In what has been an unpredictable points race the entire season, Matt Craig came out on top of one final seesaw battle with rookie Kodie Conner in the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South season finale at Concord Speedway (NC) this past Saturday. Craig of Kannapolis, North Carolina has found time for celebration, but is not done behind the wheel just yet as he’s heading to Southern National Motorsports Park (NC) for the CARS Tour Super Late Model season finale on Saturday night.
“It feels pretty good, we did a little celebrating and now we’re back to the shop getting ready to go racing this weekend,” Craig told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
While Craig has been after wins only on a partial CARS Tour schedule, his full-time effort in PASS South turned into points racing in his sophomore year. His first career PASS win at Caraway Speedway (NC) put him into the points battle, which became a contest between him and Conner as they went blow-for-blow throughout 2016. When it seemed Craig finally had an edge heading into the penultimate round at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC), trouble forced him back onto his heels at Concord.
“Going into Hickory we had a 20-point lead and we felt pretty comfortable with that and we broke an axle on the left side. We couldn’t get it out of the rear-end which forced us out of the race and we had a bad finish there. Conner had a flat tire early, but he still gained on us there. When he had bad luck, I ran good. When I had bad luck he ran good. At the end, the finishes evened out pretty good. It was fun to race all year with him.”
At Concord, the momentum swung back Craig’s way, as Conner struggled throughout the weekend with Craig running solid enough for a sixth place finish, erasing a four point deficit to win the championship by 12 points.
“It was really cool to beat him out coming from behind. The whole weekend we had a pretty good car, first in one of the practices, we qualified second, and I really thought we could contend for the win. When the race started, the front few really took off at a faster pace than I thought the race would go. So I let them go and I fell in behind, I didn’t push too hard, I had a big spot where I was on the racetrack away from everybody, so I just rode there and avoided trouble. If we weren’t in the points battle we could’ve raced harder and gotten a better finish but we did what we had to do,” explained Craig.
It has been a major coming out season for Craig who notched the first PASS win at Caraway as well as his first CARS SLM win at Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC) in June.
“Last year we just had a building year and got everything going smoothly. This year we really found some speed and I got a little better about being smart at driving my races. It paid off a couple of times this year. Wish we could’ve had that one win at Anderson in PASS, but everything worked out and we had a good year.”
While Craig still has the one CARS race left and an unclear picture of what 2017 holds racing wise, he and his team are already taking steps to prepare for what might come their way.
“We’d like to keep moving up the ladder, but that’s a lot of financial stuff that goes on there. We’ll talk with all our people this winter and see what we can plan out for next year. But for the time we’re building a couple more Super Late Models to be better than we are this year and improve our record of wins this year and try to improve overall for next year.”
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: PASS/LWpictures.com