It was a cool Fall night at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway Saturday night, but with a stout field of Super Late Models vying for the victory in the “Over the Mountain 150,” the driver who stayed the coolest behind the wheel in an event full of carnage and attrition would be victorious. When it comes to staying cool and clean, perhaps nobody has done it better – in both the North and the South – than Turner, Maine’s Ben Rowe over the years.
Rowe did it again Saturday night, going to victory lane in a thrilling PASS South race to become the PASS South all-time wins leader with seven, matching his title as the all-time wins leader in PASS North, as well.
“We time trialed 12th and I knew that saving your stuff was going to be big,” said Rowe in victory lane. “There were a lot of guys out here tonight that I’ve never raced with before. Forty-four cars, PASS is great. But you have to save your stuff. The last 30 laps are important, but the only lap that pays anything is the last one.”
After 42 cars had time trialed, Alex Fleming earned his first PASS South quick-time. Andy Loden, Kyle Grissom, Bradley McCaskill and Rebecca Kasten would follow Fleming in the top-five qualifiers. Twenty would then be locked in the show, and the rest of the field would be set with two last-chance races. Drivers such as championship contender Ryan Blaney, Daniel Hemric, Jordan Anderson, Steve Legendre and Jimmy Weller all had to transfer to the feature through the last-chance races.
The field was then set and 28 PASS SLM drivers were ready to go racing.
Jared Marks and Kyle Grissom would lead the field down to the green flag. In the opening laps of the race the field was sorting itself out.
On lap 15, Andy Loden would overtake the lead from Marks, while behind the leaders the fast mover early on was Becca Kasten in the BDI Racing #51. Loden started to extend his lead, but behind him, Kasten made her way through the field from 10th after the redraw and on lap 42, would take the lead away from Loden.
On lap 44 the yellow flag would fly for a tangled John Batten and Dean Cattenburg. On the ensuing restart, the yellow flag would come out again, only this time for a pile up involving Logan Ruffin, Gray Gaulding, Steve Legendre, Dean Cattenburg and point leader Jay Fogleman.
Fogleman had heavy damage to his 4 car, but his crew went to work using lots of duct tape to fix his car to get him back out. When the green flag came back out it was Andy Loden and Becca Kasten who led the field back to the green. Point’s contender Ryan Blaney, who had started deep in the field, was quietly working his way up through the field and by lap 55 was in the ninth spot.
When the yellow flag flew again on lap 76 for a spun out Jared Marks, Andy Loden, who led early, came to pit road with a flat right-front tire.
“The car was really, really good at the beginning of the race, but a right-front tire went flat. It started bottoming out. We had to come in and change the tire, but the car was never the same after,” stated Loden after the race.
Kasten would lead until a strong Preston Peltier, who started in the 18th spot, took the lead from her. On lap 81 the yellow would fly for a spun out Trevor Edwards. Peltier would get a good restart over Kasten and extend his lead to eight car-lengths. That lead would be extinguished on lap 97 for a slow Jordan Anderson. Peltier would not get as good of a start giving Kasten back the lead, but not for long.
Peltier would eventually take the lead back and the battle for second place was on between Kasten and Landon Cling.
Lap 106 the caution would wave for the ninth time, for a spun-out Cattenburg. Peltier, who seemed to have awesome restarts all night, would again get the jump. The 29 of Cling would get into Kasten on the restart and all drivers had to check up a bit. Blaney was now all the way up to sixth spot and had made his way to Kasten when he got into her, sending the 51 for a spin.
“We started 10th and went right up to the front. I was worried we were going too hard, too early. It kind of looked like we were when we went back to second, but I was just riding there for a while. Unfortunately we got spun out and went to the back,” stated Kasten when the race was over.
As the cars were getting back in line for the lap 121 restart, leader Peltier and the 47 of Trey Mitchell would make contact because they were both weaving and getting in line at the same time. The contact would force Mitchell to pit road on the restart and Peltier would lose many spots. The beneficiary to the contact was Ben Rowe, who had climbed from his 12th starting spot, inherited the lead.
“Once I got up front, the two leaders cleaned each other out under yellow, which was kind of weird,” said Rowe. “Preston (Peltier) had a good car, but man, this race is 150 laps for a reason.”
Blaney had worked his way through the field and was in position to capitalize on Jay Fogleman’s bad luck earlier in the race. Fogleman entered the race four points ahead of Blaney, but was out of contention early. Blaney’s chance to gain points was lost when he came to pit road under the yellow and would stay there on the ensuing restart losing several laps.
“I think around lap 125, we got up to second and all of the sudden it just wouldn’t go,” said Blaney. “It would only spin the right-rear tire. We came in to the pits and found out the left-rear axle was busted, so it was only driving the right-rear tire. That’s why we were so loose. By the time we got it fixed, we went five or so laps down. When we got back out there, we were running away from the leader.”
Rowe had to hold off Loden, who got the best of Rowe on the second-to-last restart, only to lose the advantage on the final restart, for the win.
“Right at the end, Loden got by me and I knew it was going to be tough getting back by him,” said Rowe. “Once we rolled the outside, we were pretty good.”
“The second-to-last restart, we got around him and I thought we were in good shape, but on the last restart I spun the tires,” added Loden. “I couldn’t get up beside him and I battled with Landon Cling for the rest of the race. We ran side-by-side. I ran the thing as hard as I could to try to run with Ben, but it wasn’t meant to be today.
Landon Cling finished third to complete the podium.
“Maybe on the long run we had a shot to get up there (with Rowe and , but the restarts killed me. Everybody on this Checkered Flag Foundation team did an awesome job. We got our best finish of the season. It was just a good night overall.”
The bad luck for both Fogleman, who finished 12th, and Blaney in 13th, added to Loden’s second-place run, make for a three-horse race for the PASS South title in the series’ final event this season, the November 26th Thanksgiving Classic/Mason-Dixon Meltdown at Concord Speedway. Fogleman has, unofficially by 51’s count, a six-point advantage on Blaney and a 10-marker lead on Loden. While Fogleman and Blaney lead the standings, Loden may not even be at Concord.
“As of right now, it’s up in the air if we’re going to Concord,” said Loden. “The plan is to go to the World Crown and the Snowball Derby. We’re going to run the Pro and the Super Late Model races there (Snowball Derby weekend in December at Five Flags Speedway in Florida). The plan is to leave for Snowball the Sunday after Concord, so unless we can find someone else’s car to run at Concord, it’s not looking good for us to race there right now.”
Blaney is hoping to avoid the mechanical problems he faced at Hickory.
“If we can just keep parts on this car, we could win the championship. But, we can’t keep it together. Jay even had bad luck tonight, but we couldn’t capitalize on it. If we just keep our equipment together, we’d have a good shot. That’s what we’ll have to work on that for Concord. You never know how it’s going to shake out. We’ve always been good at Concord in the past, so we’ll go see how it shakes out and hope for the best.”
Daniel Hemric finished fourth, with Heath Hindman rounding out the top-five at Hickory.