Brandon Setzer defended his home turf Saturday night when invaders tried to keep the Newton, North Carolina driver away from victory lane.
Setzer wrestled the lead away from mid-race dominator and Maine invader Mike Hopkins with 62 laps remaining and kept the field at bay for the remainder of Saturday’s PASS South Super Late Model season finale at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Hopkins and Texas native Derek Scott, Jr. dominated much of Saturday’s 200-lap Mason-Dixon Meltdown event, but it was Setzer who used lessons learned from years of experience at his hometown track to come to life late and earn his first career PASS South victory.
“It was mostly just, ‘keep them tires on,’” Setzer told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We had to keep the left side tires on it the whole race so keeping the left side tires on there (was important). Some of those guys ran harder than I wanted to the first half and in the first part of the second half. We turned it on whenever we had to there at the end and luckily we had just enough.”
As early contenders faded late in the race, Setzer was at his best down the stretch. Once out front following the lap 120 competition pit stop break, he sped away from Hopkins, Tyler Church and Roger Lee Newton on a series of restarts to pick up his third Super Late Model victory of 2015. The PASS triumph put an exclamation point on a season that also included two CARS Tour Super Late Model victories.
“This is an awesome race with great competitors,” added Setzer. “You’ve got the Rowes (PASS North champion drivers Ben and Mike) coming and (Hopkins) was great. Tyler (Church) was awesome. (There were) a ton of good north and south guys. It means a ton to come to the home track, five minutes from the house, and beat those guys for the first PASS win, that’s awesome.”
Behind Setzer, a part-time competitor on the PASS South circuit in 2015, a championship was on the line between four drivers. Fifteen-year-old Tate Fogleman entered the Mason-Dixon Meltdown 18 points ahead of Zane Smith, who lost the point lead two races prior due to post-race penalties handed down at Greenville Pickens Speedway (SC). Matt Craig and Jody Measamer also were in the hunt, but Fogleman made sure that no one was going to overtake him on this night.
Each championship contender ran inside the top-10 throughout the 200-lap feature, but that wasn’t enough for anyone to overtake Fogleman. The Durham, North Carolina teenager finished 10th to join his father Jay as a PASS South champion.
“It just feels amazing,” said Fogleman, who finished in the top 10 in seven of the series’ 12 races in 2015, but was held winless on the season. “Going into the year, we didn’t think this is where we’d be, but with Zane’s point loss we were able to capitalize and it just feels amazing.
“We were hoping to win some races, but the championship coming together has been great. I’ve progressed as a driver and the team has too, so I think we’ll be really good in 2016.”
Tyler Church finished second to Setzer Saturday night, followed by Roger Lee Newton, Brandon Ward and Jody Measamer. Zane Smith recovered from a late-race spin to finish sixth.
In other Mason-Dixon Meltdown action Saturday at Hickory, Austin Thompson won the PASS Pro Late Model season finale, while Kodie Conner locked down the PASS PLM championship. Chris Lamb won the USAC Eastern Midget feature and Dustin Coonfield took the checkers in the Legends Car feature.
The Speed51 Network will have video highlights of the PASS South Mason-Dixon Meltdown in the coming days.
Unofficial Finish – PASS South Mason-Dixon Meltdown
|3||33||Roger Lee Newton|
|18||1||Derek Scott, Jr.|
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director – Twitter: @mattkentfield
– Photo credits: Speed51.com