The 12th Annual Easter Bunny 150 did not disappoint under beautiful spring weather and a packed grandstand at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC). A yellow flag in the closing laps, when former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil made hard impact with the turn one wall, set up a thrilling three-lap dash to the finish among three competitors.
Preston Peltier, already a three-time previous Easter Bunny 150 winner, started checking out on the field with less than 50 laps to go after advancing past Pro All-Stars Series South points leader Matt Craig for the lead. The yellow flag allowed teenager Raphael Lessard and two-time and defending event winner Ben Rowe to challenge the veteran racer in the closing laps. The three competitors fought nearly three-wide on the final two circuits with Peltier holding them both off.
“With three to go when that caution came out I thought, oh man, here it goes again,” Peltier explained on the Speed51 TV live broadcast. “My tires weren’t really the best there at the end. I’ve got to thank Ben (Rowe). He could have used me up and he didn’t and it shows what good character he has.”
Peltier added that he was thankful to have Rowe following him to the final restart on the inside because he knew how the Maine veteran races. The win marks the end to a two-year winless drought for Peltier, who has since relocated to Colorado and now drives for a once rival Roger Lee Newton.
“We had our ups and downs,” Peltier added. “It’s just funny how life works out. Right now life is going pretty good.”
Rowe came across the line in second by only a nose. The current PASS National Series championship frontrunner had to climb from the 14th starting position to get near the front.
“I was trying to save as much as I could, coming from where we did,” said Rowe, who started 14th. “That last restart it was just everybody for himself. He gave me a lane on the bottom and I just couldn’t quite make it work without running him up and taking his lane away. It was fun for the three of us to come across the line and never even touch each other. It was fun racing.”
Rowe attributed much of the hard racing to the conditions that the historic .363-mile oval presents.
“It’s wore out and it’s old,” Rowe commented. “This surface brings the driver into it. You’ve got to conserve and you can’t go wide open. Preston does an amazing job here and the line he runs, I try to learn from him every time I come here.”
Original third place finisher Raphael Lessard was disqualified following the conclusion of the Easter Bunny 150. Lessard’s team received two warnings during the race, once for contact with a slower car and another time for passing the leader under yellow flag conditions. He received the DQ, though, due to a post-race infraction when a team member confronted Pro All-Stars Series officials in Race Control.
“He (Lessard) finished third; he ran a great race and almost won the Easter Bunny 150,” said Alan Dietz, spokesman for the Pro All-Stars Series. “Following the race, the number-99 pulled down and the trophy was on the car; he had finished third. Following the race, his spotter entered the race control tower. A team member cannot enter the tower and cannot enter race control.
“We are more than glad to discuss issues with folks after the race; we do it all of the time, but that’s a line that once it’s crossed, you cannot go back. That left us no other recourse than to disqualify the 99 car,” added Dietz. “Raphael drove a great race and is a very talented driver, but the driver is responsible for the actions of its team members. Unfortunately for him and that team, the actions of his spotter were just as I said, a line that cannot be crossed.”
Many eyes were on Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch, who surprisingly showed up to compete. Unfortunately for his fans, mechanical woes sidelined him only 15 laps in.
The next Pro All Stars Series South race will be Friday, May 5 at Caraway Speedway (NC).
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central New York & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
Pro All-Stars Series Easter Bunny 150
Hickory Motor Speedway, Hickory, North Carolina
|20||7f||Dave Farrington Jr.|