The highs and lows of racing were on full display Saturday at Richmond Raceway, as a “hillbilly from Maine” took the win in the Pro All Stars Series Crate Super Late Model portion of the Commonwealth Classic after a heartbreaking mechanical failure for race dominator Ray Christian, III.
Over the first 60 laps of the 75-lap race, Mike Hopkins had only led one lap, with the rest of the trips around the 0.75-mile oval owned by Christian. However, a lap 62 issue sidelined Christian, turning the lead over to Hopkins.
It had been a rough-and-tumble weekend for Hopkins but finishing in victory lane made the hard work worthwhile.
“We didn’t start off very good,” Hopkins said. “We had the wrong gear in at first. Blew a power steering line, almost ended our day. I’ve just got to thank Gary Crooks for this opportunity and these race cars. He’s turned this program around he put his faith in me. I can’t thank him enough.”
Discussing the trials and tribulations of the day and reflecting on his journey was enough to make Hopkins emotional at the thought of winning at Richmond. The victory is just Hopkins’ second under the PASS banner, and the first since winning a PASS North race at Star Speedway (NH) in May 2016.
“I’m actually emotional,” Hopkins said. “This is awesome. I know this ain’t NASCAR but it sure feels good. It’s unbelievable. I’m just a hillbilly from Maine to come down here and race with these guys. It’s so fast, it’s so fun. I can’t believe I’m standing here. It’s a dream come true.”
While Hopkins was living out a dream in victory lane, Christian was left heartbroken after seeing the biggest win of his career go up in smoke.
“Just a big puff of smoke down into one,” Christian explained. “It was still running into two, we were just down on power. It’s heartbreaking, but sometimes you’ve got to lose a race to win one. Hopefully at Thompson next week, we get the monkey off our back.
“We had the dominant car in the Crate division all weekend,” Christian added. “Every time we hit the track, it was top of the boards. We didn’t come out today like we wanted to, but sometimes you have to take your lumps. We’re really optimistic. It hurts now, but in the morning it will be alright.”
Hopkins said he could sense trouble ahead for Christian before the mechanical issue struck.
“I don’t know exactly what happened, but I could start to smell antifreeze, so I knew something bad was going to happen,” Hopkins said. “That second set of tires, we didn’t fire off, we were real tight. If he hadn’t broke we probably wouldn’t be standing here. I’d rather be lucky than good any day.”
Race fans who missed Saturday’s action at Richmond Raceway can visit Speed51’s Race Day Now for updates, photos and information by clicking here.
Fans can also stay tuned to the Speed51 Network for highlights, recaps and more from all six divisions of the inaugural Commonwealth Classic.
Official Results – PASS Commonwealth Classic (Crates)
Richmond Raceway – Richmond, Virginia
|14||93||Ray Christian, III|
-Story by Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Evan Canfield