Some of the biggest names in NASCAR have banded together to purchase the CARS Tour, helping preserve a popular regional late model racing series.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Justin Marks announced Monday that they formed an ownership group and acquired the CARS Tour, one of the Southeast’s top asphalt late model series. The ownership transition brings in industry expertise with the aim to “bolster the health and longevity of the CARS Tour by providing proficiencies in brand management, business strategy and partnership acquisition and retention,” a release states.

“This is a dream come true for me,” Earnhardt Jr. said in a statement. “I’m a huge fan of the CARS Tour and local short-track racing. The competition, the tracks and the drivers are some of the best around.”

He added: “These regional series are vital to the quality of racing you see at the top level. Jack (McNelly CARS Tour founder) has done a tremendous job establishing the CARS Tour as a preeminent series, and I’m thrilled to be part of its future.”

Earnhardt Jr.’s love for late model stock car racing is no secret. The NASCAR Hall of Famer, NBC Sports analyst and one of the sport’s most influential voices used his presence at a late model event in September 2022 to help revive North Wilkesboro Speedway, one of the sport’s most vaunted venues that for decades laid in abandoned disrepair. Wilkesboro is now set to host the 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race.

Joining Earnhardt Jr. are some other game-changers in NASCAR.

Burton works with Earnhardt Jr. at NBC and served as director of the Drivers Advisory Council this past season. Harvick is one of the best-known drivers in the Cup Series and whose voice on driver safety this season made changing the Next Gen car a priority. And Marks is the owner of TrackHouse Racing — the “surprise” team of the 2022 season thanks to its ideas, innovation and on-track success.

“I grew up racing Late Model Stock Cars on the West Coast,” Harvick, the 2014 Cup Series champion, said in a release. “Late Model racing has always been a passion of mine and I want to ensure short-track asphalt racing and the CARS Tour continue to grow and succeed.”

The CARS Tour enters its ninth season in 2023. It has produced notable drivers like Cup Series mainstays William Byron and Ty Gibbs, as well as talented drivers in other national series.

The CARS Tour 2023 season begins at Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, North Carolina, on Saturday, March 11, the first of 19 race weekends on the docket.

“This is something I’m really excited about, not only for TrackHouse and the initiatives that we’re pursuing, but for short-track racing in general,” Marks said. “Asphalt Late Model racing truly is the foundation of NASCAR and bringing a group like this together will serve the racer and fan.”

©2023 The Charlotte Observer. Visit charlotteobserver.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Copyright 2023 Tribune Content Agency.

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