Tyler Matthews made a statement at the beginning of the 2016 season when he scored a victory in the first race of the season at Southern National Motorsports Park. He reinforced it throughout the season with consistency and victories in a championship season.
Matthews, 20, from Richlands, North Carolina, went on to win five races at three different tracks in 2016 en route to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series North Carolina state championship. His breakthrough season also propelled him to the Southern National Motorsports Park track championship where he scored two victories and eight top-five finishes.
“We started out really stout after offseason testing,” Matthews said. “We kind of went downhill after the first race so we got together as a team and decided we needed to do something different. We put a lot of work into the car, went to Carteret, won a race and were really consistent for the rest of the year. We won races when we had to.”
With his championship at Southern National Motorsports Park, Tyler Matthews joins names such as Scott Riggs, Randy Renfrow, Jamey Caudill, Deac McCaskill, Denny Hamlin and Tommy Lemons, Jr., among others.
“It’s just crazy to think I’ve done what some of those drivers have done this early in my career,” Matthews remarked. “We really won the track championship and the state championship. It seems so farfetched to think that you can win it.”
Matthews’ state championship was essentially sealed in the second weekend of racing in September when he scored two wins in four feature races – one win on Saturday, September 10th at Southern National and a second on Sunday, September 11th at East Carolina Motor Speedway. That was also a critical weekend in the national championship battle for Matt Bowling, who won the other races.
“That weekend with Matt, second to last weekend, it was ‘do or die’ for us,” Matthews explained. “We led the state early on, got down in the points and we knew we had to win races and run up front to have a chance. That weekend, we closed a 30-point lead, were leading by two and took to the last weekend of the year to win it.”
Matthews clinched the Southern National Motorsports Park track championship, officially, on September 24, 2016.
The state championship boosted Matthews’ confidence. He ended up racing at Martinsville Speedway as well, making the field for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 before getting swept up in an accident on the first lap of the race.
“You run up front with the same guys and you know you can beat them,” Matthews commented. “They’re big name people from other tracks and when you run door to door with them and win races, it’s awesome.”
Matthews will begin his 2016 season in the Late Model Stock Car portion of the Dogwood 300 on March 4th at Southern National Motorsports Park. He plans to travel around the region throughout the season while also running a handful of races in a Super Late Model.