STAPLES BECOMES NEWEST WINNER IN PASS NORTH
There were a lot of emotions that ran through Chris Staples' mind after he won his first ever PASS North Super Late Model event at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, but relief might have been the biggest thing that the Maine driver felt.
“This takes a lot of pressure off and it feels really good,” said Staples. “There are a thousand things on my mind. I'm surprised that we got here this quick. I knew that we would run decent every week because [Crew Chief] Seth [Holbrook] is really good, but I thought that it would take me some time to get used to running these long distance races and running with these guys. It's a higher level of competition, but it has all come around a lot quicker than I expected."
Staples only has a handful of Super Late Model starts in his career so far. He's won 11 PASS Modified races and two championships in that division. He's also been a semi-regular in the now defunct PASS Outlaw division. Having an experienced crew chief this year in PASS North has made a big difference in his team as they moved up the PASS ladder.
“The biggest thing that led to today was hiring Seth Holbrook,” said Staples. “He knows how to get a car around everywhere we go. He's got a ton of experience and he's the reason why we won. We've got a great bunch of guys, but the car was all him. It's a Sunday drive when you get one that handles that good.”
The key to success in the Beech Ridge race was saving tires. Several drivers who were quick early faded late. On the other hand, Staples kept getting better and better as the laps when on…and that was by design.
“Even before the race started, we weren't expecting to show our stuff until lap 100 and it took a little bit longer than that until we did start to show it. We knew that we had the save the tires.”
So obviously the adjustment to the longer races of the PASS North Series haven't been an issue for the PASS Modified driver who is used to features of 40 laps…right?
“Coming into this season, I thought that it was going to be [an adjustment to get used to longer races],” said Staples. “But it really was not. I just take what the car gives me and when it is really to go, I just go with it.”
SHAW SEES CHANCE FOR VICTORY FADE AWAY
While Chris Staples' bunch was a happy one after the race, the camp of D.J. Shaw's was a little bit down in the dumps. Shaw was the class of the field after the halfway mark, but the teen racer was just holding on as the race neared its end. The tires on his #60 Super Late Model were worn out and there wasn't much Shaw could do about it as he faded back from the lead to the fourth finishing position.
“It's tough to lead like that and over drive it,” said Shaw. “I guess that's what I did. It's my fault this time. I ran the outside too soon.”
Shaw kept things in perspective though. After all, it was just one race before Beech Ridge when he finished 18th in the PASS North season opener at Speedway 95.
“It's tough to take, but it's a lot better than last week,” said Shaw.” “It's still a top five and it was close there at the end. It was a good day with good tight racing. There's not a scratch on the car, so we lucked out that way. Hopefully, next race we can keep the right front on it and get it to turn a little bit better. Then we'll be a threat to win. I'm not very fond of Unity, but if the car goes like this, I'll be a lot happier with the place. We can build momentum and hopefully, we've turned the season around from the first race.”
Before joining the PASS North Series, Shaw was a weekly regular at Beech Ridge, which made the latest race there a bit of a homecoming for him.
“Racing here is fun because I have a lot of experience. It is kind of my home track where we race a lot. White Mountain is really my home track because it's close to home, but more people know you over here. So it's always good to do well in front of the crowd that knows you. It's good for my confidence to come back to a place where you run well. Even when we run bad, we're usually a top five car here.”
BATES SETTLES INTO RUNNER UP POSITION AT THE RIDGE
Adam Bates finished second to Chris Staples at Beech Ridge, but he doesn't know if a few extra laps would have really changed that outcome any.
“I think that I would have needed a little bit more than a few (laps) because he pulled me a little after that [final] restart,” said Bates. “But once we got moving again, I think that I was starting to reel him back in. I was really hoping for a caution because I really think that I could have gotten him then.”
While many of the guys who ran near the front during the race saw their tires go away near the end, Bates didn't seem to have that problem. In fact, he was able to make his car stick where few could late in the going.
“It went good because we were one of the only ones who could run on the bottom and keep up,” said Bates. “I can't really explain it, but it worked out good.”
The runner-up finish at Beech Ridge was a shot of good medicine for Bates and his team. They struggled in the PASS South Easter Bunny 150 to start out the season after a practice wreck. The had another practice wreck at Speedway 95 to start out the PASS North season and rebounded to finish fifth. But at Beech Ridge, there was no wrecking and no drama.
