51 Leftovers: Easter Bunny 150 By Elgin Traylor and Mike Twist
PASS South Super Late Model Season Opens at Hickory
BEN ROWE RUNS OUT OF LUCK AT HICKORY
The last time Ben Rowe ran a PASS South event he was both good and lucky. Rowe won the Mason-Dixon Meltdown at Concord Motorsport Park to close out the tour's 2008 season after passing the leader just a few hundred feet before the start-finish line. Hickory was a different story, Rowe was good there too, but hardly lucky. He ran among the leaders all night and was in bumper-to-bumper traffic when a lap car spun in front of the leaders. Rowe got hit from behind and he slid up the racetrack and backed into the leader near the turn-three wall.
“Man did I ever see that coming,” said Rowe. “I mean we're all racecar drivers, if you a lap down, get out of the way. That wiped out the first five cars. These guys just don't think. If you're going to race side-by-side in front of the leaders, don't take each other out.”
Rowe lost the rear bumper and spoiler in the wreck, which basically ended his night. He drove around with and extremely loose racecar and ended up 15th.
On a positive note for Rowe, the Richard Moody Racing team that he drives for tried out a new engine combination in the Easter Bunny 150. They ran a McGunegill sealed engine in their Super Late Model.
“This is the first time we have ever run the McGunegill combination,” said Rowe. “It was good and we are real happy with it. It's just a shame the guys work so hard and we have nothing to show for it. So we'll just go on to the next one.”
LAPPED CARS GET CHOQUETTE
Rowe wasn't the only driver unhappy with lapped traffic after the race. Jeff Choquette dominated the early stages of the Easter Bunny 150, but all saw his day end when lapped cars caused trouble that led to his demise. Choquette lumbered to the finish in the 18th position, but his performance was a shell of what it was when he would lead lap after lap early on.
Choquette (#70) races with the #51 of Zach Stroupe. (Pro Photo Productions / PASS Photo)
“We finished the race, but we weren't there at the end,” said Choquette. “So I don't know how it would have held up, but I believe that I had a car that nobody could have beaten.
“It's ridiculous. I understand that everyone is out there racing, but there is no reason why a lapped car should be racing a leader. That was uncalled for and it took out some of the best cars. It took me out and Ben Rowe. They've got to do something about that. You can't race like that.”
Choquette is beginning to learn a thing or two about lapped traffic. He's won plenty already in 2008 - with a victory in Speedfest 2008 and the Florida Speedway Super Late Model championship to his credit. But he's also been the victim of getting tangled with lapped car while running up front.
“I think that I've had two wrecks this year and they were both with lapped cars. There is no problem with the leaders racing, but if it's not your night, it's not your night. Hold your pace and stay down to the bottom. Let the leaders race their race and maybe next time, it will be your night.”
It started off as so much of Choquette's night at Hickory, that it appeared he was running at 100% and then some. Not so, according to the young Florida driver.
“We were just out there riding,” said Choquette. “The crew came over the radio and told me to slow down a little bit, so I asked them if they wanted me to shift down into third because I couldn't go any slower.
“I don't think that I could have taken it any easier than I did. Everyone knows that this place is hard on tires and I wasn't the only one taking it easy. Even up until I got taken out, I hadn't shown even half of my hand. I had a lot left.”
ROOKIE STANCILL IS IMPRESSIVE IN SLM DEBUT
When ever a driver enters his first Super Late Model event, the goal is usually just to make laps and stay out of trouble. No one told that to John Stancill, the defending Semi-Pro National Champion in the Legends ranks. Stancill took full advantage of his first PASS race by storming through the field to finish third after starting 26th.
“There are no word to describe what I feel right now,” said Stancill. “I had to start 26th and I just had to be focused and with 150 laps we had plenty of time. I hadn't even seen it, driven it, sat in it until yesterday. This is total new to me I just came from a Legends Car were we run 50 laps and tonight it was three time that.”
