Matt Craig scored his second consecutive Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South victory Saturday night at Orange County Speedway (NC), but it didn’t come without controversy.
Craig made hard contact with leader Preston Peltier during the final laps of the Orange Blossom Special before nursing his beaten-up No. 54 to the checkered flag.
“I’ve raced with Preston for a long time and I knew if I was on the outside of him on the final lap he wouldn’t have done anything different then what I did, so I didn’t feel anything about that,” Craig said after the race. “He’s raced me dirty, I race him dirty and that’s how we get along.”
Peltier took over the lead from early leader Derek Griffith with just over 25 laps to go. He held the lead until the final restart when Craig used a crossover move to get to the inside of Peltier’s No. 33. In turn three, Craig drifted up into Peltier sending him into the outside wall.
Four-time PASS national champion Ben Rowe made his way by Peltier as a result of the contact, relegating Peltier to a third-place finish at the checkered flag.
“I haven’t lost a lot of races like that,” Peltier said. “At Southern National he ran a good race and I figured maybe the kid has turned the corner, but I’ve changed my mind on that deal.”
After commenting on the finish, Craig said over the track's public address system that he would be donating all of his winnings and the trophy to longtime PASS official Ollie Spain, whose wife Teresa is battling cancer. Earlier in the night, race fans at the track raised over $3,200 for the family.
“I want to donate everything I won tonight to Ollie, and the trophy,” Craig stated.
Peltier, upset about the finish to the 150-lap race, wasn’t as impressed with the gesture.
“If you could take all the money that that kid has spent wrecking these cars and give it to Ollie Spain, that would be something,” Peltier said. “The kid has torn up a lot of equipment and it’s got to stop sometime. I just pray to God that he gets focused and drives with a head on his shoulders or someone is going to hurt him.”
Rowe, who finished second, had a bird’s eye view of the contact between the two leaders and wasn’t impressed with what he saw.
“(Craig) just went in and body slammed him,” Rowe said. “It’s racing, it’s the last lap, I get all of that. But we’re all here to race and bring it home in one piece.”
After the race, PASS officials announced that Craig will be fined and placed on probation for over-aggressive driving.
Kodie Conner and 2015 PASS South champion Tate Fogleman completed the top five.
For an on-demand recap of Saturday’s race, visit Speed51.com’s Trackside Now: http://speed51.com/trackside-now-pass-orange-blossom-special-at-orange-county/
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
PASS Orange Blossom Special Unofficial Results