Leftovers: PASS North at Beech Ridge by Mike Twist
Tales From the Biggest Race of PASS 400 Weekend
“We’re happy to win, but I feel like crap right now,” said Mike Rowe. “I got into Steve Berry there. Once before, he got by me on a restart for a couple of laps. Then I got underneath him again and I just slipped up a little bit. We just barely touched and that cut his tire down. I feel bad for that. He got knocked out because of me. I apologized and he feels awful. I’ve been in that same situation and I know how he feels. I’m sure that it was going to come down to him and I at the end, I’m sure.
“That was just wicked hard racing. Steve and I were running ragged and that sort of thing happens sometimes. It was one of those deals and I hope that we can iron things out. He’s a really nice guy.”
Berry could see the conclusion to his race coming.
“I 80% knew that it was coming when we rolled down the frontstretch and I had just about all four [tires] off the [outside] lip, where you can’t be,” said Berry. “I should have lifted and turned, but I didn’t. He came up and up and poked the left rear out.”
The #15 of Steve Berry races with the black #2 of Mike Rowe to its outside. (Norm Marx Photo)
ROWE AND BERRY TANGLE BEFORE GETTING TO THE FINISH
The 300-lap PASS North Super Late Model race that headlined the PASS 400 weekend might be remembered more for what happened 20 laps from the finish, rather than who crossed the finish line first.
With 20 laps to go, Mike Rowe and Steve Berry were battling hard for the lead. Rowe was down low and Berry was up high. The two banged sides, with Rowe’s exhaust pipe possibly snagging the valve stem off Berry’s tire. In turn four, they raced side by side, but Berry’s deflating tire cause him to spin. By the time, the caution was thrown, the PASS North rookie was off the lead lap and out of contention for the victory. Berry wasn’t happy. Rowe wasn’t happy and the whole incident put a damper on the race.
After the race and victory lane ceremonies were over, Rowe and Berry went on a golf cart ride to the back of the pits to discuss the incident. This man-to-man talk helped calm tensions somewhat, but still left Berry feeling that he got the short end of the stick.
“I told Mike that [now], I have zero respect for him,” said Berry of the discussion. “I had the most respect and admiration for all of his wins, but he denied me my first so that he could get his 250th or whatever it is. I almost believe that he drove in too hard and hit me in the side, but it doesn’t make me feel any better either.”
Rowe understands what Berry is feeling and didn’t take anything that the driver or any of his supporters said after the race too personally.
“It was the heat of the moment,” said Rowe. “I’ve done that same sort of thing before. I talked to Steve afterwards and I just feel like crap. He does too since he couldn’t win the race.”
LOW BUDGET WILSON ALMOSTS PULL OFF UPSET
After Steve Berry was out of the picture, Mike Rowe was not able to just cruise to the finish line. There was almost one more potential upset in the making. Alan Wilson wheeled his Outlaw Late Model, complete with homemade body panels and a duct-tape number, to a battle for the lead with Rowe. Although Rowe won the race, Wilson gave him a good fight and finished a close second.
Wilson's #53 has been around the block a few times - and can still contend for a victory. (51 Photo)
“I’ll tell you what, the car was super,” said Wilson. “The guys did an excellent job. Our problem was with the left rear tire. We had the bleeder set a little bit too low to get the stagger that we wanted to be fast. After the restarts, it would go almost flat and it would take 10-15 laps for me to get going again. I didn’t want to see the cautions at the end. I think that we would have had something for them, but that’s how it goes.”
Super Late Model racing is expensive these days, but somehow veteran driver Wilson still finds a way to keep his costs down enough to still race, and be competitive.
“You don’t have to spend a lot of money here. I probably spent more than I should, but who doesn’t? I’m the one who pays the bills and I have guys who help out. I don’t pay their way in. They pay to get in. I just can’t afford to it. This is a team effort and it is unbelievable what these guys put into it.”
And even though Wilson’s Outlaw Late Model is a Late Model in name, that doesn’t mean that it is a true “Late Model” racecar. In fact, it is a few years old.
2007 has been Ramstrom’s rookie season in PASS North, after securing the 2006 PASS Outlaw Late Model championship. He’s looked right at home in the higher series from the start, but also admits to being a bit intimidated at times by the presence of some of his racing heroes.
“I try to be really patient, but I do get nervous around Ben Rowe and Mike Rowe. Eventually, I’ll get over it, but it’s tough. I just try to stay patient, keep the tires under me and hopefully that leads to a good finish.”