“This feels real good,” said Bates. “Hickory was a bad one. We came back a little at Speedway 95, but here we were good all weekend and that feels real nice. I was hoping to be one spot higher, but I can't complain. I'm happy.
MOORE STANDS ON PODIUM CLOSE TO HOME
As the winningest driver in the history of what has been called everything from the NASCAR Busch Grand National North Series to the NASCAR Camping World East Series, Kelly Moore has raced all over the place. He's run at tracks from Daytona to Indianapolis Raceway Park.
But Beech Ridge Motor Speedway holds special meaning to Moore. He got his start racing there and he lives in the same suburban town of Scarborough, Maine. The family business, R.C. Moore Trucking, is close enough that you could almost forget the race trailer and drive a racecar between the two places before the neighbors or police even noticed or cared.
So for Moore to finish third at Beech Ridge was a special thing….then again, any good finish is special to this driver - who is having fun these days racing in PASS North.
“I feels good to finish up in the top three any time,” said Moore. “This is a fun little group to race with. We have a good time. Last week, up at Speedway 95, we had a good car and just got together with Cassius [Clark] unfortunately. Then I had a flat tire, but today things went pretty good. We tried to bide our time coming up through and now we have something to work with.”
Moore has been racing for decades, so learning some of the new tricks in short track racing set-ups have been a bit of a challenge for him and his team. But it is a challenge that they are up for.
“These bump stops are a new deal for us. The #5 car here [Chris Staples] with Seth running the wrenches was good. He's been running the bump stops, so he knows where's he's at. For us…a couple weeks ago, we blistered a right front and today we didn't, so we're gaining on these bump stops. We just have to keep fine tuning on it.”
Moore set a strong pace at Beech Ridge, he moved up early on and still managed to keep his tires fresh enough to be good at the end of the event.
“We kept going forward. We were trying not to use up the car because they kept telling me not to use up the right front tire. I had to be careful and work with it. So that's what we tried to do. So we're learning. It gets to where you learn these cars and then something changes. Last year, I felt that we were getting beat a little bit depending on what racetrack we were at. So were happy with this. We'll go home and study a little bit and come back at them again.”
RAMSTROM IS QUICK EARLY, HOLDS ON FOR TOP FIVE FINISH
Derek Ramstrom led laps early on at Beech Ridge, but faded towards the end of the race. He still managed to end the day with a fifth place finish though.
“It started out really good,” said Ramstrom. “We just needed to be a little looser in the beginning. It just kept getting tighter and tighter on the bottom and you really couldn't pass. You had to stay on the bottom and work your way around guys. I tried to keep up the momentum, but it seemed to just burn the tires right up at the bottom there.”
Despite the fact that his car was going away, Ramstrom was still doing his best to wheel it to the best finish possible.
“I was trying like hell. I really was. But it was a good race. It was really clean and there weren't many accidents. It all went good today.”
Ramstrom finished sixth in the PASS North opener at Speedway 95 and fifth at the Ridge. He now sits fifth in PASS North points.
“We're starting out good I guess and top tens are always good,” said Ramstrom. “It is good to keep the car in good shape, saving my Dad some money and the team some work.”
But no matter how clean Ramstrom keeps his car, the #35 team is going to have plenty of work this year chasing the PASS North schedule and running Thursday nights this summer in the Super Late Model division at Thompson International Speedway (CT) - all without the benefit of a big budget or any full-time help at the shop.
“Once Thompson starts up, we're going to be really busy,” said Ramstrom.
NOT YOUR TYPICAL VICTORY LANE
Things were a little bit different after the PASS North race at Beech Ridge. After taking the checkered flag, winner Chris Staples and the other top finishers were ushered off the track and towards the pits instead of victory lane. PASS officials wanted to weigh the top finishers before time passed by - which made victory lane an empty place after the conclusion of the event.
But fans who stuck around for a few minutes were handsomely rewarded. The top five finishers in the PASS North race, as well as top finishers from the PASS Modified and PASS Sportsman divisions, were brought out to the fronstretch for a victory lane party of sorts - featuring media interviews and fan interaction. The gathering was based on Beech Ridge's weekly tradition, “the Happy Half Hour” where drivers who finish in the top five of any feature are required to stick around until the end of the night and report to the fronstretch to meet fans when all of the racing is done.
This might mean a little more work and a later night for some competitors, but it translated to many smiles from race fans at the Ridge - especially the children.