Dale Earnhardt Jr. finishes third in the CARS Tour Late Model race at North Wilkesboro

In front of a sold-out crowd at the newly renovated North Wilkesboro Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved up to third place in the closing laps of the CARS Tour Window World 125, thrilling fans as JR Motorsports driver Carson Kvapil took the checkered flag. He marked Earnhardt’s first late-model stock car race since 1997, and his first at North Wilkesboro since 1995.

Driving a #3 green Chevrolet Sun Drop, a throwback paint scheme of the last model he drove in the early 1990s, Earnhardt qualified sixth and settled in to run in and around the top 10. damage to the right rear quarter panel when he was involved in a three-way battle for position between himself, Jared Fryar and Mini Tyrell.

After repairing its damage in controlled pit stops, Earnhardt’s car came alive over the final 37 laps, and he ran as high as third with the fastest car on the track, to the enthusiastic approval of the North crowd. Wilkesboro. — before a late spin warning from Connor Mosack gave Earnhardt a shot at the win in a two-lap race to the checkered flag.

In the end, it would be Carson Kvapil, a late-model JR Motorsports driver and son of former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil, who capped off a dominant performance by taking the checkered flag, with Mason Diaz edging Earnhardt by the second place. Jonathan Shafer and Bobby McCarty rounded out the top five.

After the race, Earnhardt joined Kvapil for a “Polish Victory Lap” around North Wilkesboro, waving to the crowd before joining his young driver on Victory Lane.

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“We had a right rear scuff in the middle of the night. That made the car loose, so when I needed to go forward, I couldn’t,” Earnhardt told Racing America. “And we were stuck there with the car on its side, the right rear was cooked. And then we put the right sides on it, man, and I was like, ‘Time to go.’

“We drove there, we just ran out of time.”

As owner of the winning car, Earnhardt praised Kvapil, who started from the pole in a 30-car field and commanded much of the race. Kvapil, who turned 18 in May, earned his third win of the 2022 season and currently leads the CARS Tour points standings.

“Carson is the next big thing, man,” Earnhardt said. “He’s a great driver. Total package, great guy. We’re proud of him tonight. It’s a big win for him.”

Earnhardt has been an integral figure in the resurrection of North Wilkesboro Speedway, which recently reopened after being closed for a quarter-century after the last NASCAR Cup Series event at the historic short track in western North Carolina. North in 1996. And his very presence on the field Wednesday night created an atmosphere that rivaled a Cup Series race: The grandstands were packed to capacity, and the traffic trying to get onto the racetrack was so overwhelming that the start of the race had to be moved up to accommodate fans trying to get in.

As Earnhardt made his way to the front, the crowd was seen and heard. And Earnhardt took a moment to address them in his Victory Lane comments.

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“You all made this a big, special deal. I hope you enjoyed what you saw, and we’re going to try to keep this ‘race track going,'” Earnhardt said. “It’s been fun this week.”

Wednesday marked the second race of any kind for Earnhardt in 2022, continuing a pattern of unique appearances he has made behind the wheel since retiring from the Cup Series at the end of the 2017 season. In April, Earnhardt finished 11th in a NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

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