Ramstrom's Saturday afternoon didn't go well when he came in from his heat race on the hook, but the young racer came back for a strong finish on Sunday. (51 Photo)
“This is an old Benji Rowe car and I really don’t know how old it is. Benji had it for a few years and Chris Kennison had it for a few years. This is the third year that I’ve had it, so it’s about seven or eight years old I believe. It’s an older clip and we bent it up at Groveton a few weeks ago and we just left it. I haven’t changed it and it still runs good.”
DJ SHAW HAS A DAY OF POTENTIAL GO SOUR
Teen driver DJ Shaw started the 300-lap PASS North race from the pole. He battled for the lead early and in the first half of the race, was never far from the front.
“It was good at the start there,” said Shaw. “I just went easy. I didn’t contest with anybody, I just let them go and ran the pace that I wanted to. We ended up blistering a right front tire and after we pitted, we were real, real loose. So I just rode around behind the #35 [Derek Ramstrom] for awhile. Then I went by him, got the lead back and had a great race with Kelly Moore.”
DJ Shaw's #60 . (Jamie Williams Photo)
Moore raced against DJ’s father Dale for many years on short tracks and in the NASCAR Busch North Series. The two racers each had a reputation for being aggressive, sometimes too aggressive, and putting both of them together in tight quarters sometimes had spectacular results.
But DJ’s patient style of racing and Moore’s years of experience actually made for a great battle at Beech Ridge.
“We raced clean for a long time. Not very often has a Shaw raced with a Moore and it has been clean like that. So that was pretty neat to do.”
However, DJ Shaw’s day didn’t end quite how he would have liked it to. First, there was a spin under caution just before the 200-lap mark.
“They told me that a car spun in turn four, so I slowed down,” said Shaw. “But Kelly
Moore slowed down more than me, so to not run into him, I dove below him. He turned down across my nose and that spun me around. Unfortunately, it put us in a position where we ended our day.”
Then on the restart, things got much worse as Shaw got sucked into a wreck that also took out Moore, Johnny Clark and Mike Fowler.
“There was a big glare in turn one and I didn’t see what happened,” said Shaw. “I heard that Travis Benjamin got into Kelly Moore and when that happened, Johnny Clark ran into it. No blame to him, because nobody could see anything. It was just a tricky time of the day to race and unfortunately, it just bit us.
“It was just a disappointing day overall. When the car was the worst that it was all day, I went by the #35 [Derek Ramstrom] and he finished third. So I know what could have been. But he survived and I didn’t.”
RAMSTROM REBOUNDS FOR PODIUM FINISH
While Shaw was a driver who saw his race weekend go from great to bad, Derek Ramstrom had the opposite kind of weekend.
On Saturday, the teenager got caught in a heat race wreck not of his own doing. That led to running the consi with a damaged racecar, waiting around nervously and barely getting into the field by using the last available provisional.
The race weekend ended with a fine third-place finish on Sunday afternoon.
“Yesterday, we broke a rack in the heat race because of bad luck and a little tangle in front of us,” said Ramstrom. “So we started 30-something and got up to third. This car just came on at the end of the race. We changed tires and it just kept getting faster and faster.”
CASSIUS HANGS ON FOR A TOP FIVE FINISH
Cassius Clark finished fourth at Beech Ridge, which wasn’t bad considering what it took for him to get there.
“We had a good car early. We started 20th and got up to lead. We pitted and after that, the power steering was gone again. A couple guys got off the track and we got caught up in that. We went to the tail a few times and tried to get back up from that, but without power steering in the car, I just can’t turn it in traffic. I could get on the high side and put my shoulder into it. That would work, but anytime I got stuck on the bottom, I couldn’t do anything with it.
Clark, a slender young man, has had power steering problems several times this season and that is giving him quite a workout.
“I just don’t have the build for man-handling one of these 2,800 pound cars around. That’s for sure, but I think that I’ll be able to take Tyson by the end of the season.”
SANBORN TURNS HIS WEEKEND AROUND
On Saturday, Trevor Sanborn and his #29 Cushman Competition team were having
trouble. They just couldn’t get their Ford to handle at Beech Ridge and needed a
provisional to get into the race.
They kept plugging along though and we rewarded by a fifth-place finish on Sunday.
The result was one that came as a surprise to the rookie driver.
“No way. I thought that we would have a junk car all day, but we survived. It was
because of the team. I just kept pitting and they would work on it. I would get
frustrated and they would say to drive it and it would get better. That’s what I did and
we came out of here with a top five.
“That is like a win to us. It seems like a win. The car was just out to lunch. It was
better than yesterday and on the restarts, when the tires were cool, I could go real
good for awhile. Once that they got hot, I was going backwards.”
Cassius Clark's #8 (51 Photo)
Trevor Sanborn's #29 (51 Photo)