HICKORY, N.C. – Luck was on Derek Ramstrom’s side Saturday evening during the Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Ramstrom avoided not one, but two incidents involving race leaders and held off a furious challenge from Mike Hopkins to collect his first victory in the annual running of the Pro All Stars Series-sanctioned event.
Running in the top-five throughout the evening, Ramstrom spent much of the night chasing the duo of Preston Peltier and Bubba Pollard, who were engaged in a war for the race lead. Things took a hectic turn when Pollard forced Peltier into the outside wall down the backstretch on lap 134. Peltier returned the favor in turns three and four, sending Pollard spinning to bring out the caution flag (read more about this incident here).
Officials penalized Peltier for rough driving and sent him to the tail of the field along with Pollard, which moved Tate Fogleman to the race lead over Mike Hopkins and Ramstrom.
When racing resumed Fogleman and Hopkins raced side-by-side for several laps, with Hopkins eventually emerging with the race lead on lap 140. The caution flag waved again on lap 143 when Matt Craig spun his No. 54, setting up a restart with Hopkins leading Fogleman, Ramstrom and Corey Heim.
During the restart Fogleman was able to dispatch Hopkins to regain the lead, but it would be short lived. On lap 146 Heim got into Fogleman in turns three and four, sending Fogleman around to bring out the caution flag.
Much like the incident between Peltier and Pollard only a few laps earlier, Heim was sent to the rear of the field for rough driving. That moved Hopkins to the race lead with Ramstrom lining up alongside him in second on the outside.
Ramstrom got a better restart than Hopkins and was able to pull clear of him down the backstretch, allowing him to pull away to his first Easter Bunny 150 triumph and his second-straight victory in PASS competition at Hickory.
“This was an action packed race,” said Ramstrom, who also won the Mason-Dixon MegaMeltdown last November at Hickory. “I had a lot of luck play into my favor here. We had an incident with Preston Peltier and Bubba Pollard. I’m sure everybody watched that. Not exactly sure who took who out, but it panned out in my favor drastically because they were extremely fast. I’m not sure I would have had anything for either one of them.
“Then we go on to Fogleman and Corey Heim, they also tangled. I have no idea what happened between those two. I think I had a better car then both of them so I think I had a chance there.”
Ramstrom said restarting on the outside of Hopkins during the final restart actually proved to be beneficial because the outside line was getting better restarts all night.
“The high line tonight was preferred almost on the restarts,” Ramstrom said. “It seemed like if you had the high line you had the advantage. So going into that (restart) I was stoked. I knew that if I could get a good shift that I was going to probably come out on the backstretch on top and I did luckily.”
Hopkins settled for second on a day that saw him lead laps early before vibration sent him to pit road while he was leading the race. He managed to climb back through the field and still nearly won the race.
“We took the lead and we got such a bad vibration that the steering wheel was just about ripping out of your hands down the straightaway,” Hopkins explained. “I didn’t know if a balljoint was coming out or a camber shim. I mean only 33 laps into the race I didn’t want to take a chance.
“Man, I ain’t going to lie to you, with six to go or whatever it was when that caution came out and I looked in the mirror and we had three car lengths and were driving away…it just bums me out because we passed more race cars than anybody else today.”
Hometown favorite Brandon Setzer finished third, followed by Travis Stearns and Justin Crider. Pollard, Gracie Trotter, Trey Jarrell, Stephen Nasse and Nicholas Naugle completed the top-10.
Peltier was the fast qualifier with a 14.603-second lap. Jerick Johnson won the last chance qualifier.
Derek Ramstrom, Mike Hopkins, Brandon Setzer, Travis Stearns, Justin Crider, Bubba Pollard, Gracie Trotter, Trey Jarrell, Stephen Nasse, Nicholas Naugle, Preston Peltier, Jerick Johnson, Corey Heim, Trey Bayne, J.P. Josiasse, Molly Helmuth, Tate Fogleman, Matt Craig, Wyatt Alexander, Travis Benjamin, Jared Irvan, Jason Stanley, Bronson Butcher, Kodie Conner, Jett Noland, Kyle Plott, Wes Burton, Jake Johnson, Derek Griffith, Ben Rowe, Ray Christian III, Devin O’Connell, Christian Rose.