Hickory Motor Speedway’s hometown driver in the Pro All Stars Series field of 34 Super Late Models found his way to the front and went home with the hardware, but in quite the unconventional way over the closing laps.
With less than two laps remaining, Garrett Hall, making his debut at the 0.363-mile historic facility looked like he had the $15,000 check in the bag. Lap after lap for approximately 100 circuits the Scarborough, Maine driver steadily maintained a couple car lengths on Newton, North Carolina’s Brandon Setzer. That was until they approached the slower car of David Calabrese, who was running five laps off the leaders’ pace.
“I don’t know what (Calabrese) was thinking,” a clearly dejected Hall told Speed51.com powered by JEGS following the race. “He goes down into turns one and two down low, then he drifts up down the backstretch in front of me, and then he waves his hand out the window as I’m spinning out that he’s going to the topside.”
Setzer, who fought a loose condition to get up close to challenge Hall for the top spot, recognized Hall checking up but at that juncture could not do anything to get away from Hall’s back bumper.
“He had the best car and I hate it ended like that,” Setzer remarked. “The lapped car just screwed him up and tried to go to the outside. As soon as I saw him go to the outside I saw the lapped car waving to the inside and I said ‘oh, I’ve got a hole.’ I filled the hole and he tried to come back down. I couldn’t back out at that point.”
Hall was then tagged by PASS North Champion Travis Benjamin and both were forced to regroup due to the race remaining under green flag conditions and finished sixth and ninth, respectively.
For Benjamin, it was a rally from almost two laps down to a comeback for the ages. The Morrill, Maine resident had a vastly different strategy than his peers, electing to stay out while others came in for fresh rubber. He would continue to hold the top spot until trouble struck on lap 183 with what he called the best car he’s ever had by far.
“We ran out of gas is what happened,” Benjamin recalled. “Something seems fishy because there were a lot of caution laps I guess, but we had it figured out where we could make way more than that when we did a little run in practice yesterday.”
Despite the setback, Benjamin put on a show from the back for the fans in attendance, but the timing simply did not work in his favor.
“What I’m bummed out about is if it was 10 laps to go I would have missed that because I wouldn’t have had to drive as hard as I could down into the corner,” the two-time Oxford 250 winner commented. “Normally you hit the brakes and let off the turn. I was so hard getting into the corner that I didn’t have time to let off.”
Calabrese additionally gave his input on his impression of what occurred.
“I was just riding and my spotter said ‘leaders are coming,’ I gave them the inside, hand out the window, pointed to the down, and then I went off the corner still high, and I looked in the mirror behind me and they’re wrecking,” Calabrese explained. “I pointed to the inside for them even getting into three, and they just didn’t go down. I gave them more than enough room; a whole entire car length.”
Meanwhile, Setzer stayed in the gas once he cleared Hall and Calabrese and cruised to the big victory. It was a feat in which hard work paid off for his father, former NASCAR competitor Dennis Setzer, and his entire team.
“I can’t even tell you how many late nights, staying up until midnight with my dad,” Setzer said. “He busts his tail and puts his life into this car. To see it run like that, it’s unreal. We didn’t have a hired crew. Just our regular guys and they did some awesome pit stops, didn’t leave lugs loose, and got us out where we needed to be and put us in victory lane.”
On the other side of the fence, a heartbroken Hall had trouble putting his emotions into words.
“I don’t understand; it’s just so hard,” Hall said. “We ran a good race and put ourselves in a good spot. Robbie, my crew chief, made a couple of adjustments to the car and he did a great job. I had a really good car. It’s one of those deals that I don’t know if I should have done something different, but I’ll watch the Speed51 video.
“It obviously gives us a lot of confidence to come down here and be able to run, but that’s not really worth anything compared to the fifteen grand.”
Pole starter DJ Shaw climbed to second in the end while fast qualifier Kodie Conner finished third. Spencer Davis and Ben Rowe rounded out the top five. With the solid finish, Ben Rowe locked up another PASS National championship.
Matt Craig soldiered on to a 22nd place finish, more than 50 laps off the pace, after being caught up in an early wrath of yellow flags. Nevertheless, simply taking the green flag sealed the deal for the Kannapolis, North Carolina racer to capture his second straight PASS South championship, the first in series history to claim a title in the series more than once.
In victory lane, Setzer made one last comment that showed how meaningful winning such a major event at his home track was.
“I could have won the Daytona 500 and wouldn’t have been this happy.”
Race fans can watch an on-demand replay featuring all 300 laps now on Speed51.com.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Pro All Stars Series Mason-Dixon MegaMeltdown Finishing Order
|10||27||46||Dennis Spencer Jr.||300|
|18||25||7F||Dave Farrington Jr.||281|