GELINAS JUMPS ROWE & WINS FIRST PASS RACE by Bob & Matt Dillner
Mike Rowe Suffers Minor Burns in Fiery Crash
The fire, the restart and the battle; those three things added plenty of emotion to the Pro All Star Series visit to White Mountain Motorsports Park during the big "NASCAR weekend" in New Hampshire. It also provided the outcome of the 150-lap contest at the beautiful quarter-mile racetrack nestled in the Granite State Mountains.
The most anxious moments came early in the race. New England racing veteran Mike Rowe was involved in a multi-car wreck right in front of the leaders, his son, Ben Rowe and the fast qualifier Cassius Clark. Both PASS point leader Rowe and Clark were caught up in the mess. In fact, Ben's car wound up underneath his Dad's machine.
This is when it gets interesting. Fuel begins to spew from Mike Rowe's #24, but the other drivers don't notice it. As the rest involved in the wreck attempt to restart their cars, a spark is made and a fire erupts. The elder Rowe begins to drive away and a trail of flames about ten feet high trails his
racecar. Rowe finally parks the car on the entrance ramp to the pits and the fire catches up to the fuel cell. Mike's car erupts like a towering inferno.
Mike Rowe's car burns on Sat. night in NH.
Rescue workers rush to the scene, but the flames had reach at least 20-feet high. Mike begins to pull himself out of the car, but seems to get stuck while sitting on the door of the car. In what seems like several minutes, but in reality is just about thirty seconds, we are all paralyzed as we watch in amazement. Finally Mike and a rescue worker fall to the ground as the car continues to burn.
It took the fire team at the track several minutes to extinguish the flames, but more importantly, Mike Rowe was relatively OK. He only suffered minor burns during the fire.
"That was pretty wild," Mike told us minutes after it all. "I got hit from behind and I guess it exploded the fuel cell. I could see the flames and my spotter was hollering, 'fire.' Usually if you drive off the fire goes out, but that didn't happen this time. And then when I stopped, I had a hard time getting out of the car. I was trying to unhook the Hutchens Device and one side was just holding me up. I'm OK though, I got a burn on my backside, but I'm fine."
Imagine if you were Mike's son, Ben. He was leading the race, then was caught in the melee and finally watched his father's car burn in front of his eyes. His emotions were running rampant.
"I didn't really know what was going on," says Ben, whose car was uninjured in the accident. "They hollered and said someone was spinning in front of me, but I got into them and then someone got into the back of me. I stopped and the car stalled. All of a sudden, it was such a weird feeling, the fire ignited and it was hard to breath. I reached up and closed my visor; I just wanted to get out of there. When I drove off I had flames inside the car.
The fire on Rowe's #24 kept burning for a while.
"I saw the fire from the other car, but I didn't know it was him (his Dad) at the time and then I saw his car and I wanted to get out of the (my) car. I knew it was going to be bad because it was the beginning of the race and it was full of fuel. I could just see the flames burning; I kept hollering and hollering and nobody was answering and usually that's not a good sign. Then they finally came on the radio and told me he was alright and that made me feel better. That's a driver's worst nightmare, a fire. I'm just glad everyone was OK."
The second chapter in this 150-lap saga was the ensuing restart. Three of the top-five cars were eliminated in the crash, so Larry Gelinas moved from fifth to second. The green flag flew, but leader Ben Rowe didn't.
"I couldn't get it in high gear and Larry was gone and then the 60-car was gone. That was kinda driver error there," admits Rowe.
"I thought I might have jumped it, but he said he missed a shift," told Gelinas. "I guess they let it go and that helped me because I got out there and I didn't have too much pressure on me."
But Rowe did have pressure; in fact, the battle that occurred next was the third and final chapter in this race book. Former Busch North champion and Rowe's current PASS point nemesis Dale Shaw was in the 60 that snuck by. Those two drivers proceeded to shake and bake for the rest of the race until Shaw finally faded when his car did the same.
"That was a blast," laughed Rowe. "I'd get by him, he'd get back by me and I'd get back by him again; it was a lot of fun. I like racing with Dale (who finished sixth). We'll take a second though. At the end there I think I broke a valve spring or something. I was spinning the tires coming up off the corner and I just couldn't get there."
But don't think Gelinas wasn't looking for him.
"I was looking in my rearview mirror a lot. I thought he might come up there, which he did at the end. I just wanted to make sure I didn't make a mistake. Lapped traffic was tough. Some guys were OK and some weren't and that's how he (Rowe) caught up at the end."
And how 'bout this? Before the race, I joked around with Gelinas by asking him if he was ready to beat Rowe who has won four PASS races this season. He simply rolled his eyes in disbelief.
"I didn't think it was possible," admitted Gelinas afterwards, whose victory was his first of the year on the circuit. "He's the best driver there is here, with the best team and the best car. It's really hard to beat him. You always wish something to go wrong with his car in order to beat him.
Gelinas was pretty happy at WMMP.
"He missed it just a little bit and we were a little bit closer. We've had a fast car all year long, but we've had mechanical problems, so it's been hard to tell how we stack up.
"It's good to get one of these wins. I don't do this just for fun; I do this to try to make some money which is hard to do these days. I try not to take too many chances so that I can still get something back in the end. The money is a big deal to me. It would be nice to make it two-in-a-row, but I feel lucky enough that I won just this one."
Larry Gelinas didn't think he would win this one, so who knows, maybe another victory is just around the corner.