GREENVILLE, S.C. – For the second consecutive time at Greenville Pickens Speedway, Joey Doiron stormed to victory in the PASS South Super Late Model Series in thrilling fashion.
This time, however, his comeback – rather than his crashed No. 73 JBJ Machine entry – was the story of the afternoon.
Doiron rebounded from losing three laps with clutch problems at the start of Saturday’s third annual Winter Meltdown, first reaching the lead at lap 93 and then capturing it for good at lap 125, to score his second career PASS South victory and second at GPS.
The Berwick, Maine, driver held off Mike Hopkins on a seven-lap dash to the checkered flag, after the caution flew for a spinning Jean-Michael Shenette, to notch his second career Winter Meltdown victory and kick off his quest for a second straight PASS national title in style.
“When you’re that many laps down, you have to race hard the whole time and you’re not able to really save anything,” Doiron said. “I figured it would hurt us at the end, but we were fortunate enough to have a really great race car. I kinda wish we hadn’t gone three laps down because I think it would have been even more of a dominating performance for us.”
“To explain – when we were on the pace laps, I had no clutch,” Doiron added. “It didn’t bother me at first, but all of a sudden it started slipping and engaging [when it shouldn’t have been.] So I came in, we looked at it and it seemed to get better, but when we got our laps at speed (before the green) it got way worse. I pitted again and my team undid the clutch, and after that I basically had no clutch the rest of the race. With these types of transmissions you can get away with that, thankfully, and it paid off for us.”
Roger Lee Newton, the polesitter following the top 10 redraw, led the field to the green flag and quickly got away from the field to lead the opening laps ahead of Tyler Church, but a quick caution for a four-car melee that involved Kodie Conner, Zachary Dabbs, J.P. Josiasse and R.S. Senter stalled the pace just four circuits in. Once the green flag returned, it was those two again who jumped out in front of the field before Mike Hopkins stormed to the outside at lap seven to assume the point.
The second caution of the day would fly three laps later after the wounded machine of Josiasse dropped fluid in turn four, but the restart would bring with it the third leader of the day as Michael Faulk used the same outside move as Hopkins to pass the latter for the lead on the 11th time around. Faulk would then pull out to a five car-length advantage as all-time PASS South wins leader Preston Peltier began charging, moving into third at lap 16 and setting his sights on the front duo.
While Peltier could do nothing with the top two before the lap 25 benchmark, Jeremy Davis – after starting 13th – surged around him as young Texan Derek Scott Jr. followed with a daring three-wide move for fifth behind him. Davis would pass Hopkins for second two laps later before the third caution on lap 31 waved just as Davis passed Faulk for the race lead.
Following cleanup for a crash in turn two that collected Dabbs and John-Michael Shenette, Davis led the field to the green flag and quickly escaped the clutches of the pack as Scott followed him through to take second. However; the momentum of the race would be stalled at lap 38 after a massive shunt for Jeff Batten left his No. 49 machine with front end damage and collected Trey Jarrell, Matt Matheson, and Jimmy Doyle on the backstretch.
That caution would put Doiron back on the lead lap after his early race issues, albeit outside of the top 20, but Davis would remain as the leader once the green flag returned again. He would be overhauled by Scott on the outside, though, and the Texas young gun would lead laps 39 through 51 before caution No. 5 came out for Matt Matheson’s crash in turn three, wiping out a 25-car length advantage for the No. 01 car.
It would also prove to wipe out his time at the front of the field, as Peltier drove underneath Scott for the top spot on lap 53 and looked to assume command over the field. A bonzai move for Mike Hopkins following a lap 59 debris caution, however, would hand the point back to Hopkins’ Toyota and ultimately see Peltier fade to fourth before falling in line.
Scott would move back around Hopkins to become the leader at the halfway point of the race, but a caution for the crashed machine of Zachary Dabbs in turn two drew the seventh yellow of the afternoon with 78 laps complete and set Scott up for a restart with Derek Ramstrom alongside him and Doiron in fourth after receiving three lucky dogs to get back on the lead lap.
Ramstrom powered by Scott for the lead on the restart, bringing Doiron with him to second as the top three (including Peltier) began to break away from the field. Doiron would not settle there, though, passing Ramstrom on the outside in traffic at lap 94 and deftly dicing through traffic to lap as many cars as he could before the competition break.
By the time the caution flew for the scheduled two-tire intermission at lap 103, it was Doiron leading Ramstrom, Peltier, Hopkins and Matt Craig as crews tended to their cars before gearing up for the final dash to the checkered flag.
Once the field realigned for the restart it was Ramstrom who powered back around Doiron for the lead, allowing those two to break away under a long green flag run before duking it out for the win amongst themselves. Doiron would hover patiently on the rear deck-lid of the New England driver before pouncing coming to 25 laps to go. He cut to the inside of Ramstrom in turn three and seized the point seemingly for good — before the caution with seven laps to go set up the mad scramble for the win.
Despite Hopkins giving Doiron a shot in the rear bumper with two laps to go, the driver of the No. 15 Hopkins Landscaping and Paving Toyota could not work his way past, and was forced to settle for runner-up honors at the checkered flag.
“I could get to [Joey] and get to the bottom; I just couldn’t pass him,” Hopkins lamented. “I gave him a shove with two to go — off turn four coming to the white — and I broke my momentum because he got crossed up and I couldn’t get to his door. If it wasn’t for that I probably could have been equal with him at the stripe. I really didn’t need that caution with seven to go, either. I was about four tenths faster, but it is what it is. I gave Joey a fair shot – he could have used me up, but he raced me clean and he earned that win.”
“It was a great race,” Doiron added. “It was a great battle with Mike; he gave me everything I could handle. All in all, this is just a whole lot better [outcome] than last time we were here. I’ve got a car to roll in the trailer, so I’m smiling. Honestly, I’d like to race here every week if I could.”
Fast qualifier Peltier was the final podium finisher in third, with Ramstrom and Davis completing the top five.