Finally... Justin Wakefield Enters PASS South Victory Lane by Jason Buckley
Dillon Motor Speedway Gives Long-Time Racer His First Series Win
This season in PASS South Super Late Model competition, there have been many first-time winners. Most of them have been new driver and team combinations, or young drivers coming up through the ranks of racing. Meanwhile, drivers like Justin Wakefield have stood outside victory lane looking in, wondering when it would finally be his turn to take the checkered flag first.
The wait is now over as Wakefield won the South Carolina Clash at Dillon Motor Speedway (SC) over the weekend.
Justin Wakefield stood up on his car in victory lane as a PASS South winner at Dillon Motor Speedway. (51 Sports Photo)
Still though, it wasn’t a race weekend without some trials and tribulations before Wakefield could claim his PASS South winner’s title. Saturday’s 125-lap event started off well for him as he drove his car to the pole position, only to have Mother Nature rain out the race until the following day. Still though, Wakefield was fast before the drops fell from the sky.
“When we got here, right out of the box the car felt good,” said Wakefield. “I just took a couple runs to get my line down. It is real tricky off turn four. There is one line that is the fastest, so it took me a minute to figure that out. Once I figured that out it was just fine tuning and getting the car where it felt real stable. The car was real balanced and we went with it.”
Since the race was originally scheduled to take the green flag at night time, Wakefield and the rest of the racers had to adjust their cars for the hot, sunny near 100-degree temperatures on Sunday. PASS officials gave the teams a warm-up session prior to the race, which allowed Wakefield to dial his car in for the different track conditions.
“We tightened it up a little bit,” explained Wakefield. “I went out in that warm-up session they gave us and we did a few things to tighten it up coming off the corners. It really worked good today.”
After the redraw, Wakefield started the race from the fifth position. Jay Fogleman and Clay Rogers spent some time at the front, but Wakefield was leading the race by the 10th lap, hoping it would hold up front for the rest of the race. After trading the lead with Fogleman before the halfway point, Wakefield got back out front and was on his way to the checkered flag when he slid high on a restart, losing a few positions, giving the lead to Alex Haase.
“I think I overdrove it, to be honest,” said Wakefield. “It was a combination of the tire pressures getting low and them bleeding too much. Also being on the low side wasn’t the place to be. The high side was better on the restarts since you could arc the corner more. I am just glad the #51 (Haase) was paying attention and got out of the way because I probably would have wrecked both of us. It turned out good for us.”
A restart later, Haase was the one that slid up the track in turn one, almost putting himself and Fogleman into the wall.
“A lot of cars were sliding around out there,” said Haase. “Our car was rolling good through the center. We took the lead from Justin right there and then got a flat right front. It is kind of unfortunate. I would have liked to race him.”
Wakefield cranked it hard left under the two leaders to retake the top spot.
“I knew I wasn’t going to drive in as hard as I did before and try to hold it to the bottom,” said Wakefield. “It looked like he (Haase) did the same thing I did the restart before. It just turned out a little better for us than it did for him.”
The remainder of the race belonged to Wakefield, as he drove out to a lead on the pack. When he crossed the finish line, he was all smiles, knowing he finally will be known as a PASS South winner.
“It means a lot,” said Wakefield. “I just want to thank Carswell Motorsports for sticking with me all of these years and also to Jody Ridley.
“We have two poles out of the last three races. We have this car feeling the way I want it to feel and we are running up front. We are going to see if we can get another win at the next race.”
FOGLEMAN TO BECOME A PASS SOUTH REGULAR
When Jay Fogleman entered the PASS South race at Dillon Motor Speedway, it wasn’t to the surprise of many. The Pro Cup regular has been talking about running in PASS this season and he made good on that talk by running the South Carolina Clash, finishing fourth.
Alex Haase (top) and Justin Wakefield (bottom) were two of the top racers on Sunday, but Wakefield claimed the top spot when the checkers flew. (51 Sports Photoa)
After running his first PASS South race of the year, Jay Fogleman said he will be back for more in 2008 and 2009 with the series. (51 Sports Photo)
"I am like a golf ball in high weeds – lost most of the time,” said Fogleman with a smile after the race. “I have been splitting time between my team and Darren Odle’s; I have only run my car six times. We wanted to do something different and I didn’t want to go Late Model Stock racing, so I traded an old straight-rail car with an old Pro Cup car (with Gary St. Amant). The guys stayed up two days getting that car ready. We have a lot of stuff we need to do to the car, but it was a good learning experience. We have a whole race under our belts and a car in one piece. It was just another adventure and I always like to race.”
