ROWE HOPS TO EASTER BUNNY 150 VICTORY By Mike Twist and Amy Hayes
Mainer Goes Into Record Books as First PASS South Winner
When Mike Rowe walked into the gates of the Hickory Motor Speedway for the WFMX Easter Bunny 150 Pro All Stars Series inaugural South race, he was in awe. The Maine racing veteran took a good look around, gathered his thoughts and remarked about how humbled he was to get the chance to finally race at the historic facility for the first time in his career.
“When the PASS said that they were coming to Hickory, with the history of the people who have been here, I said ‘Man, I want to go down there,’ said Rowe. “So did Seth Holbrook, my crew chief, so we did it. The track is old, but there’s still good racing here.”
It was a natural choice for Rowe to make his first Hickory start in the Easter Bunny 150. Rowe is a strong supporter of the original flavor of PASS, which is still going strong in New England, and he wanted to endorse their new Southern tour. Rowe’s SP2 Motorsports team wanted to see how they stacked up against the best Super Late Model jockeys in the country and when you’ve won the biggest races in the Northeast throughout your career, you quite honestly just run out of new victory lanes to visit unless you are willing to travel.
Rowe’s formula to win at Hickory was pretty straightforward. He timed second in qualifying, beat Travis Kittleson in a thrilling heat race to earn the pole
Speed51.com's Bob Dillner (L) stands with Mike Rowe (R) in victory lane at Hickory. (Norm Marx Photo)
position, hung around the top five all night and made his way into the lead with only a few laps to go in the 150-lap main event.
Did the best car win? At first glance, it might appear not. The story of the night was several of the guys who were out front fell by the wayside one by one. But then again, Rowe has a habit of waiting around the top five all race long and making a charge late in the going. That was no different at Hickory. The outcome of the race might have been the exact same even if the storyline and players were a little bit different.
Travis Kittleson and Cassius Clark ran away and hid from him in the opening laps before they both were eliminated by mechanical gremlins. Mid-race leader Jason Hogan got into one of those “racin’ deals” with Scott Mulkern and ended up in the wall. Mulkern was quick too, but had to settle for fourth at the end. Corey Williams had a weekend of speed cut short with a DNF. Former All-American 400 winner Chuck Barnes was in Rowe’s mirror at the end of the race, but couldn’t get by. J.R. Norris got stuck in the pits and lost a lap early. 2005 PASS Most Popular Driver Travis Benjamin was quick, but had an ignition problem in qualifying and a suspension part break in the race while running in the
top five. The list goes on and on. All were potential winners.
That wasn’t lost on Rowe at all.
“To beat Jason Hogan, Travis Kittleson and all those guys, I know that he had some bad luck, but they were fast. We beat Freddie Query (Super Late Model legend in the south) and guys like them and that means a lot. To be in the class of guys like that is awesome. To come down here with the history of this track and bring that Easter bunny 150 trophy home to Maine is awesome.”
Barnes held on to finish second and the Kentucky driver just wished that there had been a couple dozen fewer laps.
“The race was too long,” laughed Barnes, who approached the race with the same strategy as Rowe did. “Everybody was driving around and knocking the crap out of each other and I just kind of rode around. Mike Rowe got knocked out of the way, and fell back and I was feeling pretty good; he was the main guy I was racing against. I saw him fall back in the mirror and I kind of picked them off and worked my way up.
“When I got the lead, it was where I wanted to be because everyone else was getting knocked around,”
continued Barnes, who lost power steering on his 55-machine later in the event. “I missed a shift on one of the restarts, and we just had to fight our way back to the front. When Mike got up to me, I knew I had my hands full. I pitted next to him all weekend and those guys of his were like, “He’s a tough old man,” so I just raced him as hard as I could and I just couldn’t beat him.”
USAR Pro Cup Southern Division point leader Clay Rogers was third.
“I guess we kind of represented the south down here,” said the North Carolina driver. “We were the first from the South to finish and I guess I have a lot of laps down here so I am supposed to do that. The crowd was great for showing up tonight, and there was good competition and I got to meet a lot of new people and see a lot of new faces.”
There was a healthy field and plenty of fans on hand for the first ever PASS South race. (Norm Marx Photo)
Mike Rowe was a rookie at Hickory. (51 Photo)
Chuck Barnes (#55) and Clay Rogers (#2) took their best shots at Mike Rowe, but came up short. (Norm Marx Photo)
Scott Mulkern, Ryan Lawler, Ted Musgrave Jr., Clay Jones, Dean Clattenburg, Wade Day and Dennis Schoenfeld rounded out the top-ten finishers.
PASS South will return to action on May 27th at Southern National Speedway in Kenly, North Carolina as part of the 11-race schedule for the first year tour.