One year ago, Eddie MacDonald lost the lead on the final lap of the New England Short Track Showdown at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He wasn’t going to let it happen again Sunday afternoon.
After taking the white flag as the leader for the second consecutive year at The Magic Mile, MacDonald found himself under attack from Mike Hopkins. In a thrilling finish that had fans in Loudon, New Hampshire on their feet, MacDonald nipped Hopkins by a whisker to win the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North 50.
“I didn’t want to lose it on the last lap again like we did last year,” MacDonald told Speed51.com. “I thought it was going to happen just because (Hopkins) was so quick. Luckily we were able to hang on until the end. I was going in as hard as I could and standing on the throttle as soon as I could, and I just tried to pinch him down a little bit. Luckily it was a great door-to-door finish coming across the line.”
At a track where MacDonald is always considered a favorite to win, he didn’t know if he had the car capable of accomplishing the feat Sunday afternoon. Following the competition caution on Lap 30, MacDonald found enough speed in his No. 17MA Super Late Model to set up a barnburner finish.
“We had a great run right up until the last three laps and then the 15 (Hopkins) came along and he was fast. I knew he was going to be tough to beat because he came on strong in the first half,” he said. “He drove a heck of a race and that’s a fast car. It was fun to race him very respectfully, although we ran hard to the finish and bounced off each other a little bit. Luckily we were able to come out on top but congratulations to those guys too.”
Hopkins, who won a Pro All Stars Series National Championship event earlier this season at Richmond Raceway, give it everything he had during the final lap before coming up .026 seconds shy of victory.
“I thought I was going to beat the King in his own playground but I just came up one spot short,” Hopkins said. “I tried everything, pushing him, shoving him in the corner, twisting him in the middle. Every time I did that it just hurt my moment. All I could do the last lap was just give him a shove down into three and try to roll under him. It was just a drag race to the finish. He’s raced here enough and he knows what air means to come down into me and I come down into him. It was just two feet too short.”
As the PASS National Championship points leader entering the event, Hopkins admitted that points racing was in the back of his mind during the closing laps.
“I can honestly say as sad as it sounds that if I wasn’t points racing for the national points race it would’ve been a different story because him and I probably would’ve ended up in smoke just because I want to win here so bad,” he stated. “To win here and at Richmond in one year, both NASCAR tracks, it would’ve been huge for me because I’m not going anywhere bigger than where I am now. I’m just a Saturday night racer that’s living the dream.”
MacDonald’s victory Sunday afternoon put him in sole possession of second place on the all-time wins list at New Hampshire. Prior to his victory, the Rowley, Massachusetts driver was tied for second with the late Ted Christopher.
“That’s awesome,” MacDonald said. “Hopefully we can still get another one or two and keep having these opportunities. I’ve got to thank all of the guys that put this show on today and give us a chance to come here and run.”
While the race ultimately came down to a drag race between MacDonald and Hopkins, it appeared as though Derek Griffith would be the driver to beat. After starting ninth, Griffith charged to the front to take the lead from MacDonald on Lap 11. However, Griffith’s car took a turn for the worse following a two-tire change during the competition caution.
“We were just really dominant that first half,” Griffith stated. “We bolted on those right-side tires during the break and it just got way too tight on me. It’s hard to beat Eddie Mac here; he’s the man and the guy to beat. I can’t say I’m too surprised in victory lane but I thought we had a really good shot at it.”
Sixteen-year-old Nova Scotia racer Austin MacDonald finished fourth in his first career start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, while five-time PASS National Champion Ben Rowe completed the top five.
Speed51.com will have video highlights of Sunday’s PASS Super Late Model race in the coming days on the Speed51 Network.
Race fans can find results, photos and on-demand updates in Speed51’s Trackside Now coverage.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51Photos.com
PASS North Unofficial Results
New Hampshire Motor Speedway – June 23, 2019
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