A trio of drivers from the Northeast will travel to North Carolina this weekend to settle a national championship battle.
Derek Griffith, Ray Christian III and Ben Rowe enter Saturday’s PASS MegaMeltdown at Hickory Motor Speedway – the final race of the 2018 Pro All Stars Series season – separated by just 10 points in the national championship standings.
Three will enter. One will return to their home turf as a national champion.
Griffith will make his way to Hickory, North Carolina as the winner of two of the three previous PASS National Championship events. In fact, he won the first two races of the year at Dillon Motor Speedway (SC) and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) before a subpar outing at the Oxford 250.
“We were really, really strong there earlier this year and someone got into us and bent the panhard bar and everything, just changed how everything drove,” Griffith told Speed51.com. “We were a rocket ship and I think we would’ve been a top two or three car for sure. We’re going back the same as we left and hopefully it’s a similar outcome as far as speed-wise and we don’t get banged up.”
Despite scoring two victories earlier this year, Griffith enters the finale at Hickory with just a one-point advantage over Christian.
“The points thing is tough,” he stated. “It’s hard to be points racing like that and worry about the points so much. It’s come down to the last race so we’ll probably have to figure it out. It’s crazy to think that we’ve won two out of the three races and we’re only one point ahead of the guy in second. I’m just excited. Whatever happens, happens and hopefully we’ll get it done.”
Christian, who made his first ever Super Late Model start earlier this year in the PASS National Championship opener at Dillon, never imagined he’d be competing for a national title during his rookie season. However, now that the door is open, the Groton, Connecticut driver is hoping to capitalize on the opportunity.
“We’re excited to get down there to see if we can get a miracle and go win a national title,” Christian said. “We’re one point behind Derek, so really I think I have to beat him by two spots. If he beats me, that’s it. I don’t know how many [points] Ben is back, but any of the three of us can win it. Just to be in the same sentence with those two guys is pretty awesome in my rookie year in PASS Super Late Models.”
After battling Griffith for the win and eventually finishing third at Dillon, Christian traveled back to his home state and finished seventh at Thompson. From there, he finished an impressive 13th out of the 42 cars that started the 45th Annual Oxford 250.
With the fourth PASS National event at Richmond Raceway (VA) being postponed to 2019, Christian found himself in an unexpected position to contend for a national championship.
“We went to Dillon and finished third there. That was my first race ever in a Super,” Christian said. “At that point we already had planned to go to Thompson. We went there and finished well, and then at the [Oxford] 250 we lucked out and finished well. We kind of just rolled into this. With Richmond raining out, we have one left to go and we just have to go for it.”
Although Griffith (21) and Christian (28), a pair of twenty-somethings, are in the catbird’s seat to claim the national championship, they have one of the most accomplished PASS racers of all-time breathing down their necks.
Ben Rowe, a five-time PASS national champion, enters the race just 10 points behind Griffith in the standings. Add in the fact that he’s heading to a track that he’s enjoyed success at and you certainly can’t count out the yellow No. 4.
“I feel pretty good. We’re going to bring the Senneker car down there,” Rowe said. “Hopefully we’ll unload quick Friday and be good. Hickory is one of my favorite places to go. I just like racing with all the southern guys down there, there’s going to be a lot of different guys. Just kind of mixing the north and the south, and it’s a fun place. Hickory, there’s a lot of history there. It’s wore out and it brings the driver into it. It’s a good time.”
Rowe’s resume at Hickory is highlighted by three PASS victories, including a pair of Easter Bunny 150 wins. More impressively, the Turner, Maine racer hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 at the track since 2015
Despite this, Rowe knows that he’s up against tough competition and will need to take care of business himself before worrying about the points.
“Both of those guys are good, they’ve been really good all year,” he stated. “We’ll just go down there and do our thing; can’t worry about them. Just go down there and see what we can do. Hopefully we’ll be right up front, which I think we will. We’ve been bouncing answers off Mike Garvey again and getting set up for down there, so I think we’ll be all set.”
The PASS MegaMeltdown will feature 200 laps of Super Late Model racing on Saturday afternoon. Race fans unable to make it to Hickory, North Carolina will be able to watch a live, pay-per-view broadcast of the race on Speed51.com.
Live video tickets can be purchased today for $24.99 by clicking here.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: PASS