Anticipation Builds For PASS South Opener

Kyle Grissom (31), Roger Lee Newton (33) and Jay Fogleman battle for position during a Pro All Stars Series South super-late-model event at Concord (N.C.) Speedway last November. (Adam Fenwick/ Photo)
Kyle Grissom (31), Roger Lee Newton (33) and Jay Fogleman battle for position during a Pro All Stars Series South super-late-model event at Concord (N.C.) Speedway last November. (Adam Fenwick/ Photo)

DILLON, S.C. – Anticipation continues to build for what looks to be one of the most exciting and competitive seasons yet for the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South super late model division and the new PASS Pro Late Model division.

PASS South has proven to be the place where top short track drivers from around the country come to compete on the Southeast’s toughest track The PASS Pro Late Models will race as a companion series to PASS South and is already proving to be one of the top divisions for young racers just starting out.

The 16-race PASS South schedule kicks off this weekend at the demanding Dillon Motor Speedway with the 8th Annual South Carolina Clash and will be followed just a week later by the Bash At The Beach at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway. Both tracks have been very busy of late with teams preparing for these first two PASS South races on back-to-back weekends.

Since 2011, Brad Keselowski Racing has built a top notch Super Late Model team led by veteran head wrench Gary Crooks. Last year, the BKR team took its first ever Super Late Model victory in a PASS South event at South Boston Speedway with Landon Cling piloting the No. 29 entry. Cling finished fifth in final PASS South points, just edging out Iowa rookie Nate Caruth who finished sixth in the No. 19 BKR machine.

This year, Texas native Zak Hausler takes over the No. 19, while Maine racer Austin Theriault takes sole possession of the No. 29. Theriault has driven for BKR over the last few seasons, but will only be making his second PASS South start in this weekend’s South Carolina Clash.

Theriault is not a stranger to PASS however. He won the PASS North season finale last year at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway. Theriault took full advantage of Dillon and Myrtle Beach’s close proximity and tested successfully at both speedways recently.

“I’m confident that with our hard work during the offseason and using last year’s success to build on our strong foundation, we can contend for wins wherever we go,” said Theriault. “I’m looking forward to Dillon and Myrtle Beach to get our year kicked off on the right foot. Both cars were great at the test.”

Speaking of rookies, in 2012 Kyle Grissom did what few thought was possible by taking the PASS South title in his first season driving super late models. While most thought he could make the transition from the heavier late model stock cars to the sleeker, more powerful PASS South super late models, no one could have guessed how much success Grissom and the Greg Marlowe team would have.

With just three starts under his belt, Grissom took his first career PASS South checkered flag at Hickory Motor Speedway’s Easter Bunny 150. Then, he proceeded to make a little PASS South history. Grissom became the first driver to ever win three straight PASS South races and his five wins overall equaled Ben Rowe’s single season wins record set back in 2009.

Now, with a successful 2012 season behind them, Grissom and the Harrison’s Workwear team come to Dillon anxious to defend their title as champions.

“There is always pressure showing up as the defending champion, but this is a new year and these PASS South drivers are always tough,” said Grissom. “I’m really excited to get back to Dillon after only racing there once last year. We are working on some different set ups, so I’m excited to see what we’ve got this year.”

One of the biggest surprises to come out of the 2012 season was the performance of Brandon Ward and the New Day Motorsports team. Always competitive but seemingly always coming up just short of victory, the New Day Motorsports No. 62 and owner Jeff Day have raced with PASS South since the series started in 2006.

Things began to turn around when Ward joined the team in 2010 and by last year all the pieces seemed to be in place to make a run at the title. Ward took the No. 62 to victory lane twice last year, first at Wake County Speedway and then in the Firecracker 150 at Anderson Motor Speedway.

It all began, though, with a good run in the South Carolina Clash. Ward led the most laps during the race at Dillon before fading to eighth in the final rundown. Now with a new car and more confidence than ever, Ward thinks 2013 could be his year.

“I’m really looking forward to the race at Dillon and getting the new season started,” said Ward. “I’m happy to be back with New Day Motorsports and having, Kevin Powell Motorsports, and Foothill Ford back with us. Dillon is a fun racetrack and a great facility and it should be a great show for the fans.”

The eighth annual South Carolina Clash once again starts the super late models season in the Southeast and the field will be stacked with plenty of contenders for the win.

Defending PASS National Jay Fogleman will be back not only looking for a win, but to set a course for the 2013 PASS South title. Two-time PASS National Champion and former South Carolina Clash winner Ben Rowe makes the long trip down from Maine in the hopes of early season success.

Former PASS South winner Clay Rogers returns behind the wheel of the Coulter Motorsports entry. After a strong second place run in the PASS National season opener at Auburndale Speedway, Florida’s Joe Boyd heads to unfamiliar territory looking for similar results. Boyd will be joined by fellow Sunshine State driver Joseph Mursuli, who comes to PASS South from the Florida Truck ranks.

The PASS South youth movement continues with the efforts of North Carolina’s Bobby Gower, Indiana youngster Karl Weber and home state driver Gus Dean. Veteran John Batten returns along with Justin Allison, Jimmy Doyle, Bill Catania, Kevin Powell and a host of others hoping to start the season off at Dillon with a win.

The PASS Pro Late Models have attracted attention from young drivers all over the country hoping to continue their climb up the racing ladder in bigger, faster cars. These drivers will get their first chance of the season at Dillon Saturday night with a 75-lap test around the four-tenths-mile egg-shaped oval.

South Carolina Clash action starts this weekend on Friday with rotating practice from 3 to 6:30 p.m. for the PASS South Super Late Models, PASS Pro Late Models, Allison Legacy, Legends, and Bandoleros. On Saturday, pit gates open at 9 a.m., with rotating practice for all divisions from 11 a.m. to 2:40 p.m., qualifying will be at 3:15 p.m. and main event racing will start at 5 p.m..