CONCORD, N.C. – Ever since the first checkered flag fell at South Boston (Va.) Speedway for the inaugural Mason Dixon Meltdown in 2006, the race has proven to be a fitting way to end the always competitive Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Model season.
In the six previous runnings of the annual event, North America’s best Super Late Model drivers have come together for one final test to see who has what it takes to win on the big stage.
This Saturday’s seventh annual Thanksgiving Classic/Mason Dixon Meltdown at Concord (N.C.) Speedway promises to be no different with tight battles for both the PASS National and PASS South championships.
In the first four editions of the Thanksgiving Classic/Mason Dixon Meltdown held at South Boston (Va.) Speedway and Concord Speedway in 2007, the race was dominated by PASS North veterans. Cassius Clark took his first win down South winning in 2006. Ben Rowe captured the checkered flag in 2007 and 2009 to become the only two-time winner of the Thanksgiving Classic/Mason Dixon Meltdown.
In 2008, Johnny Clark capped off a stellar season that saw him take down wins in several big money races up and down the East Coast with a win in the Meltdown.
But, after years of watching the New England contingent come down South and win on their home turf, the South has truly risen again in the last two Thanksgiving Classic/Mason Dixon Meltdowns.
Georgia’s Justin Wakefield took his final PASS South win before retiring in the Metdown’s only trip to the Newport (Tenn.) Speedway in 2010. Last year, Texas native Colt James played his cards right and used his vast experience at Concord to hold off PASS South champion Ryan Blaney for his first career win.
This year’s Thanksgiving Classic/Mason Dixon Meltdown features many intriguing storylines including the points battle and former race winners hoping to once again taste Meltdown glory. The PASS National title fight has come down to a battle between two of the best the series has ever seen.
Two-time PASS National Champion Ben Rowe is looking for an unprecedented third win in the Meltdown and a chance at another championship, but trails current points leader Jay Fogleman by 15 points.
Fogleman, who is looking for his first major touring title, has been in his fair share of points battles and comes to Concord with a chance at winning two PASS championships.
In addition, to leading the National points, he only trails PASS South points leader Kyle Grissom by four markers heading to Concord. Fogleman knows the bitter taste of defeat though when it comes to racing for a championship.
A flat tire at last year’s Thanksgiving Classic/Mason Dixon Meltdown cost him the PASS South championship, losing it to Blaney after having a 10 point advantage coming into the race.
Grissom grew up in Concord, N.C., and winning the championship at his home track in front of family and friends would no doubt be exciting. It would be the first championship for his family since his father, Steve, won the Nationwide Series title in 1993. And, it would cap off a stellar season that has seen him go to five PASS South victory lanes, including a win at Concord back in May.
Former PASS National and PASS South Champion Preston Peltier can’t be left out of the conversation either, sitting just six points behind Grissom coming into this weekend’s race.
Peltier began his Super Late Model career at Concord Speedway racing in the legendary Big 10 Series and currently works about 20 minutes from the track for Hendrick Motorsports. With all Peltier has accomplished, a win in the Meltdown or at Concord has alluded PASS South’s all-time wins leader.
And, not to be forgotten, Brandon Ward lurks just 16 points behind Grissom and sits fourth in PASS South standings. After finishing fifth at Concord last year in the Meltdown, Ward proved it was no fluke taking wins this year at Wake County (N.C.) Speedway and in the Firecracker 150 at Anderson (S.C.) Motor Speedway. With a good run and a little help from the top three in points, it would not be a far stretch to see Ward leave Concord with the PASS South Championship.
In addition to Rowe, another former winner Colt James will be back for this weekend’s Thanksgiving Classic/Mason Dixon Meltdown. James is regarded by many as one of the best to ever race at Concord with a number of wins there over the years and a track championship to show for his efforts.
An impressive group of racers will join the championship contenders and have already pre-entered including Brad Keselowski Racing teammates Landon Cling and Nate Caruth, both coming off solid top five finishes in the North South Shootout.
Youngsters Gray Gaulding and Cole Timm, who won at Concord in May in the Super Limited division, have filed entries along with seasoned veterans like Bill Catania, John Batten, and Clete Caywood.
PASS North’s Joey Doiron will make the long tow down to North Carolina along with Canadians Matt Matheson and Steve Laking. Former Big 10 veteran Mark Reedy and Pacific Northwest legend Garrett Evans will try their hand once again at mastering Concord.
In addition to the PASS Super Late Models, excitement continues to build over the debut this weekend of the PASS Pro Late Models.
The division derived from the Super Limiteds that competed regularly in 2012 as a companion event to the PASS South Super Late Models. This unique division has seen perimeter style cars like points leader Austin Leitner and Walker Yates race competitively with the more traditional straight rail chassis campaigned by the likes of Cole Timm, Tate Fogleman, and Trevor Noles.
The PASS Pro Late Models have created quite a buzz in the short track racing world and Saturday’s 75 lapper should be a precursor of great things to come in 2013.