Perhaps the most amazing thing about his finish was the names that young Stancill was racing with: Ben Rowe, Mike Rowe, Butch Miller, Ryan Lawler, Jeff Choquette and many others.
“I feel great right now it's amazing I may be tired but it still feels good. I didn't think I was going to be able to run this good but we must have had everything right.”
SMALLER CARS TEACH BIG LESSONS
Stancill's #20 (51 Photo)
Two of the top four finishers in the Easter Bunny 150 had moved up to the Super Late Model ranks after graduating from the Pro Challenge Series that has been an undercard to the race at Hickory for the past three years. John Stancill and Zach Stroupe are both making a name for themselves in PASS South after much success in the Pro Challenge machines.
Also, the entire top four finishers, as well as Cassius Clark in the sixth position, are graduates of Legends Car racing. Interestingly though, Mainer Corey Williams and Texan Ryan Lawler won plenty of races in their home regions, but never got a chance to race against each other until they moved up to PASS South.
“We never did, [because] we were on opposite ends of the country,” said Lawler. “And I never made it to the Nationals in Legends cars.”
BENJAMIN AND ROWE TANGLE ON THE RACETRACK
The night of the Easter Bunny 150 was full of exciting racing…which sometimes got a bit too exciting. Although they usually get along just fine in their home state of Maine, Mike Rowe and Travis Benjamin had a heated exchange on the racetrack. It took place mid-race when Benjamin got by Rowe and the two made slight contact coming down the front stretch. It ended when the two hit turn two. That was when Rowe turned Benjamin around sending him for a spin.
“We got up to third there and I got a little loose and I got in to Mike (Rowe) and he just
turned me,” said Benjamin. “I don't know what his problem was tonight but what goes
around comes around.”
Of course one driver sees things one way and one sees it another.
“Yeah, he was driving with his head up his ass,” said Rowe. “He put me up high in three
and four. Coming down the front stretch he did it again. When he got by me he was
sideways. Then I just got into him, if he would calm down a little bit he will be alright.”
Both drivers were running in the top five when the incident happened, which ended on the
track as no words were exchanged in the pits. Benjamin spent several laps in the pits
before making a charge to the front. He ended up eighth.
“The steering wheel was up too close on me and so I went into the corners I couldn't turn
the wheel. So we came in under a pit stop and fixed that, but it turned out that was just the
beginning of our troubles.”
Rowe had his own trouble, the former PASS South champion and former Easter Bunny 150 winner had nothing for the top five cars and finished right behind Benjamin in the ninth position.
“We were just loose out there tonight, the car was good when the tires are cold but when they got warm they just drove right by me.”
TURPLE ENDURES PLENTY TO GRAB TOP 10 FINISH
The road to Shawn Turple's 10th-place finish in the Easter Bunny 150 was a long one - both figuratively and literally.
First was the ride that Turple's team had to go on to get to the track from their home base in the Canadian Maritimes.
“It was 23 hours,” said Turple. “It was a long haul. But it was worth it. That was fun and it's another month or so before we start to race.”
Then came the practice crash that happened on Saturday morning. A team coming from closer might have just loaded up at that point, but Turple's #0 team came too far for that.
“We got all wadded up in the big [practice] wreck there and the guys put their thrash on and fixed it. The car was really pretty decent after that.”
Well almost. Late in the going, the #0 started to have a tire problem.
“The right front was going down. We only had 20 pounds of air in it. But it still didn't drive too bad. She's not too pretty right now.”
Benjamin's #17 (51 Photo)
Believe it or not, this is the face of a top 10 finishing racecar - after a little bit of work. (51 Photo)
Turple plans to race a little bit closer to home for most of the 2008 season, but he also expects to take in another PASS show in the States…or two.
“We'll run for the Carquest title and we'd like to make another trip down too,” said Turple when asked about his 2008 racing plans. “We'll just have to see how things go at home.”
