Christian Eckes dominated the Pro All-Stars Series Winter Meltdown 200 at Dillon Motor Speedway, but in the end he had to settle for second-place. Jared Irvan threw a power move on Eckes on a late-race restart to take the lead and the eventual win in the season-opening event.
Eckes led the majority of the 200-lap Super Late Model event at the 4/10-mile South Carolina oval, but a late caution bunched the field for a final restart with 14 laps to go.
On that restart, Irvan powered his way around Eckes on the outside, claiming the lead and pulling away for the victory.
“Our car has been really good on exit all day,” Irvan said about his winning pass. “I capitalized on that. I went up real high in one, and then I diamonded the corner and came off as low as I could. That paid off.
“We also opened up the motor a little bit during the break,” added Irvan, referencing an adjustment at the lap-125 intermission. “So we had a little more motor to get up there and go.”
While Eckes was fast throughout practice and qualifying on Saturday, Irvan overcame a 13th-place qualifying effort and a flat tire in the early stages of the race to take the win.
“It was pretty hard to pace ourselves, because we had in to pit for a bleeder valve sticking open and we had a tire going flat,” Irvan said. “We had to come from the back, up to sixth before the break. So we had to save and gain spots. It was tough.”
For Eckes, the second-place finish was still a strong effort, but there was disappointment after coming so close to victory.
“It’s definitely a disappointment,” said Eckes. “I’m really not sure what happened there. I just had a really good car, and we’re just excited to be here. I had saved plenty during the race. I’m still excited about a second-place finish.”
Behind them, Bradley McCaskill won a side-by-side battle with Ben Rowe to claim the third spot on the last lap.
“To race with the best of the best is pretty cool,” McCaskill said after the duel. “We had some brake troubles very early in the race. I just said a little prayer in the car, ‘Lord, please look after me.’ We got that caution there at the end to set us up. I hate it, because we had an amazing car. We’re just really happy with a third-place finish.”
McCaskill said he hopes the third-place finish is a promising start to a successful season, as he dedicates himself to Super Late Model racing in 2017.
“We actually sold our Late Model Stock, so we’re married to these Supers now, and I love them.”
The win marked Irvan’s second career PASS South victory. Irvan’s other win in the Super Late Model series came in 2015 during another event in South Carolina at Anderson Motor Speedway.
Rowe finished fourth in the event, while Spencer Davis rounded out the top five.
The PASS South Super Late Model Series returns to action on March 4th when the series visits Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina.
For expanded coverage from Saturday’s Winter Meltdown at Dillon Motor Speedway, check out Speed51’s Speed Central coverage here.
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-By Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Contributor – Twitter: @ZTEvans
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Dave Higgins Photo