On a chilly night in Newton, North Carolina, Massachusetts driver Derek Ramstrom snapped his cold streak with a win in the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Mason-Dixon MegaMeltdown 200 at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Ramstrom held off all comers, including the fastest man in time trials in Kodie Conner, local hero Brandon Setzer, and newly-crowned PASS National Champion Derek Griffith to take the victory, his first since a PASS North event at Star Speedway (NH) in May 2017.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Ramstrom said about the hard-fought win. “I haven’t won all season. We’ve been fighting, we’ve been picking, we’ve been probing. We’ve had a rough season. This is how we’ve got to cap it off right here.”
Ramstrom was particularly jubilant about the victory, coming at a track where success has eluded him.
“This track has totally owed me one,” Ramstrom said. “We’ve been here I’d say at least five times. Always time trialing in the top ten, we’re always competitive. We just can’t seem to finish the deal.”
Griffith finished second in the event, earning the PASS National Championship in the process. It was anything but a relaxing day for the new champion however, as he rallied from a broken trailing arm mount during the first practice session of the day to take the runner-up spot.
“It’s incredible,” Griffith said. “To compare myself to the names of the list of all the PASS champions is pretty incredible. I’m psyched. I can’t believe it. It’s not going to set in for a little while.
“It was a tough race for us,” Griffith added. “Started in the back and got used up on both sides. It ended up alright, we kept the nose clean and finished second. That’s awesome for me.”
The part failure occurred on his first practice run of the day. With a little welding help from Brandon Setzer’s team at his shop just down the road from Hickory Motor Speedway, Griffith was able to return to action and take the title.
“It was a bummer,” Griffith said. “It was our first real lap of practice. It was like 20 minutes into practice. I went into one and two, went down the backstretch, and felt it break. I’m lucky I didn’t stuff it into the wall. I had good bad luck, I guess.
“I’ve really got to thank the Setzer guys,” he continued. “They hustled over to their shop and got that bracket welded up for us. We slapped it back together, went out for practice, and she was pretty good. Just a mind-blowing day for me, all the ups and downs.”
“I’m really happy those guys got the championship and we could help them out,” Setzer said about the good deed. “Everybody knows we live five minutes from the shop. It’s always open to help competitors out. Hopefully one day we’ll get it returned, we’ll need help at someone’s home track and they’ll help us out.”
In the closing laps of the race, it was Setzer hunting down Ramstrom, posing one final threat to Ramstrom’s win. However, an incident with lapped traffic dashed Setzer’s hopes of winning and collected Kodie Conner.
As Ramstrom and Setzer battled for the lead, they approached the lapped car of Gracie Trotter. Setzer miscalculated where Trotter would move as the leaders approached, ultimately contacting Trotter. Trotter spun, bringing out the caution, and Conner collided with Trotter in the aftermath.
PASS officials sent Setzer to the rear of the field for his role in the incident, setting up a late restart between Ramstrom and Griffith for the win. Ramstrom held on the for the win, while Griffith took second and the national championship.
“Honestly, I was very concerned with Setzer,” Ramstrom said. “Because we know he’s very fast here and he’s a great driver. I was paranoid. I think he got a little impatient with Gracie Trotter and that’s what cost him.”
Setzer was apologetic for the incident but couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
“We were just racing really hard for the lead,” Setzer explained. “We were side-by-side with the 35, Ramstrom. He was really good. We were a tick better, just looking for a way around him.
“We caught some lapped traffic and caught Gracie Trotter. I felt like she was a little bit undecided on where she was going. I went to the bottom and I felt like she was going to give me a line. I carried it in there like she was going to give me a lane and she gave the top lane. I ended up getting into her.
“I really hated that because Gracie is like a teammate,” Setzer added. “I’ve helped coach her. I’ve went to the shop and worked for them a bit. I like those people a lot. Definitely didn’t mean to wreck them. I kinda hate it took us out of a shot to win the race, too. The fans got robbed of a really good finish. I don’t want to say anything bad about PASS. I like PASS and they put on a good race. I just think the leaders should be able to race it out. Lapped cars got in the way a little bit and I hate it ended the way it did.”
Matt Craig finished third in the event, achieving a milestone of his own. Craig’s podium finish secured a third-consecutive PASS South championship.
Before Craig’s first series title in 2016, ten different drivers had won all ten PASS South championships. Now, Craig has tripled them all.
“Third PASS title, third-place finish,” Craig said. “It was good to cap off the year with a good finish. It was a fun year. I wish we could have run a few more races. A couple got rained out.
“Championships are won back at the shop,” he added. “Quality cars, quality equipment, things not breaking, being able to finish the race. And you have to have speed too. My team has done that and brought me good equipment to race with. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The race concludes the 2018 Pro All Stars Series campaign. A complete 2019 series schedule has not been announced yet. Stay tuned to Speed51.com for updates on the upcoming PASS season.
Race fans who missed the action on Saturday at Hickory can purchase an on-demand video ticket of the Mason-Dixon MegaMeltdown by clicking here, or can visit our Race Day Now updates page by clicking here.
-Story by Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
PASS Mason-Dixon MegaMeltdown Unofficial Results
November 10, 2018 – Hickory Motor Speedway (NC)
|24||82||John Michael Shenette|