Zach Stroupe Adds Name To PASS South Winner’s List At Motor Mile Speedway by Jason Buckley
15-Year-Old Racer Bests Stout Field To Become Youngest Winner In PASS History
Battle scars are remembered best in victory lane. Zach Stroupe had an early race run-in with Cassius Clark. (51 Sports Photo)
There have been many firsts this year in the PASS South Super Late Model Series. In the first race of the season, Corey Williams went to victory lane at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC), his first win at the historic track in PASS South competition. Just one race ago, Florida racer Perry Brown entered victory lane for the first time in his PASS South career at Watermelon Capital Speedway (GA), the first time the series visited the Georgia racing facility.
Alex Haase was fast (top #51H) but the BDI racing number 51 ended up in victory lane. (51 Sports Photos)
Zach Stroupe gave his mom, Camie the best Mother's Day present. (51 Sports photo)
On Saturday, the PASS South Super Late Model racers visited Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia for the first time. 15-year-old racer Zach Stroupe was one of the drivers that showed up to race the “Mom 150” on the new track for the PASS South series, but he was without his BDI Racing team owner Bob Dillner for the first time this season in PASS South competition as he was in Darlington, South Carolina for SPEED TV’s coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race. When the checkered flag flew, Stroupe added another first to the series as he went to victory lane for the first time as the youngest winner in PASS Super Late Model history.
The memorable day for the teenager started off in qualifying. Led by Bond Suss, a former ASA Champion Crew Chief with Joey Clanton, Stroupe’s BDI Racing team put a solid piece under Stroupe. His car qualified second, tied in time with the PASS North regular Cassius Clark. After the redraw, Stroupe started fifth with Clark starting outside pole, but the two would come together after Clark lost a motor and caught on fire around lap 23 of the 150 laps. Clark slowed and dove to the inside of the track to get out of his burning car, and as he did he crossed directly in front of Stroupe, who had nowhere to go.
“I could see what was going on with Cassius' car,” said Stroupe. “For the last few laps his motor was going pretty bad. It finally blew up right there and was on fire pretty good. I understand completely what he did; he had to jerk the car to the bottom real quick and to be able to get out of the car. There are no hard feelings. I probably would have done the same thing too. The car still ran good.”
With a huge gash wounding the right front of Stroupe’s car, he continued his drive to the front. Just a few green flag laps later, he was the leader while Justin Wakefield and the rest of the stout 21-car field attempted to catch him. Wakefield dropped back and eventually had to pit due to handling issues, which took him out of the mix for the top spot.
Stroupe led past the halfway mark until a caution closed up the field once again. While he had been able to pull away on prior restarts, this time Stroupe dropped back, allowing Trevor Sanborn and Alex Haase to get by him.
“All of our restarts were decent,” said Stroupe. “(Justin) Wakefield got by us once and we had problems with two cars getting by us, the #44 (Sanborn) and the #51H (Haase). We were bad for about five laps, but after that we could put a straight-away them, so we knew we just had to settle ourselves in line for five laps, then go.”
Stroupe rode behind Haase and Sanborn for multiple laps as the two drivers in front of him battled side by side for the lead. That was until Sanborn felt a tap and went for a spin after contact from Haase, which sent both of them to the back of the field for the incident.
“We had a good car,” said Haase, who came back up through the field to finish third. “It was just unfortunate we had to go to the back. We could have run with them guys I think. The #51 (Stroupe) was fast all night. Maybe I could have given him a challenge there. We just burned our stuff up driving back through the field.”
Sanborn, who was racing in a Richard Moody Racing team car to Ben Rowe, was not pleased with the incident on the track or Haase, but said that he would not retaliate in future events.
“We just got racing with Alex there,” explained Sanborn. “I guess that is racing, but I don’t know. We had a good car and I was saving it. My car was turning good. It was a little free up off, but when I was on the outside of Alex I had more than him. The further I stayed up the race track the better I was. I don’t know. I thought I gave him plenty of room going into one here, but whatever. Something happened and he slid up the race track and that is it. We tried to come back, but we didn’t have enough cautions to get back up there. We did have a damn good car the whole night.
“There is nothing I am going to do back to him. That is not right and that is not who I am. I just like racing hard and doing what I can do. I just think that was a bad move, and hey, whatever happens, happens.”
Stroupe avoided the tangle between Haase and Sanborn, which put him back in the lead with series hot-shoe Corey Williams in toe. Williams was able to edge out Stroupe when a caution flew, but the following restart the young driver sailed it off into turn one and it stuck, giving him the lead for the final time with 31 laps to the finish.
“We knew that we had a car that could survive on the outside, but we didn't want to risk it early since we knew it would burn the right front up,” said Stroupe. “Northern Tire with the American Racer brought a great tire though. We went down there and held it tight. We held it as close to the bottom and next to Corey's door. It ate off that corner and down the backstretch to clear him.”
Williams did everything he could over the final laps to catch Stroupe, but after loosing the lead to him in the last 50 laps of the event, there was nothing he could do but watch the #51 Chevy lead him around to the checkered flag.
“I was just doing everything I could just to keep up with him,” explained Williams. “I was driving down to the bottom and trying different grooves. I was hoping he was going to miss his marks. I have been there leading my first race and I know about missing marks. It is easy to do, but he did a good job and that is what it takes. He was smooth and I just came up short. Zach had an excellent car and I drove my balls off trying to catch him, but I just couldn’t make it happen.”
In victory lane, Stroupe was able to celebrate with his team, minus his car owner. Still, Dillner was able to follow along with the race online while at the NASCAR event and did get to congratulate his young driver in victory lane via cell phone.
"It was tough being in Darlington, but for the first time ever I felt comfortable not being able to make it because of the chemistry Zach and Bond (Suss, crew chief) have been able to build,” said Dillner. “I was able to follow the race on Speed51.com's Trackside Now and still listen to the scanners and watch the Cup race in the Racing Electronics trailer. I had to make the best of it and when I was told we won, man, I jumped into the air and yelled as loud as I could. I think everyone in the grandstands at Darlington heard me. I was so proud of Zach and the guys; plus I was so happy my daughter, Meghan, was able to be there."
The first visit to the Virginia track for the PASS South Series was monumental for Stroupe as it was his first Super Late Model victory after moving up from the Pro Challenge Series. The win was even more special for Stroupe as he was able to give Dillner his first Super Late Model victory as well as his mom Camie a gift on Mother’s Day weekend.
“It is pretty hard for him (Dillner) to not be here with us, but we finally won one,” said Stroupe. “Everyone did a great job and it was great bringing Bob a win.
“Plus, to win on Mother's Day weekend is pretty cool. My mother has been there since the beginning. From Go-Karts to Bandos, to Legends, to Pro Challenge and now, for the last 11 years she has been going to my races, which is pretty cool. This one is for her.”