Big turnout witnesses Larson, others at Caraway Speedway

SOPHIA – It was as much about the scene as it was the racing Wednesday night at Caraway Speedway.

And the racing was pretty good.

The biggest crowd in at least a decade showed up at the speedway and there was quite a show.

The main event was the 125-lap CARS Tour Late Models feature.

The first to cross the finish line in the Firecracker 125 was Layne Riggs. But by Thursday, his victory had been overturned because of a failed post-race inspection.

So Riggs was disqualified and that moved Jared Fryar into the first-place spot. Riggs was steering a car owned by Kevin Harvick.

At issue was the size of the sway bars on Riggs’ car.

“I really hate this for the team and all my fans,” Riggs posted on social media. “I don’t think this should overshadow what a good showing we had. It’s disappointing that it was over something that was not a performance advantage and unintentional.”

The new runner-up is Mason Diaz, while Carson Kvapil was third and Kaden Honeycutt took fourth in the 32-car field. Pole-sitter Chase Burrow, who had a qualifying time of 16.779 seconds, exited with car damage during a caution on the 45th lap and didn’t return until the leaders were on the 60th lap, so he ended up in 22nd place.

“Biggest crowd I’ve seen out here in 10 years,” Caraway race director Doug Smith said. “You hope the stars line up. Tonight, they did.”

Crowd estimates ranged from 3,5000 to 4,000. Track publicist Randy Myers agreed with those numbers.

“I’ve never seen so many people here and I’ve worked here since I was 15,” said a concessions worker, who’s now 26.

“I’ve never seen it like this,” Dale York, mother of Caraway regular Jason York, said of the masses on hand to witness the mid-week special.

The main attraction was Kyle Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion. He placed seventh in his first Late Models competition in 10 years. He started in the 16th position.

“It was honestly much more fun than I was expecting,” Larson said. “The cars were much quicker than what I remembered them being. Obviously, I would have liked to have done a little better, but I’m not a short-track racer. This style of racing has been difficult for me, and it showed against the guys who do this for a living.”

Many fans showed up clearly supporting Larson based on their apparel.

The experience at Caraway might have perked Larson’s interest in Lake Models.

“This obviously worked out because it was a good week and close to home, so that makes things a lot easier,” he said. “I’ve never even looked at a Late Model schedule before, so I don’t even know what else is out there.”

York, the points leader at Caraway, didn’t finish and was in 28th place.

To open the racing, Bryson Brinkley won the Bandoleros event.

In the Pro Late Models, teenager Caden Kvapil won the 100-lapper ahead of runner-up Kate Hettinger among 17 entrants. It marked the first 2023 victory for Kvapil, who won the same event last year at the track.

The race card ended with the Legends division. That race endured multiple cautions – including a wreck that ended Neil Dulin’s race – and was ultimately placed under a time limit. It turned out that the race was reduced from 25 laps to 19 laps, with 17-year-old Landen Lewis of Supply the winner. London McKenzie of Asheboro was the runner-up.

Another big event is set for Saturday night at the track. It’s the Rusty Harpe Memorial. Among the races will be a 99-lap SMART Modifieds Tour event with 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte behind the wheel of one of the entries

By Bob Sutton