Rowe's Victory Is Doubly-Sweet
Southern National Speedway in Kenly, NC hasn’t seen much action so far in 2009. The 4/10-mile track has stood silent as it awaits a buyer or the highest bidder at an upcoming auction. But between the action on the track amongst the PASS South and National Series drivers, the pre-race brawl on the frontstretch between four-cylider drivers, PASS officials and seemingly the rest of pit road, and some interesting strategies by said Super Late Model drivers, Southern National saw more than its fair share of a year’s worth of action in one late Summer Sunday afternoon.
Ben Rowe continued his strong PASS season by scoring another South division win Sunday at Southern National, which was also a National Point event. The win increased the Turner, Maine driver’s lead in both series and came over Clay Jones and Preston Peltier. Second-place finisher Clay Jones came back to his home track after not having raced his #15 Super Late Model since the Spring. Preston Peltier overcame a flat tire early in the race and came back to finish third.
While all three had interesting stories on their path to the podium Sunday, Rowe’s story ended the happiest.
Rowe started 10th after the post-qualifying redraw and worked his way up into the lead in the middle stages of the feature. Peltier had led early, though a flat tire on lap 43 put him behind, but not out of the race. Justin Wakefield inherited the lead, but Rowe made quick work of him and continued to do so until an interesting bit of strategy dropped him in the running order mid-race and brought him to pit road with only 43 laps remaining.
After fading a bit to save his tires for a late-race charge, Rowe took to pit road for a right-side tire swap after some deliberation with his team. In the final 50 laps, Rowe roared back through the field to take the lead from Peltier with just a few laps to go to score the victory.
“We got up front early and I thought we were real good,” said Rowe. “I was trying to backpedal, but it was still getting free on entry and exit. But, we hadn’t run on this hot of a day all weekend.
“I let Cassius (Clark) go by, then Preston and the 91 (Heath Hindman). I got back to third, but then the yellow came back out. It was a long yellow, so we talked about what to do. We knew what we had to do, so we gave up third and came in, but there were only 10 or 12 cars on the lead lap. I just came from 10th once, I figured I could do it again if we could help it at all. Once we swapped those tires around, I was a little tight on entry, but man I could come off the corner. That’s the team, basically. I know I had to drive it up there, but they made their call, they made the change and they made it better.”
The win was Rowe’s third PASS South victory of the year – a year which has given him a runner-up point finish in PASS North and the PASS National and South leads as the season winds down. With the prospects of two out of the three PASS titles coming home to Turner, Rowe knew his Southern National victory meant more than just another trophy.
“We lost the North Championship to Johnny just by a couple points. I have raced every PASS race this year, North and South, so this time of year it’s taking its toll, North and South. It’s not just me, the guys and everyone else feel it too. So to come out here as hopefully the National Champion, plus we really want that new Leavitt chassis (for winning the National title), we’ve heard a lot about it, hopefully we can lock that down at South Boston. So if we can get the South and the National and finish second in the North, that’s a pretty good year.”
Welcome Back, Mr. Jones
While Rowe’s having, as he claimed, a pretty good year, it’s been a quiet year for the second-place finisher Clay Jones. Jones’ name is not one that’s unfamiliar to the Carolinas racing scene, as he’s been a regular in PASS South, USARacing Pro Cup and other Super Late Model tours in the Southeast in years past. But, over the last four or five months, not much has been heard of Clay Jones.
As Jones proved Sunday, even a long layoff from the seat can’t keep him from going fast at Southern National Speedway, the track located just a few miles from his Goldsboro, NC home.
“This is like a win for me and especially for all my guys,” said Jones. “We’ve been out for about for or five months trying to get a new business started. We haven’t even worked on the car. We just took it out of the trailer last week and played around with it a little bit.”
Jones and his family-run team’s new business revolves around their passion for racing just as much as pretty much everything else they do. Their new venture, Pro Coat Powder Coating, is picking up steam and taking time away from the track, but with more runs like Sunday, perhaps Jones will be back to the track on a more regular basis in 2010.
“We’ve got a pretty big outfit. We have a 15-foot oven, so we can do just about anything we want to. We’re just trying to make a little money to come out here and race more often.”
Preston Peltier has been tearing up the short tracks in the PASS South tour and in weekly shows in the #26 Johnson Motorsports entry throughout 2009. But, when that car was severely damaged in the PASS South race at Hickory Motor Speedway at the end of August, Peltier had two choices – sit out a few races or fire up his own #5 Super Late Model that he had been running regularly before hooking up with the Johnson group.
Seeing as how Peltier is a former winner in weekly action at Southern National, naturally Peltier got his regular #5 ride ready for Sunday’s race and made all the work pay off with a strong third-place effort.
But that’s not where the story begins, however. Peltier started Sunday’s race off strong, taking the lead early and checking out from the field. But, on a lap 42 red flag, Peltier’s spotter noticed his right-front tire going flat. So, Peltier hit pit road when the caution flag came back out.
All that happened from there was Peltier hustling back up through the field incident-free and making it all the way back up to the lead late in the race. While Rowe and Jones made their way by late in the race, Peltier emerged from his #5 in third place worn out, but happy with his podium finish.
