The Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South Super Late Models continued their 2011 season during the Fourth of July weekend on Friday, July 1st, with the Firecracker 150 event at Ace Speedway, located in Altamahaw, North Carolina. Series points leader Jay Fogleman looked like he was going to pad his points lead by winning the event, but at the checkered flag, it was Ryan Blaney earning his second win of the season, the only driver to enter victory lane twice in the 2011 highly-competitive Super Late Model series.
With the temperatures well into the 90s throughout the day, the PASS South Super Late Model racers headed into the qualifying session. Andy Loden set the fast time early during qualifying, but it was Blaney ripping off a 14.939-second lap, a new track record, earning the fast time of the day. Preston Peltier, Jimmy Weller, Stephen Nasse, Loden, Steven Legendre, Ryan Reed, Colt James, Fogleman and Heath Hindman rounded out the top-10 fastest speeds. After the redraw, James and Loden sat on the front row with Hindman, Nasse, Legendre, Fogleman, Reed, Weller, Blaney and Peltier completing to the top 10.
James and Loden brought the field down for the green flag. Loden, who loves racing in the high line, took the lead early with Nasse moving to second, James third and Fogleman fourth. After just a few laps, Nasse worked his way to the lead with Loden dropping into second. Meanwhile, Fogleman worked his way up to third before hitting the 10-lap mark, putting James in fourth and Hindman to fifth.
Just after 15 laps showed on the board, Weller and Blaney decided to make their presence known by working their way up to fourth and fifth respectively. Blaney then flip-flopped positions with Weller a few laps later as they worked to reel in Fogleman for third.
At the 50-lap mark, Nasse still held the top spot, but Blaney was the driver on the move as he worked his way to second, chasing down Nasse for the lead. Fogleman was third with Loden fourth and Reed fifth.
As the leaders continued to put multiple cars a lap or more down during a long green-flag run, Blaney worked his way to the bumper of Nasse, biding his time. At the halfway mark, just a car length separated the top two as they lapped up to drivers in the top 10. Loden, Fogleman and Reed ran in the top-five positions at lap 75.
At lap 89, Blaney used the lapped car of Gray Gaulding as a pick to take the lead from Nasse on the low side. Loden, Fogleman and Reed still occupied the top-five positions.
The first caution flew at lap 94 for a spin in turn two by Jordan Anderson. At the yellow, Blaney was the leader with Nasse second, followed by Loden, Fogleman and Reed. Only eight cars were on the lead lap during the yellow flag due to the torrid pace the leaders set early in the event.
Just a few corners after going green, the yellow flag flew for a spin in turn three by Peltier.
On the following restart, both Blaney held the top spot over Nasse with Fogleman working his way to third. Loden was fourth, followed by Reed. Shortly after, at lap 105, Fogleman pressed the go button, working his way to second around Nasse.
The third yellow flew at lap 115 for fifth-place runner Reed, who slowed on the track. At the yellow, Blaney was the leader with Fogleman, Nasse, Loden and Weller in the top five.
Blaney held the top spot on the restart with Fogleman in second, but the caution flew again at lap 117 for contact between a few drivers on the lead lap. Weller, Loden and Peltier all suffered a bit of damage from the incident.
Blaney, Fogleman, Nasse, Weller, Justin Wakefield, Hindman, James, Legendre, Loden were the drivers on the lead lap, taking the green flag on the restart. Blaney held the top spot initially, but Fogleman dove under Blaney, taking the lead at lap 120. Nasse was in third with Hindman fourth and Wakefield fifth.
The yellow flag flew at lap 123 as Weller went around in turn one due to fluid on the track, which appeared to come from Peltier as his car was smoking around the facility. Blaney also got into the fluid, slipping to third behind Fogleman and Nasse, but kept his car straight enough to hold third ahead of Hindman and Wakefield.
At lap 124, the green flag flew once again. Fogleman held the top spot with Blaney and Nasse battling side by side for the second position. Blaney was able to clear Nasse for the spot with Wakefield moving up to fourth. Hindman ran fifth with less than 25 laps remaining.
After another yellow when Dana White and Steve Legendre went around in turn one at lap 139, Blaney tried to hang on the outside on the restart, but Fogleman was able to clear him for the lead. They ran first and second until Legendre spun again on the backstretch. Fogleman backed off, but the yellow flag wasn’t out yet. Blaney shot by, taking the lead, before the yellow was displayed on the field. Blaney was declared the current leader with Fogleman second, Nasse third, Wakefield fourth and James.
On the final restart, Fogleman tried to work his way back by Blaney, but couldn’t make it happen as the young racer went to victory lane, becoming the first repeat winner of the season in PASS South competition.
“We had to come from ninth, and I think I used up too much of my tires in the beginning,” said Blaney. “I have to congratulate Jay (Fogleman). They had the best car tonight. I caught a break there in one and two and snuck by him.”
The defining moment of the race for Blaney to get the victory came down to a call on his radio by his crew chief.
“Jay was a few car lengths ahead of us. There was a spin over in turn two, and my spotter said there was a wreck in two, so I checked up, but I didn’t see the yellow lights come on. My crew chief came over the radio and said to dig, so we snuck by there and was able to hold on after the restart.
“It is always an honor to come to this race track. I hope the fans liked it.”
Finishing second when he looked like he was on his way to a victory, Fogleman was disappointed after the race.
“We had a good race car, but as the saying goes, we were the first loser,” said Fogleman. “We just had a miscommunication on the radio with the spotter on the caution being out or not being out. That is a heck of a way to lose a race.”
Despite the disappointment, as the points leader, Fogleman still was able manage a small smile.
“He (Blaney) is a good race car driver and we have good race cars here in a good race series. It is getting bigger and bigger, and I am just glad to be a part of it.
“He (Blaney) didn’t gain many points on me tonight, but I would have liked those extra two.”
Early race leader Nasse crossed the line in third.
“The car was good tonight,” said Nasse. “The last 50 laps it started going away from me. Good job to Ryan Blaney. He drove a great race tonight. I wish we could have come out on top, but we will get them next time.”
Wakefield, who started at the rear of the field in an underpowered back-up car due to problems with his primary car in practice, crossed the line in fourth. Loden was able to rally back after an incident to finish fifth.
The PASS South Super Late Model Series will be back in action at Gresham Motorsports Park (GA) on Saturday, July 16th.
Unofficial Results - PASS South Super late Model Firecracker 150 - Ace Speedway - 7/1