Why Wilkesboro is the biggest race in CARS Tour history

That’s a massive endorsement from Earnhardt, and one that McNelly sees as an opportunity to continue to take his series to the next level, in whatever form it takes for years to come.

“It goes without saying that Dale is an icon,” McNelly said. “When Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks, frankly, everyone listens. When someone like that has your back, of course.”

McNelly said he didn’t even have to pay Earnhardt an appearance fee to do this, and then made a joke.

“Now, it’s also going through technology,” McNelly said. “In all seriousness, having your endorsement and your blessing. It’s huge.”

Lee Pulliam, a four-time NASCAR Weekly Series National Champion driver, fields two cars in CARS Tour competition, one for Brandon Pierce and one split between himself and Corey Heim for the past two seasons.

Pulliam is the most successful Late Model Stock rider of the last decade and believes this week will be the biggest stage his team has ever competed on. This is coming from a driver who won at Martinsville Speedway.

“At least he’ll qualify right there anyway,” Pulliam said. “The history of short track racing and NASCAR really runs through this place. We’re only two hours from here, but almost everyone is from this area too, so having a chance to win the first Late Model Stock race here in 30 years would be very special.

Like Earnhardt, Pulliam wants fans to know that this is a gritty, compelling and tough racing discipline with high-stakes consequences.

“This is a tough race,” Pulliam said. “This is as tough as it sounds. We’ve got Brandon and Corey in our cars and Corey will tell you it’s the toughest race he does. It’s tight, it’s tough and it’s tough to pass. It leads to a lot of different strategies, especially on this surface where some people will want to lead and others will want to back off and save their tires.

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“There’s going to be a lot of leadership changes and moves, so it’s a great show for fans seeing us for the first time.”

For most new fans of the CARS Tour, Nelson Motorsports’ Bobby McCarty is the name to watch, as his No. 22 team has won three championships in six seasons competing on the tour full-time. While Josh Berry and JR Motorsports were the standout team, McCarty and Nelson were the ones they had to consistently beat over the years.

Earnhardt expressed his respect for McCarty during a public pre-practice interview session between the two- and three-time champions and says that meant a lot because their teams have struggled a lot over the past decade.

“When we raced in the Xfinity car in New Hampshire, I got a lot of texts saying Dale had a lot of good things to say on TV and that’s great,” McCarty said. “Apparently he called me a Late Models legend, and I don’t know anything about it.

“Josh and I had our differences, but really, I wouldn’t be the rider I am today without Josh and I think he feels the same way. We bring out the best in each other. Things get heated sometimes, but I have a lot of respect for him. and Junior, regardless of our differences in the past.

“Seeing how many fans are already here, at 10:40 in the morning the day before the race, this is a big deal. He is here. It is very good what is being done for us and our races.”

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