“I’m worn out because I got up at 5 o’clock this morning to drive up here. There’s no hoses in the car. I have a black suit. It’s hot as hell. That’s about it. I’ll tell you though, I was okay before my spotter got on the radio and said Ben was coming. Then he got by and he was up eight carlengths. Then it was five in the matter of a corner. So I started driving as hard as I could and really I shouldn’t have done that because the harder I drove it, the worse it got.
“It lost grip everywhere at the end. The harder I drove it in, the tighter it got. The more I tried to get to the throttle, the looser it got. I tried to pinch Ben down and take his line away – do everything I could, but it was just inevitable.”
Jay Fogleman, one of Ben Rowe’s closest rivals for the PASS National Title going into the Southern National event, put everyone on notice that he was going to have a good run on Sunday by setting the Pro Photo Productions Fast Time in qualifying. But, after the green flag flew, things went sour for Fogleman.
Fogleman’s car slowed early in the race, bringing out the caution flag and started a long string of pit stops for the #4 team. Several laps were lost and seemingly any chance for Fogleman to win the National Championship seemed to be lost at Southern National, as well.
“Today did us in the National deal and in the South,” said Fogleman. “We’re out of it. But, we race to win anyway, so there’s nothing left to do but go out there and win the last couple races. We had some issues on Friday in practice where a coil wire was too close to an igntion wire. We moved it over and fixed that, but it ended up being too close to the header, so it ended up burning up the coil wire. At that point, we were out of it. We made a test out of it and tried a few things.
“The car was really good. We never really had to make the car any better during practice. You never know what could’ve been, but I would’ve liked to have seen where we would’ve been if we had made it to the end.”
Cassius Still In Title Hunt
With a fourth-place finish on Sunday at Southern National, Cassius Clark kept Ben Rowe in sights for the 2009 PASS National Championship. The day never saw Clark’s #8 too far away from the leader, but Clark found his racecar to be a little too ill-handling late in the race to get to victory lane.
“We were just so tight,” said Clark. “We started off in practice and I thought I could hear the tires squealing, it was so tight. We just threw everything at it. In time trials, I was baffled. The car felt decent, but we time trialed 14th or something and normally I’m a pretty good time trialer. It felt good and I didn’t think I left much out there.
“In the race, this motor’s not real huge, so that helped a little bit on long runs. Preston got to change a tire, Benji came in and switched them, so when you’re out front, it’s hard to come in and do that. I don’t know if it would’ve helped me that much or not, but I wore the right-front off. Then they just came on strong at the end.”
Had more drivers done what Clark wanted to do – use the outside groove at Southern National – perhaps his day would’ve turned out a little bit different for the Farmington, Maine driver.
“I thought we were pretty good there and I was babying it. At the beginning of the race, I knew it was hard to pass, so I was just biding my time. I was certain I was better than the guys in front of me and I thought that we could be okay if we could do something on the outside. I thought we could go up there, but nobody else ran up there to get the outside really good. If more people would’ve run up there and gotten the grease off, it would’ve been good.”
Fogleman's New Look
Jay Fogleman’s #4 machine sported the logo of a new supporter, Shark Racing Development, that is a company that the driver and several other racing community members have started to develop drivers, crew members and parts for the future of short track racing.
“There’s so many people that are in racing right now and want to do something different. I got to talking to some people up North and they want to do some racing down South. Instead of bringing their stuff all the way down here, I’m going to rent them a car. We’re going to test and develop some components for DRP for these cars. It’s really a combination of things. We’re going to do some engine work for some people, too. It’s just a whole gamut. It’s something that can help us a lot, but after being in the sport for 25 or 30 years, I feel like there’s some things that we can help some people with. It’s just going to be an open plethora of things that we can do.”
- The lap-42 red flag was brought out for a hard crash in turn two by Chris Bowers. The throttle stuck in Bowers’ #79 car and he slammed the outside wall with an immense thud that could be felt in the grandstands. The car immediately burst into flames, but even before the car came to a complete stop, Bowers escaped from the wreckage okay, but his car was just about a total loss.
- The start of the PASS South feature was delayed for a few minutes as a brawl broke out at the end of the Four-Cylinder division feature. Two drivers crashed and one walked over to the other, who was still inside his car and shaken up from the crash, and began punching the injured driver. A big melee insued on pit road behind where the PASS Super Late Models were staged and charges were filed with the local authorities.
- While Southern National Speedway’s “for sale” status was more than evident around the track’s grounds on Sunday. A big sign reading “AUCTION” with details on next month’s auction on it sat out front, and a large banner crossing the catch fence in turn two spelled out the track’s sale information and contact phone numbers.
- John Stancill continued to make the best of his part-time Super Late Model schedule on Sunday, finishing fifth in the Chase Pistone Inc. #20.
- High-horsepower built motors were the preferred power plant at the high-speed Southern National Speedway, so when Bradley McCaskill showed up with a stock crate motor in his #18 Chevy, he figured he’d be in for a long day. But, with some assistance from the BDI Racing team lending a hand to his family crew, McCaskill ran inside the top-five for a while and finished seventh, despite giving up upwards of 200 horsepower to the engines that finished ahead of him.