Ben Rowe and Jay Fogleman put on a clinic of how to race for a win on Saturday night. The other 25 cars in the PASS National event at Motor Mile Speedway could’ve learned a thing or two from the veteran racers, whether they followed in their tire tracks or watched from the infield next to their mangled racecars.
Rowe and Fogleman raced hard, swapping paint several times in the closing laps, but never once crashed themselves or each other. It seems pretty simple to do, but there were plenty of torn-up racecars caused by aggressive driving at the front of the field earlier in the night.
First, Cassius Clark and Stephen Nasse took turns slamming each other while battling for the lead. That ended up in both cars crashing in turn one at the 150-lap race’s halfway mark. Pushes between the drivers ensued. Then more heated action took place between Ryan Blaney and Jeff Choquette, who knocked each other around until Choqutte slammed the inside wall and Blaney lost several laps while pitting for repairs while they were both battling near the front of the field. Justin Wakefield led before a flat tire – one of the few non-crash lead changes - took him out of contention and handed the lead to Preston Peltier, who lost the lead a few laps later after spinning by himself while trying to pass two lapped cars at once in turn four.
The crashing, spinning, fighting and plain-old bad luck for previous leaders let the race fall right into Rowe’s and Fogleman’s veteran racing hands. Several-late race restarts allowed plenty of opportunities for the two to wreck each other, but instead a thrilling battled ensued. With Rowe leading on a final restart, Fogleman used every inch of the apron and beyond to try to get by Rowe, nudging him in the side and the back bumper a few times, but the Turner, Maine native Rowe held on for the victory while Fogleman was left with a hard-to-take, yet still respectable, second.
“I didn’t expect a shot right square in the back,” laughed Rowe, “but I did figure he’d get into the left side of me. When he’s under me, I’m on the apron, he was below the apron, so I knew I had him there. When you pinch a guy that bad, you expect it. That’s what we did. We hit two or three times even going down the straightaways. The difference between that and everyone else wrecking is they had no give and take. They had no lift. We got into each other, we lifted, we straightened it up and kept going.
“Guys like Jay, and (third-place Andy) Loden would’ve been the same way, there’s a couple people you can race that hard with. We were both out of control, just driving way over our heads, but you can do that and get away with it with guys like Fogleman. That’s why we come down here, to race with guys like him on tracks like this.”
Fogleman, who had similar battles over the years at Motor Mile with USARacing Pro Cup North Series rival Jeff Agnew, pitted earlier in the race for fuel and gave everything he could to get the best of Rowe until the checkered flag flew.
“I gave him everything but a wreck, and I wasn’t going to do that,” said Fogleman. “That was all I had. We pulled so much gear that we had to pit for fuel. That put us in the back. I may not have had to rush quite as much the way the cautions fell. I was afraid we were going to get a long run, so I just ran as hard as I could and I pushed the right-front off. That made the car just a tick tight in the center. That was enough not to be able enough to get a toe-hold to get beside him. I got up there and shook him up a little bit, but I wasn’t going to wreck him. That’s just how I race.”
PASS NATIONAL/SOUTH AT MOTOR MILE NOTES
HARSH WORDS – AND SHOVES – BETWEEN CLARK AND NASSE
Stephen Nasse is a winner in PASS South already in 2010, having won the Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC). Cassius Clark is a multiple-time winner in PASS North and South and a former PASS National Champion. Needless to say, both drivers know how to handle a racecar and race for wins. Unfortunately for both on Saturday night, each driver’s desire to win cost them a shot and tore up both racecars.
Nasse and Clark swapped the lead as the race approached the halfway point. A yellow flag flew on lap 74 for a spin deep in the field by Landon Cling, setting up a double-file restart with Clark, the leader, on the inside lane and Nasse on the high side. On the restart, the two ran side-by-side for three-quarters of a lap before Clark ran through turn four a little higher than usual, sending Nasse up the track. Off the corner, Nasse went back after Clark and both ended up crashed in turn one, where a series of words and shoves followed between the two drivers.
“The previous restart, before the one when I wrecked, he jumped it,” said Nasse. “That kind of made me a little bit angry that they (PASS) didn’t do anything about it because when I jumped the restart at Hickory, I got fined $500. But when he jumps it, nothing happens. I knew I had to cool myself down and just run my race. Then the next restart comes around and I’m on the outside in second. We go in, I let off with my car and I could hear him still driving in hard. I just knew he was going to end up hitting me and running me up the racetrack. I was just waiting for it. Finally, coming into three and four, he drove it in four carlengths too deep. He drove me up the race track into the marbles.
