TIMMONSVILLE, S.C. — The 2023 season has been dominated by one high after another for Kade Brown.
In his rookie season piloting Matt Piercy Racing’s Late Model Stock, Brown added his name to the prestigious list of track champions at Hickory Motor Speedway while also claiming two of the facility’s crown jewels in the Bobby Isaac Memorial and Fall Brawl.
Brown added another noteworthy accomplishment to his growing resume on Saturday evening by winning the South Carolina 400 at Florence Motor Speedway, besting a talented field of drivers that included Kaden Honeycutt, Carson Kvapil, Josh Berry and Brenden Queen.
An ecstatic Brown said the key to defeating the top drivers in the Late Model Stock discipline came down to executing the tire conservation strategy, which ended up getting him to the front of the field.
“We knew clean air was big,” Brown said. “Berry and [Matt Cox] in the first 100 laps got out there. I thought they were in a different zip code, but I felt like we had better pace than anyone while saving. We used less tire and kept it out in front with the clean air. I was getting nervous during those restarts, but I’m happy everything worked out well.”
Fall Brawl ✅#SouthCarolina400 ✅
– NASCAR Roots (@NASCARRoots) November 19, 2023
Brown was admittedly not confident about his prospects as he shook down his No. 23 ValAlsta Chevrolet on Saturday afternoon.
As the day progressed, Brown gradually found more speed in his car. Two solid practice sessions translated into a fifth place starting position on the South Carolina 400 grid. But that only put more emphasis on Brown finding an ideal balance between being conservative and aggressive to maintain track position.
With Berry and Cox setting a blistering pace, Brown elected to wait until after the Lap 100 race break to make his move. Berry and several others elected to be conservative with their tires while Brown charged to the front, taking control of the South Carolina 400 in the process.
Several late cautions forced Brown to hold off attacks from the likes of Kvapil and Honeycutt. Brown briefly lost the lead to Kvapil on one restart, but he successfully took it back during the following green flag run after getting a great jump on the bottom line.
Honeycutt was the last obstacle standing in the way of Victory Lane for Brown. The two exchanged dive bombs during the final restart of the evening, which ended up falling in Brown’s favor as he sprinted toward the most prestigious victory of his young career to date.
Taking a checkered flag in the South Carolina 400 carried plenty of emotions for Brown, who still has fond memories watching short track veterans engage in high-speed chess back when the event still took place at the now-defunct Myrtle Beach Speedway.
Brown absorbed many lessons about saving tires at abrasive tracks by watching Lee Pulliam, Chad McCumbee and others log laps around Myrtle Beach. Sharing the honor of being a South Carolina 400 winner with them and other Late Model Stock veterans was a humbling experience for the young prospect.
“I used to look up to [these Late Model Stock guys] when I was racing Legends cars,” Brown said. “I’d go to [Myrtle Beach Speedway] and watch [them race]. It means so much to even be out here with them, but to compete with them for wins is another level.”
– NASCAR Roots (@NASCARRoots) November 19, 2023
Even Brown was surprised to score such a big victory with Berry in the field, who was making his second start in the No. 62 for Kevin Harvick Inc.
Among the accomplishments Berry has accumulated in a Late Model Stock include victories in crown jewel events like the South Carolina 400, Thanksgiving Classic and ValleyStar Credit Union 300. Despite not being in a JR Motorsports Late Model, Berry cemented himself as an early favorite for Saturday’s South Carolina 400 by setting the fastest time in qualifying.
The tire saving strategy did not play out in Berry’s favor during the final 150 laps. He found himself on the losing end of a heated battle for third with Kvapil, who was driving the same car Berry made famous at short tracks in the southeast during the past decade.
Brown said having Berry present for the Fall Brawl and South Carolina 400 was the perfect test to see how much progress he and Matt Piercy Racing had made together during the year. Checkered flags in those events to close out the year have only bolstered the confidence Brown has in his own driving ability.
“In both races, we had Josh Berry, who is the best to do it,” Brown said. “We have some momentum with finishing out 2023 and hopefully that carries into 2024. It’s our first year with Matt Piercy Racing, and I think we proved a lot just about everywhere we’ve gone.”
The upcoming season is primed to be more hectic for Brown. He will venture away from Hickory to tackle other diverse tracks like Florence, where he looks to keep proving himself against the premier drivers in the Late Model Stock discipline.
Hickory has long produced drivers who have excelled at the top levels of NASCAR. With a track championship and three crown jewel wins to his name in 2023 alone, Brown is on his way to following in their footsteps.