger and Caden Kvapil continue to battle it out for the PLM Tour championship.
Track: Wake County Speedway Location: Raleigh, North Carolina Length: .25-mile Laps: 100 CARS LMSC Tour races: 2 Wake County LMSC winners: Sam Mayer (1), Deac McCaskill (1)
PLM Entry List (11 cars): #03 Kyle Campbell, #6 George Phillips, #7 Tristan McKee, #8 Rusty Skewes, #9 Ashton Higgins, #13 Austin MacDonald, #28 Gio Ruggiero, #43(H) Joshua Horniman, #77 Logan Jones, #81 Katie Hettinger, #96 Caden Kvapil
PLM Point Standings:
Caden Kvapil -9
Tristan McKee -43
Ashton Higgins -46
Brett Suggs -67
Connor Zilisch -75
Logan Jones -78
Austin MacDonald -78
Mike Hopkins -83
Kyle Campbell -83
Caraway win boosts Caden Kvapil’s confidence
Caden Kvapil had high expectations when he joined Highlands Motorsports for the 2023 CARS PLM Tour season, which had just won the championship with Luke Fenhaus.
Last Wednesday’s CARS Tour 265 was the first time Kvapil had taken Highlands Motorsports to victory lane in the series. That milestone came much later than Kvapil expected but is confident the win will provide him and Highlands Motorsports with crucial momentum as they try to chase Katie Hettinger down in the standings.
“I’m definitely pretty excited,” Kvapil said. “We haven’t had the year we had hoped for up until [Caraway] and we’ve had a bunch of bad luck. We were only a few points back heading into Dillon [Motor Speedway] and lost a ton of ground there. Getting points back is crucial for us, and I think we finally found our stride.”
A change in the setup helped Kvapil dominate the CARS Tour 265. Despite earning a win at Caraway to open his rookie PLM Tour season, Kvapil admitted he was too free in both trips to the facility and wanted a tighter car for Wednesday’s 100-lap feature.
The next race on the calendar in Wake County Speedway is something Kvapil admitted to being outside of his comfort zone. He has never raced on a track that small in his career, adding that there is only so much he can use from a test session there last year due to the recent repave.
Despite so many unknowns, Kvapil remains optimistic he can tally a second consecutive win and build consistency going into the summer. He believes the best way to do so is by putting together another stellar qualifying run like he did at Caraway so that he does not have to deal with much traffic.
“Qualifying is going to be very important,” Kvapil said. “If we line up on the front row, I think we can pace the field from there. Everyone will be close and it’s going to be difficult to make clean passes. The racing is going to be rough, but you expect it at small places [like Wake County], but hopefully it won’t be too bad.”
Katie Hettinger seeks win to increase points lead
With every passing race, CARS PLM Tour points leader Katie Hettinger gets closer to scoring her first victory.
Despite scoring two straight second place finishes, Hettinger knows winning will be imperative towards staying in front of Caden Kvapil for the championship. She knows consistency will eventually reward her and is optimistic about finally breaking through in Saturday’s GXS Wraps 100 at Wake County Speedway.
“I’ve never been to Wake [County], so I’m going to be taking a lot of notes this week and watching a lot of film,” Hettinger said. “We are so close to a win after getting P2 again. I’m confident we’ll have a good car at [Wake County], so hopefully this will be our weekend.”
Hettinger pressured Kvapil relentlessly in the closing laps of the CARS Tour 265 at Caraway Speedway while battling a tight car in the center. She felt Kvapil’s car was slightly better during the final run and admitted there was not much she could do on restarts with the bottom line being preferred at Caraway.
Although she was disappointed to come up one spot short again, Hettinger has yet to finish a race worse than sixth on the 2023 PLM Tour season. Hettinger credits that efficiency to everyone at Anthony Campi Racing for providing strong cars and encouraging her to make smart decisions on the track.
The newly repaved surface at Wake County is something Hettinger hopes will create more passing opportunities on Saturday evening. Regardless of how the racing unfolds, Hettinger said being up at the front gives her the best chance of finally parking her No. 81 Wheeler Trucking Chevrolet in victory lane.
“A win would be perfect for us,” Hettinger said. “We could further that championship lead, but what we really need to do is lead laps for us to get that win. They say consistency wins championships, so hopefully we can make a win happen this weekend.”
There are four races scheduled at Wake County for Saturday evening with on-track activity beginning at 7 p.m. ET. Wake County’s Charger division bookends the schedule with two 30-lap features, with the GXS Wraps 100 being the second race of the night followed by the Legends class.
FloRacing will provide live flag-to-flag coverage of each feature.
For more information on the CARS Late Model Stock Tour and the CARS Pro Late Model Tour, visit www.carsracingtour.com. Be sure to stay active and social with the tour by liking “CARS Tour” on Facebook, following @CARSTour on Twitter and scrolling through photos on Instagram cars_tour. Additional series information can be obtained by calling the CARS Tour series office, located in Mooresville, NC, at 704.662.9212.
Written by CARS Tour staff.