51 Leftovers: PASS South at Greenville and Hickory
Double the Winners, Double the Action in the Carolinas
By Jason "Stix" Buckley and Tina Theriault
The checkered flag was something that it seemed everyone wanted, but no one could get.  That is until Jay Fogleman crossed the line to take the win.  (Russ Calabrese Photo)
Luck Helps Propel Fogleman to Victory Lane at Greenville-Pickens

Racing at Greenville Pickens Speedway (SC) on Friday, July 3rd, the PASS Super Late Model Series brought a whole new meaning to the phrase Green-White-Checkered finish.  While the majority of the race ran smoothly with a limited number of yellow flags and little drama, the end of the race was the complete opposite – countless lead changes, a plethora of wrecks, drivers running out of gas and even three instances of the green-white-checkered.  In the end, only half of the field was fortunate enough to complete the race.

While many drivers ran in to unfortunate circumstances and were eliminated, even up and through the very end of the race, few drivers had luck on their side and were able to walk away with solid finishes.  Winner Jay Fogleman was one of the “lucky ones” and was able to avoid the carnage and make his way from the back to the front of the pack.  Fogelman had started outside of row one and had been able to stay up front in the beginning; however, as the race progressed, spectators witnessed Fogleman steadily dropping backwards in the field.   It may have looked like Fogleman was losing momentum; really, he was just trying to save his tires.

“I was just saving tires and trying to keep the right rear on it because this place is just so aggressive on tires,” said Fogleman.  “Prior to the race, I intentionally made the right side tires both the same size so maybe I could swap them if I needed to.  I was just out of right rear running about tenth and that’s when we came in and I told them it was the only chance we had to win – we came in and put the right front on the right rear and swapped, and it was definitely the right move.”

Although his tire strategy was one aspect that had helped him to reach the front, with some luck and three green-white-checkered restarts, Fogleman had an even better shot to maneuver back through the field and on toward victory lane.  With each green-white-checkered restart, another car or two would be forced to drop out from the competition while, simultaneously, Fogleman was able to move forward and passed cars that had ultimately been faster than him.

“With the way the cautions worked out it, it all came together,” explained Fogleman.  “Without the cautions, I couldn’t have gotten back and I couldn’t have been back better than I was.  The tires were by far the best call for that situation, and cautions sure helped.”

Brian Ickler Secures Second-Place Finish at Greenville Pickens Speedway

Brian Ickler arrived at Greenville Pickens Speedway ready to race and, more importantly, ready to win.  In the past, Ickler has traveled to compete at Greenville Pickens and going into Friday’s race, he thought he would be prepared and have all the tools he needed to succeed.

“We thought it’d be good race,” said Ickler.  “The car was good in practice and we qualified decent.  We’ve run well here in the past, so I thought we would know what we needed [to win].”

Unfortunately, things hadn’t gone quite like Ickler had planned and he ended up having some internal issues with the set-up on his Kyle Busch Motorsports Super Late Model. 

“I think we just set the track bar too high – it was just free in and free through the center.  We had a pretty decent bite off [the corner], but it was just too much through the center.  We ended up blowing the right rear tire of it, which just killed the exit later in the night too.”

On a more positive note, Ickler had been able to lead several laps in the beginning of the feature after starting the race in fourth place.  While it was obvious from the start of the race that he would have a car that could land him in victory lane, Ickler just couldn’t hold on to that top position with the car refusing to handle the way he wanted.  Still, Ickler was able to pull off an agreeable second-place finish and leave Greenville Pickens with a smile.

Third-Place Finish Marks Best PASS Finish for Alex Fleming this Season

Going into Friday Night’s race at Greenville, Alex Fleming knew it was going to take some adjustments and an entirely new game plan for him to make it to the front.  While practice on Thursday had gone well for Fleming and his crew, Friday raised a whole new problem for the team – extreme temperature change on the track’s surface (the difference between Thursday and Friday had been 40 degrees, according to Fleming).  Nevertheless, Fleming worked hard throughout practice to get his car race-ready and back in to shape.  It was obvious after the race that his efforts had paid off and rewarded him with a third-place finish.

“We were really good yesterday in practice,” said Fleming.  “From the time we woke up this morning, the car wasn’t the same.  We struggled and struggled all day getting the car back to the way we wanted it and it’s still not right [after the race].”

Still, Fleming was satisfied and glad to have rebounded – he had been one of the lucky ones.

“This was a race of attrition and we ended up third.  We were able to stay out of trouble for the most part.  Everyone ran a clean race and it was a just a good race.”

