The second annual Solid Rock Carriers Race of Champions on December 10 began under bright sunshine and cloudless skies ending under a full moon and with some controversy.
The Late Model Stocks were joined for the season finale by several weekly divisions including the Legends, Limited Late Models, Bombers, UCAR and Jr. Mini Cup. A record total purse of $50,000 was up for grabs including $10,000 to the winner of the Solid Rock Carriers Late Model Race of Champions.
No doubt the Late Models owned the spotlight and would race 150 laps divided into three stages, 35 laps, 40 laps and then 75 laps. After each stage cars were allowed to enter the pits but the rules governing what could be worked on during those pit stops were strict and specific. As an example, they could take on fuel, rotate tires but only one new tire change was allowed. That tire rule would ultimately change the apparent outcome of a long, exhausting Race of Champions.
A field of 17 Late Models took the green flag at 2pm and included some elite drivers like defending champion Stacy Puryear and the Late Model Carteret Speedway points champion for 2022, Dylan Newsome riding a six race win streak. On the pole was Jared Fryar in the No.14, a position he won Friday night in pole qualifying so intense that each of the 17 qualifiers posted times within thousands of a second of each other.
Fryar would use his coveted pole position to his advantage as he took the lead on the first lap and held that position through lap 148 of 150. He was able to survive several mishaps and crashes that slowed the final stage to a crawl! Indeed four red flag stops in the final stage alone led to an exhausting driving experience that would tax even the best.
A race that started in bright sunshine and 57 degrees would now finish under the lights of Carteret Speedway with temperatures dropping into the 40’s. Many big name drivers, including 2022 points champion Dylan Newsome had retired from the race when a major crash involving four cars late in stage three would narrow the field to 9-cars and proved drivers like Doug Barnes and Stacy Puryear one more chance to pass the flying Fryar who had thwarted all challenges for 148 laps. Then, on lap 148 Barnes saw an opening and made his move betweens turns three and four. Barnes went by Fryar on the low side and took the lead with just a lap and a half remaining. This time Fryar had no answer and Barnes took the checkered flag to apparently win the $10,000 Race of Champions payday.
Fryar would finish second followed by defending champion Puryear, or at least so we thought!
It wasn’t long before it was announced race officials determined that Barnes used an un-approved tire and the decision was made to disqualify Barnes and award the Race of Champions to Fryar. Fryar would later say it was not the way he wanted to win.
In the end, Fryar raced the race of his life, leading almost wire to wire and more than earned the record $10,000 payday!
Despite the already more than three hours of racing by the Late Models, there was much more to come on this final day of racing for 2022 at Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway.
While Saturday’s Race of Champions focused on the Solid Rock Carrier Late Models, there were also big paydays for The Legends and Limited Late Models with $2500 to the winner of each.
An impressive field of 17 Legends took the green flag for 50 laps and George Phillips, the fastest in qualifying Friday night with an 18.233 was the fastest Saturday as well. Phillips guided the No.55 to the checkered flag holding off Cody Carlton and Austin Thompson who finished second and third respectively. The three battled up front most of the race but it was clear, Phillips was in control.
The most competitive race of the night was no doubt the Limited Late Models going 50 laps with two 25 lap stages. Young Tristan McKee, driving his now Limited Late Model No.7 which took a beating in a crash earlier in the Late Model race. McKee, not yet old enough to have a driver's license took the stage one checkered flag setting up a great 25 lap battle for the $2500 between McKee, Eric Winslow and Stacy Puryear.
Puryear, driving the No. 44 owned by Ronnie Riggs, said he was still fatigued and dehydrated from the grueling Late Model race but you wouldn’t have known it. While McKee took the early second stage lead, Eric Winslow was positioned and determined to win. He and McKee traded for the lead before Winslow jumped in front for good. McKee, racing with what he called a beat up car, continued to pour it on despite a trail of sparks coming from under his frame. McKee would fall to third behind Puryear but along with Winslow the three went bumper to bumper to bumper the final ten laps.
It was all out exciting racing as McKee passed Puryear into second but Winslow would not be denied and fought off the determined teen for the win and $2500.
Asked why he just didn't park his sparking beat up No.7, McKee would say, “I wanted to win”. It was that kind of a race!
Saturday saw just over 7 hours of racing as fans braved the chill to take in the very last minute of racing in 2022 at Carteret Speedway.
The Jr. Mini Cup race was won by Michael Bivens who was also the fastest in qualifying Friday. Nolan Walker was second followed by Anthony Ventresca.
Steve Sullivan dominated the UCAR race in his rocket No.58. Sullivan announced this was his last UCAR race as he’ll jump into a Mini Stock next year.
Last but not least there as a great field of Bombers and once again the fastest in qualifying Friday night was the winner Saturday. Chris Kane posted a qualifying time of 19.641 seconds and used that momentum to take the checkered flag in Saturday’s 25 lap feature. Kane held off Cornell Williams by 0.461 seconds with Andrew Jackson third.
Thank you race fans for all your support and we will see you next year at Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway. Details on the 2023 schedule coming soon!
OFFICIAL STATEMENT ON THE DISQUALIFICATION OF DOUG BARNES JR.:
Despite the rumor going around, initiated by a media outlet, CCS officials did not need (nor did they review) any video to determine this disqualification. The #88 was disqualified for having an un-approved tire on his car. The race was a five tire race, with the rule that you could change your fifth tire on the Stage 1 or Stage 2 break or anytime in the final stage. The #88 crew followed that rule. However, their fifth tire was punctured in an on-track incident and instead of replacing it with the one remaining approved race tire they had, it was replaced with an un-approved tire. That resulted in the disqualification.