PREPARATION AND DEDICATION ARE KEYS TO WILLIAMS' SUCCESS
We've been watching Corey Williams here at Speed51.com for quite some time. We first heard of some amazing stats he posted in New England Legends racing as a teenager. Then we watched him struggle through a spell of bad luck in PASS North before becoming a powerhouse in PASS South midway through the 2007 season.
So when Williams told us in the days leading up to the Easter Bunny 150 that he felt more prepared for that race than any other event in his career, we listened. It turned out that he wasn't just bragging.
“I had mentioned that [earlier this week]. We spent time organizing our trailer, we spent time organizing the pit box and we really worked to get our stuff in line. When you are organized, you can operate a lot better and tonight we definitely proved that.”
Williams has come a long way since moving down South before the 2007 racing season, but he hasn't forgotten where he came from either.
“It's awesome to represent Maine. I hope that I can make it back sometime this summer to race in front of the home crowd.”
“I still remember going to the Oxford 250 and seeing guys like Ben Rowe and Mike Rowe when I was growing up. To be racing with them now, and to be as competitive as we are, is
awesome. I'm having so much fun racing in the PASS Series. It's great. I just hope that I can run more races. I want to run them all.”
Another key to Williams' success has been the lessons that he has learned working in his fulltime position as a crew member for the NASCAR Camping World East team of Andy Santerre Motorsports.
“Working with Andy teaches me a lot all day long. He teaches me how to present myself and how to get there someday. That is what we are working towards and some day, I would like to move up.”
ZACH ZOOMS AT HICKORY
The Easter Bunny 150 was a breakthrough Super Late Model race for Zach Stroupe, who guided the BDI Racing #51 Chevrolet to a fourth-place finish.
“This is great, I'm just so glad that we finally could get a good finish with this car,” said Stroupe. “It's a little hard to believe. I knew that the team was capable of this, but I wanted to be realistic, so we set a top 10 finish as our goal for this race.”
But it wasn't just the finish that showed how good Stroupe was. All night long, he raced hard and clean with veteran drivers like Ben Rowe and Mike Rowe. If not for a big wreck caused by lapped cars, it could have even been a battle for the victory between Stroupe and Ben Rowe.
“Ben and Mike are both great drivers,” said Stroupe. “I really loved racing with them. I knew that they would give me a little room and race me clean. I knew that Ryan races clean too, so at the end when he was racing Corey, I gave him a little room too.
“I was running behind Ben early on and I think that he was just waiting for a chance to get around the #70 (of Choquette), but the #70 was holding us up a little bit. I was waiting for Ben to get by him and I was going to try and follow him to a good finish, but unfortunately there was a wreck in front of us. We all got stacked up and that bent the front end up. After that, we weren't as fast as we were before. It was real tight.”
Stroupe credits new crew chief Bond Suss for much of his success at Hickory.
“The car was great and I need to thank Bond for that. Starting to work with him was a turning point. We should have finished in the top five at the Snowflake 100 and we finished fourth tonight. He is teaching me a lot that I need to know about the Team Chevy/BDI Racing Impala SS. When we went to Pensacola (for December's Snowflake 100), he had to stay home, but he did everything over the phone to help us. This was our first race working at the track together and it went very well.”
EASTER BUNNY 150 MAKES LAWLER A STAR
In the 2006 Easter Bunny 150, Ryan Lawler ran his first Super Late Model race and finished a strong fifth. In 2007, he won the race. This season, he finished a strong second to Corey Williams.
He's also won one other PASS South event at Hickory, and really likes the track.
“There's no doubt about it,” said Lawler. “This is definitely a special place for me. I've won more races here than anywhere else, and it's where I ran my first Super Late Model race. Every time that I come here, I seem to run well.”
Williams in victory lane. (Pro Photo Productions / PASS Photo)
Bond Suss and the BDI Racing team push their #51 through the pits at Hickory (51 Photo)