Harsh Words and Feelings Between Wauters and Clark after Greenville

Many thought the action at Greenville-Pickens Speedway on Friday would be tame, considering, for the first time in PASS South Super Late Model history, two points races were scheduled on the same weekend, just two days apart.  However, when the drivers strapped their helmets on, things quickly changed, and one of the best PASS South races in the history of the series took place at Greenville.

That being said though, great races generate greater tempers when something goes wrong on the track.  That was evident after a wreck on the front stretch concluded with a caved-in hood and harsh words between two drivers.

It wasn’t clear to many in observance what triggered the incident, but when Spencer Wauters and Cassius Clark got together coming off turn four, they both ended up stopped against the outside wall on the front stretch.  Clark then used Wauters’ hood as a step ladder as he made his way out of his car and away from the incident.  Flailing his arms in disgust towards Wauters while members of Wauters’ crew made comments on the other side of the pit wall, the police officers on duty separated both camps to try to keep the peace.

“[We were] just running for almost last place and just sliding around out there,” said Clark.  “[Our] cars weren’t real good, I mean, he was probably in the pits for 20 or 30 laps and probably put four tires on it for all I know, but I was letting him go by and he just came down the front stretch and drove right over the left rear up ripped the side door of, the gauge panel, just everything and tore it all to hell for just no reason racing for last.  “[It was] just stupid.  There was no other way out of the car - I had to come across the hood to get out so I just stepped right on it.”

Wauters described the incident from his perspective, including throwing insults at Clark.

“I was just keeping my lane and he came down and chopped me twice going into the corner,” explained Wauters.  “I was all the way up to his door just holding my lane and next thing I know we touched and the wheel went straight to the right - I climbed up on top of him.  I think he chopped me, but whatever.  He's going to bitch and piss and moan and be a douche like he always is.”

Clark was just as critical of Wauters’ driving style.

“I just told them (Wauters’ crew) that the kid was an idiot,” said Clark.  “I mean, it’s pretty evident every time he races that he’s racing for last and all over the freaking place.  I mean, whatever.  Maybe he’ll learn someday but he ain’t caught on yet.”

Mitchell and Williams Late Race Incident Disappointing to Both Drivers

Corey Williams and Trey Mitchell were both on their way to podium finishes with just two laps to go at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, but contact between the two sent both for a ride and Williams out of the race.

Just after crossing under the flag stand with two laps to go, Mitchell ducked under Williams for the second position heading into turn one.  The backend of Mitchell’s car stepped out, forcing the driver to make steering corrections that drove his car into Williams, spinning him around.

“I felt like we had a car to win, but you know, what happened out there was just uncalled for,” said Williams.  “We raced clean all night long, me and Blaney and Fultz, just having a blast up there and then you get some guys up there that are just driving over their heads and unfortunately they just took us out.”

Mitchell, who rebounded to finish sixth, was beside himself after the race.

“I don’t like to make excuses,” said Mitchell.  “First of all, I just feel really bad for Corey.  I know he's mad, but I went down in there and there had to have been some fluid.  You can look at my windshield and tell that somebody was dropping oil all night, but I went down in there and lost the rear end, then I chased it back with the steering wheel and I just turned right into Corey.  I feel terrible.”

Choquette’s Tank Goes Below “E”

After a few late-race yellows at Greenville, Jeff Choquette put himself in position to win the 125-lap event.  He was out front and leading during yellow, expecting a green-white-checkered finish.  That was until his car coasted to a stop at the entrance to the pits as he was out of fuel.

“There’s nothing you can do about that,” said Choquette.  “I mean, [there are] plenty of cars that had 18-gallon fuel cells in them and we got to lap 124 and no problems, then it’s just caution, caution, caution, so I was driving to save it all race.

“It was seeping out of the dump tank, we couldn’t have gotten any more fuel in it (before the race).  We knew it was going to be close and we planned for it and like I said we made it all the way to the end with no problem, but I mean, with the caution laps at the end with all them wrecks and people getting anxious, it’s just bad luck on our part.  It happens and we know we got for next time when we come back and we know how to make it that much better.”

Choquette showed up at Hickory Motor Speedway two days later, replacing the fuel cell with a 22-gallon tank.

Has the Bad Luck Finally Left Justin Wakefield?

This season hasn’t been a pleasant one for Justin Wakefield.  After winning two races in the 2008 PASS South Super Late Model Series season, Wakefield has seen his share of bad luck at the track.  From parts failures to blown motors, nothing has gone right for him in 2009.  Despite the bad luck, Wakefield has managed to use true grit and determination to obtain multiple top-five finishes this season.  On Sunday at Hickory, he bettered his second-place finish from back in March by one position, winning the event.