“Then I tried to keep it out of the wall over here on the frontstretch, but I really did not mean to hit him. I knew I had a better car and could get by him a couple laps later. Well, I tried to keep it off the wall and I yanked it to the left. I went down, but he was coming up and I door-slammed him. He came up and we both went into the wall. It’s just unfortunate.”
Clark admitted to running Nasse up the track, but saw the final contact a bit differently than Nasse.
“We had that restart and he stayed with me pretty good. I ran him a little high in three and four, just to get rid of him, but then coming down the frontstretch, he just right-reared me into the wall. He might’ve been a little pissed off, but you don’t right-rear someone going down the straightaway. You’re going to wreck yourself 100% of the time. If you’re pissed off, come down into the corner and run into the back of me. We’re lucky that didn’t wreck the whole field. There’s no reason to do it. If he wanted to do it that bad, I was just behind him making him burn his sh-t up. Whatever. Maybe he was a better car than me. He thinks he was. It’s 75 laps into the race and you wreck the two cars that could’ve lapped the field.”
As the two cars laid still in turn one, the drivers both exited their machines and exchanged a series of shoves before being separated by security officers.
“I was in my car, he threw his hands up and I got out,” said Nasse. “I just went to talk to him. I didn’t really want to fight. I’m really not a fighter. Then we started exchanging words. He shoved me so I shoved him back, then you know how it goes. Normal racetrack stuff.
“He just came out and I was pretty pissed off,” said Clark of the post-crash fracas. “I’m pretty hot headed, but he’s only 16. He came up with his helmet on, so I knew he probably wanted to do something. I took mine off because that’s what you do when you’re a real man and want to do something. He’s a kid. If he was 18, I would’ve beat the f--- out of him. He pushed me a couple times and I let him know. I pushed him back on the roof a little bit, and then the cops came.”
TOUGH DAY FOR PASS SOUTH POINT LEADER
Ryan Blaney entered Motor Mile, which accrued both PASS National and PASS South points, as the Southern tour’s point leader. A test session before the event led the DB Racing team to believe that they had a car capable of winning at Motor Mile, but a mid-race incident with Jeff Choquette that sent Choqutette into the pit road wall on the frontstretch also took Blaney’s #10 car out of contention.
Choquette had left Motor Mile’s infield after the race when Speed51.com attempted to get a word with him, but Blaney was able to give his take on the incident.
“We got together (with Choquette) a little bit off of (turn) four,” said Blaney. “Then he let me go in one and two, I guess just to punt me going into three. Then we made a lot more contact off of four and that broke our right-rear trailing arm. We had to come in and it took too long to change and I think we went eight laps down. It would’ve been a great night for us. We were coming up through there nice at the beginning and just trying to set ourselves up for the end. I was just trying to stay up in the top-five all night. We were still coming at the end even with the rear-end all messed up.”
Blaney finished 17th, eight laps down, while Choquette finished 26th.
WORN-OUT PELTIER SPINS OUT OF LEAD
Preston Peltier, the defending PASS South Champion, had an impressive run going throughout the race at Motor Mile. Peltier raced inside the top-five for much of the event and took the lead from Justin Wakefield when the #98 slowed to pit road with a flat tire. Peltier’s #26 did not stay in the lead for long, however, as he spun out of the lead while trying to pass two lapped cars three-wide.
But that only told part of the story for Peltier, who ran just about the entire race with no power steering.
“In qualifying, the car did something a little funny in the steering,” said Peltier. “I didn’t realize it until just before the race and I had them check the power steering and all that. We topped it off and everything was good. We rolled off for the race and it (power steering) was gone. It’s hard to drive a car with no power steering. The worst part was it’s almost like something was stuck in the servo. It’s like it was there, then all of the sudden not be there.
“I came up on some lapped cars. I thought they’d give me the outside, then the next thing I know my spotter’s telling me ‘three-wide.’ The Gaulding kid (Gray Gaulding) jumped on the inside of (Steven) Legendre. I went up the racetrack to give them room – right into the sh-t. With no power steering, there was no chance in hell you’re going to save it. I ended up spinning it out.”
After the race, the 13th-place finish, nor the torn-up right-front fender caused by contact with Matt McCall nor losing the lead in the spin caused Peltier to be down. He just needed a nap after wrestling his car without power steering.
“I’m just looking forward to getting into bed. I’m pretty tired right now.”
HOTSHOE THE WHEELMAN
PASS South competitor Daniel Hemric was in attendance Saturday at Motor Mile, but he left his helmet and firesuit at home – where they’ll stay for a few more weeks. Hemric, who recently underwent successful knee surgery to repair a knee that has given him problems for years, was on hand to support his girlfriend Kenzie Ruston using a wheelchair or crutches at times at Motor Mile. Doctors had to essentially re-form his knee from scratch, but Hemric is already rehabilitating the knee and is hoping to return to the track and drive later this Summer.
