CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Less than a week away from the start of practice for the third running of the Winter Meltdown at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, some of the biggest names in short track racing are hoping to etch their names in the record books at the legendary speedway.
The Meltdown will serve as the first major points event in asphalt short track racing this year and will kick off the season for the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) National Championship Series as well as the PASS South Super Late Models.
Maine’s Ben Rowe, a former three-time PASS National champion and the 2009 PASS South super late model titlist, knows the importance of starting a season off strong. Rowe captured the checkered flag at nearby Anderson Motor Speedway last March and is excited to leave the cold confines of New England to head south.
“I guarantee Greenville will be warmer than where I’m coming from, but it’s fun for us to come down and get out of the weather and get the race team back in the swing of things,” says Rowe. “Greenville’s fun, we had a good run there last fall and finished third. We’re going to bring a different engine package this time and see what happens. Greenville is a great race track. It’s big, it’s worn out, and it puts on some great racing.”
For Rowe and a strong contingent of teams coming from New England and Canada which includes former Meltdown winner Joey Doiron, as well as Mike Hopkins, Matt Matheson, Derek Ramstrom, and John-Michael Shenette, the PASS South Super Late Model schedule sets up perfectly. The PASS South super late models will compete four times – at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, Dillon Motor Speedway, Concord Speedway, and Hickory Motor Speedway – before the PASS North super late models season opener at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park goes green in April.
“We’ve been bouncing a lot of guys around the last few years and these South races help us to get our cars going,” says Rowe. “Dean Clattenburg has built us a couple of good cars and we’ve just got to get a couple of good guys around to get them going the way I like them. Now with the PASS National deal, you can’t afford to have a bad race so it’s big to get off to a good start.”
Another of the most recent entrants for the 150 lap event includes 2014 PASS South Super Late Model champion, Tyler Church. Church, a native of Hickory, N.C., went to victory lane once last year at Dillon Motor Speedway, but is hoping to compete much more in 2016 and possibly challenge for a second PASS South championship. Brennan Poole, a former UARA-STARS Late Model Series champion and current XFINITY Series driver, will be making his PASS debut with the Fathead Driver Development Program. The Fathead team recently won the North-South Shootout at Concord Speedway with David Garbo Jr. and will have PASS veteran Trevor Noles behind the wheel when the series goes to Dillon Motor Speedway in March.
Northwest short track legend Garrett Evans will pilot the famous No. 64 in the PASS Winter Meltdown. The Washington state driver will compete in several PASS events throughout the season, with an eye towards possible competing for the PASS National Championship. Texas youngster Derek Scott Jr. will make his first trip to Greenville-Pickens Speedway for the Winter Meltdown. Scott competed in three PASS South events last year, including the Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway, where he was the fastest qualifier and led the most laps.
Michigan driver Vinnie Miller returns in 2016 after several impressive runs late last year. Miller has already announced his intention to compete on the full schedule as he races for the PASS South super late model championship this year.
A strong group of contenders from North Carolina have also pre-entered, including two former PASS champions. Tate Fogleman claimed his first PASS South championship in 2015 and hopes to become the first driver in series history to repeat. Fellow teenager Kodie Conner moves up to the PASS South super late model division full-time in 2016 after taking the PASS Pro Late Model Series title last year.
Matt Craig looks to build on a strong finish to the 2015 season in the C&C Boilers machine which saw him finish fourth in points. Veteran Jimmy Doyle finished fifth in PASS South points in 2015 and will be seeking his first career win. Jeff Batten has filed an entry for the Meltdown, following a career best sixth place finish in the final PASS South Super Late Model standings last year.