“We had a good car to start with; I mean we started and had a really fast car,” said Wakefield.  “I was just riding around the first hundred laps just trying to save my tires.  This place is horrible on tires and I thought I messed up bad when I took the lead there early and I tried to run away and I couldn’t do it.  I think I was over driving it, and then I got up there in the loose stuff and got marbles on the tires and slipped back.  I really thought I had messed up, but I guess it turned out with actually some luck on our side.”

Several incidents throughout the race kept Wakefield on his toes, including a late-race wreck between the leaders that propelled him to the top spot.

“I was actually watching my mirror that time and when I looked forward I was like ‘uh oh’ and my dad said ‘go high, go high’ and I went high,” explained Wakefield.  “It worked out because it could’ve been bad there; we could’ve all been piled up.”

After going to victory lane, Wakefield reflected on his season to date, vowing to be over the bad luck that has struck him this season.

“Yeah it’s been bad; I mean, we haven’t had horrible runs, just really bad luck.  We’ve had a 30th and a 27th and the rest of them have been top fives and top-10s, but those two races are just horrible.  We don’t run like that and we’re not going to run like that (the rest of this season).”

Blaney and Peltier Continue On-Track Run-Ins

When two drivers are running towards the front of just about every race they compete in, they are bound to experience on-track issues periodically throughout the season.  That is what Ryan Blaney and Preston Peltier are currently dealing with.  Earlier this season, both drivers have been on the giving and receiving end of contact between their cars, and Sunday at Hickory wasn’t any different as the two wrecked while racing for the lead in the last 10 laps of the event.

Blaney restarted outside of Peltier on lap 145 of 150.  He quickly jumped behind Peltier in turn one, diving low out of turn two.  The two drivers went side by side into three and out of four, when it appeared Blaney slid high into Peltier sending him into the spin cycle. 

Speed51.com attempted to get Blaney’s side of the incident, but he declined to comment.  Peltier did head into the Blaney hauler after the race to discuss the incident, and was heard telling Blaney he wasn’t mad prior to going into a closed-door meeting about the situation between the drivers with Dave Blaney, Ryan’s dad, also present.

Mitchell Shakes off Greenville – Finishes Second at Hickory

The mark of a good driver is being able to shake off bad luck or a bad circumstance from a prior race and only worry about the task at hand – their current run to the checkers.  Trey Mitchell was able to shake off the incident at Greenville with Corey Williams by making a charge through the field to finish second at Hickory.

“I was on a mission after Greenville,” said Mitchell.  “I was really disappointed after SC and practice yesterday we just knew we had a good car.  It was about keeping me patient and there was a lot of stuff happening out there and luckily we just got it all over with early.  We were able to cycle up.  The car wasn’t near as good at the end as it had been at the beginning, but everybody else faded and here we are.”

Mitchell was happy with his second-place finish, but thought the victory was not out of reach.

“Before that last five-lap shootout there, I was really catching Justin (Wakefield) and I mean, I don’t know if he was taking it easy.  Maybe if I had gone a little harder I could’ve gotten up to him and done something with him, but I really like Justin and after I made a few people mad at Greenville, it was a good night just to calm down.”

Devin Jones Almost Steals One at Hickory

After making some crew personnel changes, Devin Jones headed to Hickory Motor Speedway looking to prove to the Super Late Model racers that he belonged in the series, racing against the best of the best.  He did just that as he put himself in second for the final restart, but made a rookie error and spun the tires, forcing him back to third at the checkered flag.

“Chase (Pistone) and everyone did such an amazing job,” said Jones.  “The cars are amazing, and it’s just unreal.

“I spun the tires (on the final restart) and I’ve done that a few times.  I’m just still trying to learn a little; just a little bit of a rookie mistake.  These guys deserved a win, but it feels good to come home with a third-place finish.”

Jay Fogleman in victory lane.  (Russ Calabrese Photo)
Brian Ickler prior to qualifying.  (51 Sports photo)
Alex Fleming had a great run at Greenville. (51 Sports photo)
Cassius Clark uses Spencer Wauters' hood as a step-ladder to get away from the wreck.  (Richard Shiro photo)
Corey Williams almost had a top-three finish - almost.  (Russ Calabrese Photo)
Jeff Choquette's crew pushes his car after it ran out of fuel.  (Russ Calabrese Photo)
Justin Wakefield finally gets to see the checkered flags first in a PASS race this year.  (Russ Calabrese Photo)
Holding the trophy high, Justin Wakefield had a big smile on his face after winning.  (Russ Calabrese Photo)
It might have been a second-place trophy, but Trey Mitchell was thrilled to finish second.  (Russ Calabrese Photo)
Devin Jones rounded out the top three at Hickory.  (Russ Calabrese Photo)