MCCALL’S NEW CAR GETTING BETTER
Late Model Stock Car kingpin Matt McCall has been behind the wheel of noted former racer and LMSC chassis builder Greg Marlowe’s new house Super Late Model for two PASS events. The #07, which is decaled up in a throwback scheme to match Marlowe’s cars from his racing days, fell out of the race early in the Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory, so the development of the car could not be truly known until some serious laps were under its belt.
That opportunity came at Motor Mile, as McCall ran inside the top-10 for much of the event, but got tangled up late in the race that relegated him to a 17th-place finish. Even though the finish wasn’t what he envisioned, McCall thinks the development of the Marlowe Super Late Model is well on its way.
“I just don’t like racing and not getting a good finish when we’re pretty good,” said McCall. “I didn’t know how hard to run it to start with. I gave up too much at the start. We don’t know anything about bleeders, we don’t race Super Late Models, so we obviously had them set wrong. So Greg made a good decision after that first caution to change them. After that, it was pretty good.
“The way these races are run, I think everyone’s got a legitimate shot to win if you just survive. It wasn’t bad. I learned a lot about the car. There’s a lot of room for improvement. I think it can be ridiculously fast. On a scale of 1 to 10, we’re about a 2 right now. We went from a negative-10 at Hickory to a 2, so we can make some big gains in a couple of weeks.”
PODIUM RUN AFTER A FLAT FOR LODEN
Andy Loden won the previous PASS South event at South Boston Speedway, so he entered Motor Mile with the most momentum of anyone in the pit area. That momentum took an early hit as he suffered a flat tire and had to come to the pits early in Saturday’s event, but he was able to rally all the way back to a third-place finish.
“I think we possibly could’ve won the race if we had some different circumstances,” said Loden. “The car was real good, we just had a flat in the first part of the race. Then we got into a little wreck and tore the fender off. We went to the back, but it’s good to get back to third. I didn’t think I was going to like this track to well, but it was a lot of fun. You can wheel it around here and that’s what I like.”
TOP-10 REBOUND FOR RUSTON
Fresh off her history-making ARCA Racing Series debut earlier in May at Toledo Speedway (OH), Kenzie Ruston was back behind the wheel of her MelMark Pipe and Supply #39 Super Late Model at Motor Mile with a new-found confidence. Ruston became the first woman to both lead laps and finish in the top-10 in her ARCA debut and hoped to continue that trend at Motor Mile.
Ruston did indeed finish in the top-10 once again on Saturday after overcoming a penalty for trying to get her spot back in the order after getting spun while avoiding the Clark/Nasse crash at the halfway point to finish sixth.
“It’s really frustrating,” said Ruston. “I was just trying to do all I could to not wreck down there. The caution was already out when someone hit me from behind. It happens. They make rules up as they go. But the car was awesome. There towards the end, we just got really tight in the center and that made us loose off. We tried our best. When that last caution came out and they said I was sixth, I was like, ‘Really, I was just 18th!’
“I know we’re starting to get the hang of this thing, so hopefully in the near future we’ll be in victory lane. I think this ARCA deal and testing, things are starting to come together. This is only our second year in a Late Model, so this year is the year to prove ourselves.”
DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN
Saturday’s event at Motor Mile Speedway was the first PASS Super Late Model event at the 4/10-mile Virginia oval since the series’ one and only event there in 2008. The early part of the race on Saturday was dominated by Stephen Nasse’s #51 and Cassius Clark’s #8. To fans at Motor Mile who had only seen the PASS Super Late Models on these two occasions probably thought they were witnessing the same race as they did in 2008 because of the similarities at the front of the field.
The early race was an equal reflection of the 2008 race, right down to the car numbers, as Nasse and Clark ran up front. Back in 2008, Clark’s #8 was one of the strongest cars and led through the mid-portions of the race. He was chased in that event by Zach Stroupe, who was driving the #51 for Bob Dillner’s BDI Racing team. While Nasse’s #51 is his own team’s entry and not one for BDI, fans seeing a #8 and a #51 up front Saturday was very reminiscent.
Unlike 2008, however, neither car number went to victory lane on Saturday. In 2008, Clark’s car went up in flames, handing the lead and the win to Stroupe. Saturday, Clark was involved in the halfway crash with Nasse.
“We’ve been here twice and been badass fast both times,” said Clark. “At least we didn’t catch on fire tonight.”