What should have been a race decided amongst three of PASS South’s most decorated veteran drivers Saturday night at North Carolina’s Ace Speedway was decided as the field came to the white flag by a driver who wasn’t even a contender in the finish.
Jay Fogleman led Clay Rogers and Jody Lavender as the field came through turns three and four with two laps to go and the white flag in the air when they got to the start-finish line. Just ahead, the lapped car of David Oliver was the only thing that stood in the way of the last-lap battle between the three, especially the top-two of Fogleman and Rogers.
And stood in the way, he did.
Fogleman jumped to the high side in turn three and was up to Oliver’s door as the cars went into turn four when Oliver’s car appeared to move up the track. Fogleman spun out of the lead and Rogers, who found nothing but a blocked track ahead of him, ping-ponged through the carnage to take the lead as the yellow flag flew (See video of the incident at right). Rogers then held off Ryan Blaney in a green-white-checkered finish to take his second-straight PASS South win, but even he admitted the race should not have been decided the way it was.
“I thought what happened to Jay Fogleman was terrible,” said Rogers. “That was the most pitiful piece of judgement, foul judgement, on somebody’s part that I believe I’ve ever witnessed on the final lap of the race. We wanted to race Jay to win.”
The stats will forever show that Fogleman held on for seventh, but that’s about all the local favorite could put a tangible finger on about the finish of the race.
“The 18 (Oliver) went brain-dead, I guess. I don’t really know,” said Fogleman. “He was right in the middle of the racetrack to start with. So I went to the outside and got all the way into the corner and the next thing I know I’m turned around backwards. I have no idea.
“Nobody ever owes you anything you don’t earn. We just didn’t get it done tonight, for whatever reason, lapped car or whatever. I thought I had a car to win the race, just like I’m sure Clay thought he had a car to win the race, but we’ll never know because of a lapped car. That’s the sad part of it. We didn’t get to have a good race all the way to the end like we should have.”
Oliver’s take was one of not having a place to go.
“I was trying to hold it to the bottom of the track because the wreck before knocked out the front end. I was pulling down and they split me and I didn’t have anywhere to go. All I could do at that point was hold my line. It was what it was.
“I know it made (Fogleman) mad and I wouldn’t have done it for anything because I wouldn’t have wanted it done to me if I was in the lead, but I had nowhere to go.”
When the smoke cleared, the field lined up for a green-white-checkered restart. Lavender was on Rogers' outside on the restart, but lost it to Blaney before a crash forced the yellow and a final double-file restart. It was then that Rogers found Fogleman’s main competitor for the PASS South Championship, Ryan Blaney, on his outside. Rogers’ front-end was crumpled up after the incident with Fogleman and the lapped car. Down into turn one on the restart, Rogers’ car washed up the track, forcing Blaney high as Rogers sped away. Blaney got back to Rogers’ back bumper on the final lap, but Rogers held strong.
“That (crash) brought a couple guys that weren’t in the fray into the fray fighting for the win on a two-lap shootout," said Rogers. "The nose was tore up, toe’s knocked out, but you’ve got to do everything you can to win at that point. The last couple laps were just good, hard short track racing. You drive down into these corners, you’ve got stuff on these tires that no matter how much you shake, you can’t get it all off. You’re going to rub doors and fenders.”
Blaney’s second-place finish picked up valuable points on Fogleman headed into the final two races of the season, October’s Over the Mountain 150 at Hickory (NC) and November’s Thanksgiving Classic/Mason-Dixon Meltdown at Orange County (NC).
“We got to fourth and we were kind of running them down, but the caution really did work out in our favor,” said Blaney. “I was able to kind of weasel our way through there. Those last restarts when I was outside of Clay and racing with Jody were a lot of fun. They’re really good veterans of the sport and it was great to be able to race around them.
“Second place isn’t too bad. It’s too bad Jay got torn up. He had a fast car, but I guess it played into our favor.”
While the point battle tightened up (official points have not been released by PASS as of print time, but Fogleman likely holds a single-digit advantage over Blaney), both title contenders are entering the final two events hoping to avoid issues like the one Fogleman ran into at Ace.
“I’ve done this so long and I’ve been in so many of these point battles,” said Fogleman. “I didn’t race any different here and I won’t race any different at Hickory or Orange County. The points will take care of themselves. I race hard and try to race smart, but other than that, you can’t do anything about it.”
“I think we’re right there,” said Blaney. “Our cars are just getting better and better. We’ll go to Hickory and Orange County, two really good racetracks for us and see what we can do.
- Eight of the 21 cars that started the Labor Day Classic finished.
- Jody Lavender finished third. Failing brakes kept him from being more of a contender in the final laps.
- Bradley McCaskill scored his best PASS finish since 2009 with fourth.
- Jordan Anderson finished fifth. As he said, "Not bad for getting spun out four times!"
- Corey Williams made his debut in the Carswell Motorsports #98. Williams got a call late in the week after Justin Wakefield decided to spend more time with his family and left the ride. Williams was involved in the first caution and suffered damage after a trip into the turn one wall.
- Preston Peltier suffered a right-front flat early in the race and went several laps down. He parked it shortly thereafter. He and the team may not be competing in the final events due to financial issues. More later in the week on Speed51.com.
- Steven Legendre was penalized for rough driving into Andy Loden early, made contact with Colt James in the Fogleman/Oliver crash, but was able to hold on for a sixth-place finish.
- Brake issues caused the early retirement from the race for Becca Kasten and Cale Gale.
- Andy Loden set a new track record in qualifying, but was involved in an early incident and also suffered transmission issues late in the race before finishing 11th.
- Colt James made his first start in Dickie Woodman's #8 ride that had been piloted earlier in the year by Cassius Clark. James ran well inside the top-five before being spun by Legendre as part of the Fogleman incident coming to the first white flag.
- Brandon Ward suffered a rear-end failure on the #62 machine and did not start the event.