Fogleman isn’t done with PASS. In fact, while Pro Cup is his first home, the PASS South Series is going to be his home away from home for the rest of this season into next.
“Newport and South Boston are for sure on our schedule and we might race more,” explained Fogleman. “Next year, every week that I am not running Pro Cup, I will be running here.”
BROOKS AND GIBSON SHOVING MATCH COLLECTS RUFFIN AS AN INNOCENT VICTIM
Rodney Brooks has been making strides this season. His #30 car started off the 2008 PASS South Season a bit sluggish, but he has progressively been getting better on the track, however an incident during Sunday’s race might have set the driver back as far as the respect level he receives from a few drivers.
Mark Gibson. (51 Sports Photo)
The problems for Brooks started early when a mechanical issue put him multiple laps down to the leaders.
“I believe we burned an MSD wire,” said Brooks. “A piece of the header wrap came off and fell on the wire, which burned it out. We had to come in and got a few laps down, but we got it fixed. We went out there and held our own. We were at pace, maybe one or two tenths off. We were just really tight going in and in the center and a little free coming off. I think we were leaking a little bit of gear lube, which was making us loose off.”
When the leaders rode up on Brooks to put him another lap down, Brooks raced them hard, which got him a few hard shakes of the move-over flag from the series flagman. Most of the leaders did eventually get by him, but Mark Gibson had trouble getting by. When contact was made, Brooks went for a ride, to which he returned the favor on the next restart, tagging Gibson’s car and wrecking Logan Ruffin in the process.
“He (Brooks) was 20 laps down racing everybody,” said Gibson. “When we went around him he kind of cut me off going into the corner. I had to move him out of the way to get around him. It is ridiculous he was that many laps down and he was racing the leaders like that. We were running fifth and when we got together he spun out. On the next restart he was behind me and he turned me around. We ended up seventh.
“I have been laps down before. When I am a lap down I let the leaders go by. I don’t even think about racing them. Maybe holding them off if you are one lap down that is one thing, but when you are 20 laps down halfway in the race it is ridiculous. Everyone knows that. It is the same thing we have been doing for 100 years.”
Ruffin, who was on the lead lap, ended up in the pits after the incident on the track.
“I went in really hard and I rolled off the back bumper of the #30 car (Brooks),” explained Ruffin. “I didn’t get into him. I moved up high to get around him and he just dumped the #62 (Gibson). When the #62 spun out and started rolling back up the #30 went up to the wall with me. We got the bad end of it, but it is all fixable.”
Brooks admitted the contact was on purpose to make sure drivers show him respect on the track.
“A few laps after a restart he (Gibson) got underneath me,” said Brooks. “My spotter didn’t tell me. I think he drove it in too hard. I just can’t let these guys walk all over me. If they hit me I will hit them back and giving them what they deserve. Maybe they will respect me a little bit more.
“I just gave it right back to him.”
Gibson didn’t feel the move was very respectful, but said he has had issues in the past with Brooks and feels the issues will continue in future races.
“I hope we can get past this, but we are going to have to deal with this,” added Gibson. “We have had trouble with him before. Everyone has. I guess there is one in every crowd.”
WILLIAMS STRUGGLES, BUT RALLIES FOR A FIFTH-PLACE FINISH
The look on Corey Williams' face before the race showed some concern on how their day would go once the race started. (51 Sports Photo)
Being the points leader for the PASS South Series, Corey Williams’ #47 machine is one everyone is looking for on the track during the race to see where he is at and what can be done to beat him to the checkered flag. Sunday at Dillon, it wasn’t a chore to be better than him as mechanical issues plagued his machine from the outset of the feature, but he still managed a fifth-place finish.
“My crew, I cannot thank them enough for how hard they worked today,” said Williams. “We broke the third link very early in the race. It just killed our bite off. Our car was really, really free. We burned our right rear early and we just couldn’t come back. Unfortunately we couldn’t add rubber during the race, so we just had to hang on to it from there on out.
“A top five is decent. We are just really disappointed. We haven’t had any speed for a while. We need to get it back to where we were last year.”
HINDMAN FIGHTS THE HEAT
The difference between the nighttime racing that was scheduled on Saturday and the daytime racing that occurred on Sunday was, well, night and day. The hot temperatures and the sun made the track greasy for the feature, which threw Heath Hindman’s setup under the bus. He managed to finish sixth, but it wasn’t where he wanted to be.
“Yesterday I had it free thinking it would be good at night. We tightened it up some, but we didn’t have any bleeders in and the right rear grew,” explained Hindman. “We came in and messed with the pan hard bar and let out some air, but it was just not quite good enough.
“I think I would have had a whole lot better car if we would have got it in last night.”